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What Went Wrong in West, Texas — and Where Were the Regulators?

Seven different agencies regulate fertilizer plants in Texas, but none of them have authority over how close they are to homes and schools.

A member of the Valley Mills Fire Department walks among the remains of an apartment complex next to the fertilizer plant that exploded on April 17, 2013 in West, Texas. Seven different agencies regulate fertilizer plants in Texas, but none of them have authority over how close they are to homes and schools. (Erich Schlegel/Getty Images)

April 25: This post has been corrected.

A week after a blast at a Texas fertilizer plant killed at least 15 people and hurt more than 200, authorities still don’t know exactly why the West Chemical and Fertilizer Company plant exploded.

Here’s what we do know: The fertilizer plant hadn’t been inspected by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration since 1985. Its owners do not seem to have told the Department of Homeland Security that they were storing large quantities of potentially explosive fertilizer, as regulations require. And the most recent partial safety inspection of the facility in 2011 led to $5,250 in fines.

We’ve laid out which agencies were in charge of regulating the plant and who’s investigating the explosion now.

What happened, exactly?

Around 7:30 p.m. on April 17, a fire broke out at the West Chemical and Fertilizer Company plant in West, Texas, a small town of about 2,800 people 75 miles south of Dallas. Twenty minutes later, it blew up. The explosion shook houses 50 miles away and was so powerful that the United States Geological Survey registered it as a 2.1-magnitude earthquake. It flattened homes within a five-block radius and destroyed a nursing home, an apartment complex, and a nearby middle school.  According to the New York Times, the blast left a crater 93 feet wide and 10 feet deep, and the fire “burned with such intensity that railroad tracks were fused.”

The blast killed at least 15 people, most of them firefighters and other first responders.

Have fertilizer plants ever exploded before?

Yes. A plant in Sergeant Bluff, Iowa, that manufactured ammonium nitrate fertilizer — the same explosive chemical stored in West — exploded on Dec. 13, 1994, killing four people and injuring 18.

But fertilizer plants are safer now, said Stephen Slater, the Iowa administrator of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. “All kinds of technologies have had huge improvements,” he told the Des Moines Register. “And we haven’t had any bad experiences at the plants in the 20 years since [the accident]. I’m knocking on wood.” (Slater didn’t respond to our requests for comment.)

Who regulates these fertilizer plants?

At least seven different state and federal agencies can regulate Texas fertilizer plants like the one in West: OSHA, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, the Texas Department of State Health Services, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and the Texas Feed and Fertilizer Control Service.

Some of the agencies don’t appear to have shared information before the blast.

Fertilizer plants that hold more than 400 pounds of ammonium nitrate, for instance, are required to notify the Department of Homeland Security. (Ammonium nitrate can be used to make bombs. It’s what Timothy McVeigh used to blow up the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995.) The West plant held 270 tons — yes, tons — of the chemical last year, according to a report it filed with the Texas Department of State Health Services, but the plant didn’t tell Homeland Security.

Carrie Williams, a Department of State Health Services spokeswoman, told ProPublica that the agency isn’t required to pass that information — which is also sent to local authorities — on to Homeland Security.

While the exact cause of the explosion is unknown, a federal official told the New York Times that investigators believed it was caused by the ammonium nitrate. The blast crater is in the area of the plant where the chemical was stored.

The plant also filed a “worst-case release scenario” report with the EPA and local officials stating there was no risk of a fire or an explosion. The scenario described an anhydrous ammonia leak that wouldn’t hurt anyone.

Did any of these agencies fail to inspect the plant when they should have?

It’s unclear. OSHA conducted the last full safety inspection of the plant in 1985. “Since then,” the Huffington Post reported, “regulators from other agencies have been inside the plant, but they looked only at certain aspects of plant operations, such as whether the facility was abiding by labeling rules when packaging its fertilizer for sale.”

You can view the full OSHA report here. Since 2011, OSHA has carried out inspections based in part on the level of risk that plants like the one in West reported to the EPA. Since the West plant had told the EPA there was no risk of a fire or an explosion, it wasn’t a priority. The plant also may have been exempt from some inspections as a small employer. An OSHA spokesman told ProPublica that the agency would be investigating whether the plant had such an exemption.

As the Huffington Post also noted, the most recent federal safety inspection of the plant, in 2011, resulted in a $5,250 fine for failing to draft a safety plan for pressured canisters of anhydrous ammonia, among other infractions. (There’s no evidence that anhydrous ammonia played any role in the explosion.)

Why was a plant that stored explosive chemicals allowed to be located so close to a school?

The EPA and other federal agencies actually don’t regulate how close such plants can be to schools, nursing homes and population centers. In Texas, the decision is left up to the local zoning authorities.

A Dallas Morning News investigation in 2008 found that Dallas County residents were “at risk of a toxic disaster because outdated and haphazard zoning has allowed homes, apartments and schools to be built within blocks — in some cases even across the street — from sites that use dangerous chemicals.”

