Find it here: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/04/22/1203955/-Toxic-Texas-politics-on-display-in-fertilizer-plant-explosion
Mon Apr 22, 2013 at 11:43 AM PDT
Laura Clawson Follow for Daily Kos Labor
The cause of the West, Texas, fertilizer plant explosion that killed at least 14 and injured 200, as well as destroying dozens of buildings, is still unknown and the damage is still being assessed, but even without the full story known, plenty of toxic Texas politics has been on display. Texas politicians are eager for the federal disaster aid they voted against when it was New York and New Jersey that needed it in the wake of Sandy, and the zoning laws that let a school and homes be right across the street from a fertilizer plant should be a scandal. And it's become clear that, whatever the immediate cause of the explosion, the plant was a menace to its workers and the town, enabled by Texas-style weak regulation and oversight.
StateImpact Texas points out that at some points in 2012, the plant stored more than 100 times as much ammonium nitrate as Timothy McVeigh used in the Oklahoma City bombing. The plant, meanwhile, had no sprinklers or fire barriers, but had been burning wood pallets in recent months. Such a disregard for safety doesn't just create the conditions for fires and explosions, it also creates additional dangers for first responders, and the West Fertilizer Co. plant wasn't the first such situation in Texas in recent years. For instance:
- In 2011, a fire started at the Magnablend chemical plant in Waxahachie. Locals had to be evacuated. But first responders didn't know what chemicals were inside or that the building didn't have adequate sprinklers.
- What separates these victims from one another? Surely not innocence, for they are all innocent, and they all deserve to be mourned. And yet the blunt and awful truth is that, as a nation, we pay orders of magnitude more attention to the victims of terrorism than we do to the over 4,500 Americans killed each year while on the job. As former Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis once put it, "Every day in America, thirteen people go to work and never come home." Very little is ever said in public about the vast majority of these violent and unnecessary deaths. And even when a spectacular tragedy manages to capture our collective attentionas the West explosion briefly did, as the Upper Big Branch Mine disaster did three years beforeit is inconceivable that such an event would be constituted as a permanent emergency of world-historic proportions.