Thanks, Texan lack of regulation!
In the months since the fertilizer plant blast that killed 15 and injured 200 in West, Texas, in April, the state has been trying to check for fire hazards at similar facilities. But five facilities storing 10,000 pounds or more of ammonium nitrate, the same dangerous fertilizer chemical that made the West explosion so deadly, have
turned fire marshals away
. And that's just fine, under Texas state law.
Not only can fire marshals not make unannounced inspections or go into businesses that don't want them there, but officials don't seem overly concerned about the refused inspections at plants storing dangerous chemicals:
State Fire Marshal Chris Connealy said "well, sure" when asked whether those facilities refusing to admit inspectors raised concern.
"In their defense, they may have a very good reason," Connealy said. [...]
"At this point, today, I would say that any resistance is more just fear of the unknown than anybody trying to hide or cover up some situation like West," [Democratic state Rep. Joe] Pickett said. "I would believe if somebody thought they had something that was really dangerous, the only reason they would say no was to get it fixed that day."
Sure, let's just believe the best of businesses that don't want oversight of their giant stockpiles of explosive chemicals. Absolutely, no doubt they just want to fix any dangers they see. I'd be tempted to ask, if they knew was something dangerous, why would they only be wanting to fix it on the day a fire marshal with no power showed up? But maybe that just shows how cynical I am compared to the Texas fire marshals and state legislators, and I should exhibit some of their touching faith in the pure human nature of chemical facility owners and managers. Until the next explosion, anyway.
Fri Sep 06, 2013 at 1:36 PM PT (Chris Bowers): Please sign our petition to OSHA (the Occupational Safety and Health Administration) demanding that they inspect the five chemical plants who have denied access to the Texas fire inspectors.