Friday, May 10, 2013

The Free Market Fairy Strikes Again

Image credit: Still dunno source

Al Jazeera reports that Texas law enforcement may be looking into the causes of the West, Texas fertilizer plant explosion:

Texas law enforcement officials are launching a criminal investigation into last month's deadly fertiliser plant explosion.

Investigators had largely treated the West Fertiliser Co blast that killed 14 people and injured about 200 others as an industrial accident in the northern rural town of Waco.

But the Texas Department of Public Safety said in a statement on Friday that the agency has instructed the Texas Rangers and the McLennan County Sheriff's Department to launch a criminal probe into the explosion.

Texas launches criminal probe into Waco blast

What could they be looking into? Common Dreams notes:

The fertilizer plant in West, Texas that exploded on Wednesday night killing 14 people was last inspected by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in 1985, and had failed to disclose to the Department of Homeland Security that it was storing 1,350 times the amount of ammonium nitrate that would bring oversight from that agency.

Little Oversight at Texas Fertilizer Plant That Exploded Killing 14

[I added that first link to replace a broken one at the original article]

Lack of inspections led to this situation, as reported by RT:

Fertilizer plants and depots must report to the DHS when they hold 400 pounds or more of ammonium nitrate due to its widespread use in the manufacture of bombs.

However, at the time of the blast, at least 540,000 pounds (270 tons) of ammonium nitrate was in a storage building, according to recent filings with both the Texas Department of State Health Services and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) which were not passed on to the DHS. The plant was also holding anhydrous ammonia and several other agriculture chemicals.

Texas fertilizer plant flew under Dept. Homeland Security radar

Image credit: Mark M./Occupy Together

To some degree, this looks like the usual conservative agenda - make government so incompetent at enforcing regulations and laws on businesses that it might as well not even be there. As Texas Governor Rick Perry tried to explain away:

The deadly fertilizer plant explosion in West wouldn't have been prevented had the state earmarked more money for industry inspections, Gov. Rick Perry said Monday.

Perry told The Associated Press on Monday that he remains comfortable with the level of state oversight after last week's blast at West Fertilizer Co.

He said Texas residents have sent the same message through their elected officials.

Investigators say they have yet to determine what caused the explosion that killed 14 people and injured 200 others.

Perry: More Oversight Wouldn’t Have Prevented Deadly West Explosion

You need to have some kind of chutzpah to say something like that after such a colossal failure of government, but this is the state of governance in America these days. "What can we do? Our taxpayers don't want to pay taxes for things that make them safer", they seem to be saying, as if they have no responsibility to explain to the public what they're doing with our money.

Of course, the people who vote for these clowns, and the "progressives" who go along with this behavior so as not seem liberal (otherwise known as "being realistic"), are as much to blame. There's lots of waste in government, and more than a little abuse of power, but the answer isn't to stop governing. The answer is to fix the waste and prosecute the abuse of power, not to let the magic "free market" fairy take care of it for us.

That's because this is how the free market fairy takes care of things.

Whatever Texas law enforcement finds, and they're sure to find something if they bother to look, I'm pretty sure that neither the governor nor Texas voters generally will be among those blamed. That doesn't mean they are blameless, though.

Afterword: If you want to learn more about the West, Texas fertilizer plant explosion, I'd suggest reading Joyce Arnold's analyses of the blast here, here, and here. She lives in the region, and understands the players pretty well. Those articles were the sources for several of the links you see here.

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