UPDATE, APRIL 25
Further reporting on the West, Texas, explosion shows how little real care was taken by either the plant’s owners or the alleged responsible officials in overseeing safety at such chemical storage places. Here the “NYT” outlines all the holes and loopholes through which a factory can store thousands of pounds of explosives with little or no concern for possible damage and death in case of a fire or explosion.
One of the most telling facts: planning and zoning–letting folks build just outside such a power-keg plant–is left to local officials. Anybody with an ounce of political savvy in the U.S. knows that money trumps everything else in most local political forums. A plant that makes money and employs local people can normally expect a clear path through any local “regulatory” agency, especially in a red state like Texas where the governor and his Tea Party patrons rail against big government at any excuse. Interestingly, Gov. “Small-gov” Perry was almost immediate in his request for federal aid after the blast.
So those of us in states where worker safety is actually allowed some part of the political process now get to help pay for the careless, feckless, money-over-all politics in Texas that makes for an inevitable disaster promulgated by a business-owner and complicit pols in Texas.
We need a national referendum system. So American voters can determine minimum standards for those states that are constantly asking for federal aid after behaving wrecklessly and carelessly for generations. Should towns and cities in flood plains or on beaches be rebuilt with my money just so nature can destroy them again and again? Should towns at the base of an active volcano really get help from every state in the union? Should clearly dangerous chemical or energy plants be allowed to exist in heavily residential areas? We don’t allow condos next to an airport runway. How hard is this to understand? Some things are dangerous, so keep your distance.
Thgis story also highlights the NIMBY responses seen in so ma ny communities, and shows that rarely do the wealthier among us allow themselves to be placed near factories, refineries, nuclear plants, airports and other undesirable neighbors. They leave those areas to the less informed or lessmoneyed classes to take their chances.
West, Texas, where the fertilizer plant exploded is a model of minimal government.
The poor firefighters sent to fight this fire were volunteers. Rural areas of many red states are served by haphazardly trained volunteers. Costs too much to actually hire professionals. That would require–gasp–paying taxes!
Is it not likely that a more professional firefighting team led by a toxic team would have pulled out of that fire before the explosion?
Here’s a direct quote on the West volunteer firefighters: “He said the local firefighters had never specifically prepared to battle a fertilizer-plant fire. ‘Every town in a rural area has one,’ he said. ‘It is a ticking time bomb that went off yesterday’.” That appeared in the Wall Street Journal which is owned by Rupert Murdoch who also owns Fox News. Even Rupert guys couldn;travoid published that fact. No professional training because none is required in Texas. That would be intrusive government.
The most recent federal inspection of this plant said the place needed an emergency plan. That inspection also cited the location of huge chlorine tanks near a public school. Most high school chemistry students remember that chlorine is both poisonous and prone to forming acid when in touch with moisture.
Oh, that inspection was in 2006! Only when the lawsuits and post-disaster examinatons are done will we know if anything was ever done to make the plant safer, or protect nearby areas.
Texas is a notoriously “business-friendly” state. This translates, of course, to low taxes, lack of public services and certainly no government interference with favored businesses. That would be just about any business not involved in illegal drugs. Texas is loath to cause any trouble for its businesses. Safety inspections? Hah. We inTexas want all the jobs we can get. Damn the real costs and full speed ahead.
Finally, the fertilizer plant was next to homes and other periodically-occupied buildings. To bar such willy-nilly development with no eye to human safety would require–gasp–planning and zoning. That is a most intrusive form of government in some parts of the U.S. I will build what I want where I want. This is private property!
None of this is to even touch on the horror of the petro-chemical industry which is hastening the demolition of our planet with global warming, water pollution and cancer-causing food additives.
The sickest part of this: higher taxes could have led to frequent inspections, prosecution to force improvements at the plant, forming a professional fire department with serious chemical fire training (fertilizer is even used in terrorist bombs so it is known to be dangerous, especially in neighbrng Oklahoma). The fertilizer folks could even have bought out nearby neighbors to create a safe zone around the plant. We saw what happens in Bhopal when you let chemicals into residential areas.
All that safety preparatioin would have cost peanuts compared to the costs that are now being toted up. Lawsuits, deaths, clean-up costs, rebuilding costs, pollution effects–none of this will be cheap. Preparaton once again proves itself to be cheaper than damage repair. Doesn’t anybody pay attention? Ehat part of the Exxon oil platform disaster was not clear?
Sadly most businesses will prepare onlyu if forced to by government regulation. No corporate manager wilingly spends money that lowers the bottom line and reduces his bonus unless forced to by outside forces. Less government=more disasters.