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Domestic corporate terrorism. That would be the West Fertilizer Company explosion in Texas on April 17, 2013, killing twelve people.

I believe that it is safe to say that persons and other living critters experienced great fear, terror, during the explosion and its after-effects.

But, I'm standing against a tradition that holds that terror is a political tool, a deliberate action to create fear. In that case. I'd tend to opine that deliberate choices were made not to regulate, not to investigate, not to inspect the premises of West Fertilizer Company.

According to Reuters:

The fertilizer plant that exploded on Wednesday, obliterating part of a small Texas town and killing at least 14 people, had last year been storing 1,350 times the amount of ammonium nitrate that would normally trigger safety oversight by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Yet a person familiar with DHS operations said the company that owns the plant, West Fertilizer, did not tell the agency about the potentially explosive fertilizer as it is required to do, leaving one of the principal regulators of ammonium nitrate - which can also be used in bomb making - unaware of any danger there.

Fertilizer plants and depots must report to the DHS when they hold 400 lb (180 kg) or more of the substance. Filings this year with the Texas Department of State Health Services, which weren't shared with DHS, show the plant had 270 tons of it on hand last year.

Seems to me that an entity under the purview of the Department of Homeland Security is a possible tool for terrorism, deliberate or not.

But, deliberate choices were made, not to inspect, not to report, not to comply with sensible requirements, pure and simple and evil domestic corporate terrorism.

The South, particularly, seems to be the bedrock of domestic corporate terrorism by neglect and deregulation:

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has so few inspectors that it can only inspect small plants like the West facility in response to complaints. It inspected the West plant in 2006 in response to a complaint about bad odors, and it was satisfied when the company applied for a new permit. Inspectors weren’t focused on the risk of explosion, though the US Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration did fine the company $5,250 that year for improperly planning to transport anhydrous ammonia.

These regulatory agencies are supposed to be protecting the public from the risks posed by unsafe workplaces, releases of toxic pollutants, and catastrophic explosions. Yet their failure to focus on the risks posed by the West Fertilizer Company is not atypical. We saw similar failures with the 2005 Texas City refinery explosion (15 workers killed, 170 injured), the 2008 explosion at the Dixie Crystal sugar refinery in Georgia (14 workers killed), and the 2008 explosion at a Bayer CropScience chemical plant in West Virginia (two workers killed).

Professor Thomas O. McGarity, University of Texas School of Law, member scholar of the Center for Progressive Reform and author of  the previous words, goes on to say:
This lack of attention to the safety of our workplaces and neighborhoods is no accident. It is the product of a concerted attack by the US Chamber of Commerce, industry trade associations, and conservative think tanks on what they see as onerous regulatory programs – but ones that were enacted by Congress over the years to protect the public from irresponsible corporate misconduct.

These opponents of government regulation learned long ago that the best way to remove the burdens of regulatory programs was to starve the regulatory agencies and bash the bureaucracy, as I spell out in my recent book, “Freedom to Harm.” Until one delves into the facts or the next accident occurs, the agencies have only the appearance of protecting the public.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Terrorist. I like it. Republicans in Congress who starve regulatory agencies ... terrorists. Yes!

Maybe Prof. McGarity should rename his book, "Freedom to Terrorize."

Originally posted to Karen Hedwig Backman on Thu May 02, 2013 at 10:43 AM PDT.

Also republished by In Support of Labor and Unions.

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