Let’s recap: The Bush administration’s own cabinet secretaries come up with a plan to regulate these chemical plants. It’s stymied by [administration official and Dick Cheney son-in-law] Phil Perry once. The Bush administration sides with the chemical industry when it’s brought before Congress. And then, basically in a backroom maneuver, Perry does the chemical industry’s bidding by moving the oversight of this from the EPA, which the chemical industry hates, to DHS, which the chemical industry thinks they can more easily manipulate.The Obama administration has been considering giving the EPA the authority to oversee such plants, the first plan blocked by Perry. Naturally, the chemical industry is fighting this, since it doesn't want to lose out on the sweet deal the Bush administration put into law for it. In the West Fertilizer Co. explosion, we have a perfect case study for why more oversight is needed, for workers in these plants, for the surrounding communities, and, yes, potentially to stop another Timothy McVeigh. On the very rare occasions that plant was inspected, it developed a pattern of violations that should have been addressed long ago. Instead, it took a devastating explosion to focus attention on the plant's problems. The Obama administration should take that as a sign that strengthening oversight is indeed the right thing to do.
Now, fast-forward six years. The West Fertilizer company is storing more than 13-hundred times the amount of ammonium nitrate that would normally trigger safety oversight by DHS. And it does appear now, that not only did DHS literally have no idea that the West Fertilizer company was storing ammonium nitrate. But according to Congressman Bennie Thompson, a Democrat from Mississippi, DHS did not even know the plant existed until it blew up.
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