The latest headlines tell a chilling tale: “Death toll in Texas fertilizer plant explosion rises to 14,” “Why did West, Texas, build homes and a school next to a ‘time bomb’?” and “Town of West, Texas, recovers after plant blast kills 14, injures 200.”
The death toll so far is at 14 but expected to rise with nearly 60 persons still missing. Everything within a 4 block radius was destroyed including about 80 homes, commercial properties and parts of a middle school, nursing home and about 50 units in an apartment complex nearby were partially destroyed as well.
As of today as many as 200 homes in this town of 2,800 people were still cordoned off. Police were stationed at intersections to keep looters and gawkers away.
Gov. Rick Perry (R) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R) have both called upon the federal government to send assistance even though both are two of the most outspoken proponents of “small government.”
Lax state regulations a potential contributing factor?
As reported by Politic365, the West Fertilizer Company has not been inspected by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration since 1985.
“Texas relies on federal investigators, and has not made its own investment at the state level to inspect facilities, to make sure they are complying with federal safety standards,” said Alex Winslow, executive director of Texas Watch, a non-partisan group that is a corporate accountability group in the state. [...]
It is a very real and documented problem in Texas that workplace standards are lax. Accountability standards are woefully inadequate.”
Bloomberg reported that the company filed a risk management plan with the EPA stated it “received, stored and distributed” only 54,000 pounds of anhydrous ammonia, but did not characterize the compound as flammable and the “inventory of emergency and hazardous chemicals filed by the company with Texas regulators also didn’t list fire among the hazards for anhydrous ammonia.” However, under “certain conditions, it’s highly flammable, said John Goodpaster, an assistant professor at Indiana University-Purdue University.”
In contrast, the Dallas Morning News reported that
The fertilizer plant that exploded Wednesday had at least 540,000 pounds of potentially dangerous ammonium nitrate in a storage building, a 2012 company filing with the state health department shows.
That’s more than 100 times the weight of the ammonium nitrate and fuel oil mix that Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh used to destroy the Murrah Federal Building 18 years ago.
According to Mother Jones the Texas Commission on Environment Quality (TCEQ) reports that their last recorded investigation occurred in 2007. The Texas Tribune has reported that this means that the company probably has not been inspected for 5 years.
Mother Jones went on to note that:
This would be consistent with a steep decline in the TCEQ’s investigations in the past few years. The agency’s last annual enforcement report showed that the number of complaints investigated has plummeted by 20 percent since 2007, though it is unclear it has been receiving fewer complaints. Its total number of investigations has fallen by more than 7 percent since 2007. Since 2008, the agency’s operating budget has been slashed by nearly 40 percent.
Is Gov. Perry to blame?
Rick Perry has been on a multi-state binge trying to lure businesses to Texas, all the while boasting of “less” or “predictable regulations” calling into question the Governor’s complicity in the accident due to his push to decrease safety regulations statewide.
“Loose regulations” in Texas may be a nice pitch for out-of-state business, however, in 2010 the state accounted for 10% of all workplace-related fatalities in the country. In 2011, Texas had the second-highest number of fatality investigations from OSHA (California was first), in 2010, Texas led the nation in Latino worker fatalities. SOURCE
Along those lines, you can watch an interview with Gov. Perry by Newsmax given a mere 8 days prior to the horrible tragedy in the town of West, Texas.
In the interview Gov. Perry states, in part:
“The men and women in Texas know something now after a decade-plus of our governorship and our policies being implemented by a Republican House, Senate, lieutenant governor and speaker. We’ve kept our tax burden as light as we could and still delivered the services that the people of Texas desire, and we have a regulatory climate that is fair and predictable.I cannot tell you how important is predictability and stability in the regulatory climate.
“And then we passed some of the most sweeping tort reform in the nation in 2003.
“We’re sending the message that this is a state where you can risk your capital and know that you can have a chance to have a return on investments. It’s a reason that we’re leading the nation in job creation. People are fleeing high tax, high regulatory states to come and be a part of what some people refer to as the Texas Miracle. It’s not a miracle, as a matter of a fact, it’s just common sense.”
You can watch the full interview below: