Friday, April 19, 2013

A View Of Government Deregulation

Tommy Muska, the mayor of West, Texas, said Thursday that 35 to 40 people are believed to be dead in a massive fertilizer plant explosion, “because they are unaccounted for and still missing.” Sen. John Cornyn, in statements on Friday, said 60 people remain unaccounted for in the small Central Texas town. Two hundred people were injured in the powerful blast.

Among those who are missing and believed dead include as many as six firefighters and four emergency medical technicians.

The explosion occurred Wednesday night, heavily damaging or destroying buildings within a half-mile radius and causing broken windows and other damage to structures up to double that distance. The factory exploded Wednesday with the force of a 2.1-magnitude earthquake.

Politic365 Reports:
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. “We believe, and have supported in the past, efforts to beef up state inspections to compliment the federal inspections.”

Since 2006, only six fertilizer plants in Texas were inspected; West Fertilizer Company was not among them. The explosion is a spotlight to lax inspection standards in Texas. Under the leadership of Governor Rick Perry, who has been visiting states like Illinois and California to woo businesses to Texas, the state has advertised its low taxes and “predictable regulations” as part of its allure, begging the question whether the state’s “business friendly climate” has taken a step too far away from safety.

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.

West Fertilizer Company in particular hadn’t been inspected by any government agency in five years.  In a report to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency the West Fertilizer Company stated that the “the worst possible scenario” for a fire or explosion would be a “10-minute release of ammonia gas that would kill or injure no one.”  The second-worst scenario, according to the report, would be a leak from a broken hose that would cause no injuries. West Fertilizer Company's risk management plan, filed with the Environmental Protection Agency in 2011, made no mention of ammonium nitrate storage.

At times the plant had up to 54,000 pounds of anhydrous ammonia available at the facility. This particular compound, according to the report, is at risk for explosion when it is inside a container.
The West Fertilizer Company had informed a state agency in February that it was storing up to 270 tons of ammonium nitrate – the highly explosive chemical compound used in the domestic terror attack on the Oklahoma City federal building. The Oklahoma truck bomb used just two tons of ammonium nitrate to destroy or damage 324 buildings within a sixteen-block radius, destroy or burn 86 cars, and shatter glass in 258 nearby downtown buildings.

It's not clear whether the ammonium nitrate, which was not initially reported as being present at the site in the wake of Wednesday's massive blast, was responsible for the explosion, or whether volunteer firefighters battling a fire at the facility knew of its presence. Under state law, hazardous chemicals must be disclosed to the community fire department and to the county emergency planning agency, in addition to the state. News reports on Thursday focused on tanks of anhydrous ammonia –a less volatile fertilizer.

Adair Grain, doing business as West Fertilizer Co., told the Texas Department of Health Services on Feb. 26 that it was storing up to 540,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate, along with up to 110,000 pounds of the liquid ammonia, according to the disclosure report. (Read the document provided by the state.) The company's disclosure was first reported Thursday evening by The Los Angeles Times.

The West Fertilizer Co. stored 1,350 times the amount of ammonium nitrate that would normally trigger safety oversight by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Fertilizer plants and storage facilities must report to the DHS when they hold 400 lb or more of the explosive chemical. Filings to the Texas Department of State Health Services listing 270 tons of ammonium nitrate in storage were not shared with DHS by West Fertilizer Co. or any Texas state government agency.  Gov. Perry is on record promoting Texas' lack of business regulation statutes and enforcement as a selling point for businesses to relocate to Texas.

Ammonium Nitrate is an explosive that is also useful for fertilizer. It has not been used much as a military explosive in its simple form since WWII, but when mixed with other explosives it is encountered frequently in military explosives.  Ammonium Nitrate mixed with fuel oil is typically the explosive of choice in the mining industry.

In the video below, Rachel Maddow reviews the history of ammonium nitrate as an explosive and then as a fertilizer and reports the latest details of the fertilizer plant explosion that ripped through the town of West, Texas.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Gov. Rick Perry on Thursday declared McLennan County, Texas - home to West, the small community devastated by the fertilizer plant explosion - a disaster area and announced that he asked President Barack Obama for a federal disaster declaration as well.

Federal disaster assistance available under a major disaster declaration falls into three general categories:
  1. Individual Assistance - aid to individuals, families and business owners;
  2. Public Assistance - aid to public (and certain private non-profit) entities for certain emergency services and the repair or replacement of disaster-damaged public facilities;
  3. Hazard Mitigation Assistance - funding for measures designed to reduce future losses to public and private property. In the event of a major disaster declaration, the county is eligible to apply for assistance under the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program.
In related news, all three members of the Congressional delegation representing West, Texas (Republican Senators Cornyn and Cruz and Congressman Flores) joined in vowing to 'assist' the people of West. What they mean by 'assist' is that they're going to do all they can to steer federal disaster aid to the city of West, Texas.

All three of them -- Cornyn and Cruz and Flores -- voted against the bill that delivered federal disaster aid to victims of Hurricane Sandy call that aid “pork” and “wasteful spending.” ~

More -> Texas Is Anti-EPA and Their Citizens Have Paid With Their Lives

No comments:

Post a Comment