Sunday, April 21, 2013

Meanwhile In Other News From the Crazy Week: This Is What We Get When We Deregulate, People

That other bad tragic event from last week - the massive explosion of a fertilizer factory in West, TX - has this not-so-shocking revelation:

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security requires fertilizer plants and depots to disclose amounts of ammonium nitrate, which can be used to make a bomb, above 400 lbs. The West, Texas plant, West Fertilizer, reportedly held 270 tons of the substance, 1,350 times that limit.
"This facility was known to have chemicals well above the threshold amount to be regulated under the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards Act (CFATS), yet we understand that DHS did not even know the plant existed until it blew up,"  Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS) said in a statement, according to Reuters.

Considering that the factory caught on fire when we were told there weren't supposed to be any flammable chemicals there... Considering that the factory EXPLODED with a force knocking out the surrounding schools and nursing home and apartments... This isn't shocking.  There were clearly flammable stuff there: there were clearly too much nitrate/explosive compounds there.

The reason this all happened was very simple: our nation's system of safety and regulation protocols surrounding dangerous chemicals has fallen apart.  Due to a combination of relaxed laws and serious budget cuts and failure to fully staff our agencies to ensure regulations are upheld, this disaster and other fatal accidents elsewhere have happened.


There is a very good reason why we have regulations: to make sure those laws are enforced.  To make sure the people we are trying to protect - workers, emergency responders, neighbors, entire communities - stay safe.

The arguments for deregulation - they're too expensive, they punish free enterprise, businesses can self-regulate - fall apart after each coal mine disaster, each crashed airplane, each exploding factory, each worker killed.  Every excuse or alternative can't explain away the facts that if we had stricter enforcement of factory safety with chemicals, if that company truly played by the rules, if our regulators like OSHA or the Chemical Safety Board had more budget and more staff, we wouldn't have had that explosion killing people.

And our Republican overlords want to cut even further into our government budgets, weakening our ability to regulate and ensure public safety even further as well.  All because they hate government regulations, and all because they hate raising taxes on the uber-rich to pay for sh-t our nation desperately needs.


Tom W said...

OSHA hadn't been in that plant since 1985...... budget cuts didn't start until after 2008..... Cum Hoc Ergo Propter hoc

Paul Wartenberg said...

The hits to the OSHA budget have been going on for some time. I know a guy who works OSHA, met him awhile back and he'd told me how stretched out they'd been over the last decade. By the looks of things we haven't had decent regulatory oversight for workplaces in ages... it's horrifying to consider how many more exploding factories we're gonna face.