Corporate Terror

Would a person who — as a result of his or her blind adherence to an ideology — sets off an explosion that registers as the equivalent of a 2.1 earthquake, killing at least 15 people, injuring more than 200 people, and incinerating more than 50 homes and businesses, be considered a terrorist?

GoneIf corporations are people, my friend, then why are we not terrified by the thought of a lightly-regulated individual (biz-ness) that is focused on the ideology of maximizing profits actually handling dangerous chemicals?

Records kept by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration show that the last time the agency inspected the plant was 28 years ago. In that inspection, dated Feb. 13, 1985, the agency found five “serious” violations, including ones involving improper storage and handling of anhydrous ammonia and improper respiratory protection for workers. The agency imposed a $30 penalty on the company.

Last June, the company was fined $5,250 by the federal Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration for violations involving anhydrous ammonia. An investigator reported the violations following an inspection of the plant in September 2011, and the agency later determined that the company had corrected the violations.

Something to ponder on 4/20 — no not for that 4/20 reason — I mean the 3rd anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon explosion that killed 11 people and fucked up the Gulf of Mexico, resulting in the largest environmental disaster in American history.

[NYT: Plant Explosion Tears at the Heart of a Texas Town]
[Austin American-Statesman: Death Toll in West Rises to 14]

Having worked in industry and now in pharma, I’ve realized the reason why regulations exist is because they were written in someone’s blood. Only the intellectually stunted, the oblivious or the cheap assholes don’t get that regulatory agencies don’t write regs for the sake of regs but in reaction (and sometimes over reaction) to when things go horribly wrong.

This week I walked through a room that contained several hundred gallons of denatured alcohol. Everything was grounded, protected with blast doors and there was a very expensive ventilation system installed in the room. 99.95% of the time it is overkill, but it is designed to stop that 0.05%.

What blows me away are people who keep telling me “Oh it’ll all work out” without realizing that if something goes wrong, it will go wrong in a catastrophic and maybe deadly manner. They seem to think that Murphy’s Law NEVER applies to them and they’re cheap fucks who think paying $100K for an explosive protective system is expensive compared to a $100 million lawsuit. I’ve once had an MBA touting execubot once tell me that Murphy’s Law doesn’t exist (he felt that Murphy was like Tinkerbell, once you stopped clapping and acknowledging it then it would go away–what made this worse was that this guy was an engineer. The one thing you realize that despite one’s religion that the engineering deity is Murphy.)

Of course it’s not surprising that they’re also the same people who freak out when something does (see Sept 11, 2001.)

Why hadn’t OSHA been there in so long? Reduced funding?

OK, well thank you. You put the horror in my mouth.

As the actress said to the bishop.



I’m ashamed.

Apparently the fertilizer plant was storing 1,350 times the amount of ammonia nitrate that is the threshold for informing the Department of Homeland Security, seeing as how it’s the chemical that Timothy McVeigh used 18 years ago yesterday in OKC.

Willful criminal behavior resulting in the murder of 14 people. I’ll believe corporations are people when Texas executes one.

@Benedick: A couple of my childhood friends either live in the area or have family who live in the area. It’s been really sad to see it on the book of Faces. I know it doesn’t compare to the loss of human lives, but a friend of a friend who lives in West is searching for the four dogs who ran away during the explosion — her kids don’t understand the explosion, and they don’t understand where the pups went. Stories like that break my heart. (Because if I think of the stories of the dead volunteer fire-fighters and their 2 year old orphans, my heart will crack open).

@ManchuCandidate: Regulators here, even the TSA, look at how much it will cost to fix a problem vs. how much a class-action lawsuit will cost. The regulators are often in bed with the private companies because, in Cheneyesque Style, they often move from private to public or public to private, and everybody wants to help out their friends, right?

No one gives a shit about the 0.05%. They give a shit about lawsuits and punies, and even then, not so much.

PS I used to practice Phama lit defense. More disgusting than SEC lit defense. Much more.

@SanFranLefty: This is the big story of this horrible week. 14 dead? How many wounded? How many hiding in a boat?

I don’t disagree. The company I work for is a generic maker so it’s less evil.

No one gives a shit about the 0.05%. They give a shit about lawsuits and punies, and even then, not so much.

And that is why bad things happen again and again.

@Mistress Cynica:
He’s not going to jail because he invoked Jeebus. Jeebus and Tejas’ “Corps do no ebil” joke of a legal system will forgive him for criminally allowing his facility to have more than 1300X explosive material than it was supposed to.

@Benedick: Yeah, well apparently you didn’t read MSM/CNN 101 — it doesn’t count as dead people when they’re black in Chicago, brown in Kabul, or poor white folks working at the Black Eyed Pea diner/getting your EMT license while a volunteer fire fighter in rural Texas.

@Mistress Cynica: No perp walking. I’m sure he’ll go coyote hunting with Guv Good-Hair at the Nigger*-Head Rock Hunting Land.

*I have to strike it.

@blogenfreude: $30 penalty??? Even in 1985, 30 bucks was pretty much chump change. That’s an 8-hour shift at the Taco Bell I worked at in 1986.

@SanFranLefty: It’s like selling a car for a dollar. The laws have technically been complied with, a true sale occurred, but no one is fooled that you didn’t just give your car to someone, against the intent of the law. Obviously someone at the agency had to check a box that said “fine imposed” and did so.

Just another instance of privatizing profit and socializing losses.

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