Sunday, April 21, 2013

West, Texas Fertilizer Plant Explosion

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In the midst of the manhunt for the Boston Marathon Bombers, another disaster happened in the tiny town of West, Texas. A fertilizer plant caught on fire and exploded like a nuclear bomb with a literal mushroom cloud, leveling homes, destroying apartments, and devastating a tightly-knit community. Volunteer Firefighters who had rushed to put out the initial fire were among the dead, caught unaware after assurances from the plant owners that the materials inside weren't explosive.

Such an unecessary tragedy! West could be the poster child for why government regulation is a good thing.

The town had grown up around the plant, which was originally just a feed store selling fertilizer. Lax zoning laws allowed homes, schools and even a nursing home to be located just across the street from this ticking time-bomb. People who should have been evacuated due to the fire were caught completely by surprise, and are now among the dead or missing. According to reports (see below) the plant hadn't been inspected correctly since 1985 - how did that happen? Senator Ted Cruz and Governor Perry are asking for funds from the Federal Government, which many see as hypocritical considering how the Governor loves to shout "Secession!" and the fact that Ted Cruz voted against giving money to New Jersey for Hurricane Sandy Relief.

My question - when will the investigation into this criminal act start? Lives have been snuffed out and negligence is the key. Who is responsible? They should pay more than a fine - someone should go to jail.

From Think Progress
A day after the explosion in West, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a new report documenting a widespread lack of workplace inspections by state OSHA programs. After surveying 22 state-run programs, it found that the agencies had problems with hiring and retaining inspectors, in part due to low pay. State budget cuts have had a big impact, leading to funding problems, and the federal agency often hasn’t taken over state plans because its own budget is too tight. This has meant that a workplace only gets a visit from OSHA inspectors every 99 years on average, with some state programs even worse. In Texas, a plant can only expect an inspection every 126 years.

. . . The plant in West was inspected in 2011 by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), which issued a fine of $10,100 for missing placards and “not having a security plan” in violation of Hazardous Materials Regulations. A compromise was reached in 2012 after corrective actions were taken, which included the plant admitting to the violations and paying a lowered penalty of $5,250.

From Raw Story
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) says that he is prepared to make “all available resources” available from the federal government to assist in the recovery after an explosion at a fertilizer plant in Texas — but the senator voted against aid for victims of Hurricane Sandy earlier because he said it was “pork.”

The Dallas Morning News reported on Thursday that Cruz had reacted to the fertilizer plant explosion that killed dozens in West, Texas earlier this week.

“We are in very close touch with officials on the ground and we’re monitoring the tragic accident closely,” Cruz said in Washington. “It’s truly horrific and we are working to ensure that all available resources are marshaled to deal with the horrific loss of life and suffering that we’ve seen.”

Politicus USA
The stunning hypocrisy doesn’t end there. It probably would have been helpful if Senator Cruz were familiar with where his own state fell on the FEMA hand out chart. See, Cruz represents the state with the most FEMA-declared disasters since the start of 2009, according to an iWatch News analysis. “The top two states, Texas and Oklahoma, combined for more than a quarter of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s declared disasters since Jan. 1, 2009.”

Here they are in order:

Texas, 75
Oklahoma, 45
California, 24
New Mexico, 13
Arizona, 12
Tennessee, 12
New York, 11
Kansas, 10
Nebraska, 10

. . . Wait a minute, hoss. If Senator Cruz is really in DC to “save this country”, his prinicples will hold steadfast, and he will hold up relief for his state until offsetting cuts are found. Or at the very least, offer millions in “pork” to blue states in order to avoid a filibuster.

Facebook Page to Honor Lost Responders to West, Texas Blast
Slideshow of pictures from StateImpact.NPR.Org
Slideshow from USA Today

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