Ed Sykora, who owns a Ford dealership in West and spent a dozen years on the school board and the city council, told the Huffington Post he couldn’t recall the town discussing whether it was a good idea to build houses and the school so close to the plant, which has been there since 1962. "The land was available out there that way; they could get sewer and other stuff that way without building a bunch of new lines," Sykora said. "There never was any thought about it. Maybe that was wrong."

Who’s investigating what happened?

OSHA, the EPA and the U.S. Chemical Safety Board are all investigating. But don’t hold your breath waiting for the Chemical Safety Board’s conclusions. The agency is still investigating a blast that killed seven workers at an oil refinery in Washington State three years ago, as well as the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion that killed 11 workers in 2010 and sent oil flowing into the Gulf of Mexico for months.

A Center for Public Integrity investigation found that the number of accident reports completed by the Chemical Safety Board had declined dramatically since 2006. Daniel Horowitz, the agency’s managing director, said that the agency was stretched thin and had been asking for more investigators for years.

“Going forward, the owners and employees of Adair Grain and West Fertilizer Co. are working closely with investigating agencies,”Donald Adair, the plant’s owner and a West resident,said in a statement last Friday. “We are presenting all employees for interviews and will assist in the fact finding to whatever degree possible.”

Has Congress introduced any new regulation legislation?

Yes, but it would roll back regulations rather than strengthen them. Eleven representatives — one Democrat and 10 Republicans — sponsored a bill in February that would limit the EPA’s regulatory authority over fertilizer plants. It has been endorsed by industry groups such as the Fertilizer Institute. Kathy Mathers, a spokeswoman for the Fertilizer Institute, told ProPublica that the group supports the bill because it would more clearly spell out how the EPA can regulate the industry.

Correction: An earlier version of this story mistakenly stated two different figures for the number of people killed in the blast. It is at least 15 people.

Any help needed with the clean up? We can help?

Why didn’t the union workers hold the company’s feet to the fire and insist on safer working conditions or report safety concerns to the proper agencies?

This situation reeks of government corruption and bloat.  One million pages of codified code in this nation.  One million.  Who the hell can enforce this?  Or regulate it?  Seven agencies to regulate a fertilizer plant? Is this job security for lawyers?  How to rob a country?  Become a lawyer and create so much legalese that you create your own demand for services.  What other profession can create its own demand legally?  All they do is create more laws.  It’s that simple. 

Our government has been butchered by corporate lobbying to reduce the effectiveness of oversight.  This is the same self-regulatory structure that Alan Greenspan believed so strongly in.  You know, the one that created this crisis and a real unemployment rate of 24%.  We are a corporate-owned government.  And what laws exist are so ridiculous and unenforceable without a literal army of taxpayer-funded workers.

Liberal idiots like Paul Krugman keep telling us we need the government to spend even more to help us out of this crisis.  Keynsian baloney.  Government red tape, corporate law-rigging, destruction of the rule of law and corporate lobbyist bribery, all driven primarily by Harvard Law School-types, has created a monster.  No one in this country has any economic freedom except our masters.  Giving the state more money under this system is a crime against freedom and our democracy. 

If I wanted to go out and open a shoe factory in this nation, as an example, I couldn’t do it.  Why?  Because the corporate state has conspired to deny me economic freedom and enslaved me into an Orwellian system of corporate control. 

This fertilizer plant explosion is just part of an entire system of rot.  There comes a time when a system is likely beyond saving.  I could easily see a house of cards collapse and require a reboot just like in The Matrix.

Steve

You’re funny.

I am always amazed that folks rely on the state meaning both federal and state governments to do the right thing for them. Folks they DO NOT have your best interest at heart. Follow the money trail.

Grim Reaper you are right on! Steve, what is so funny about cleaning up the mess?

We cleaned up the Oil Spill In Louisiana! Putting Texans to work makes sense! So that they can rebuild and move on ! Don’t wait like Katrina to fix it ! Just saying…

Corporations are NOT going to do ‘the right thing’ if it’s going to cost money. Many of the so-called regulators are former executive employees of those companies. HELLO…..........

The game is rigged, folks. We have allowed the corporate fox to watch our Federal Government hen house.

Through campaign contributions (thank you ‘Citizens United’ Supreme Court decision), lobbying, and the ‘revolving-door’, private corporate power is omnipresent at all government levels. The corporation is the government, and the government is the corporation.

Want to know where the problems are? Follow the MONEY.

Welcome to the land of the free. Democracy? The wallet is the tool, not the ballot box.

Christopher McDaniel

April 25, 2013, 4:45 p.m.

The Texas Commission on Enviromental Quality (TCEQ) is a bogus organization that is intended to thwart environmental regulation by pretending to regulate.  It is a laughing stock in Texas and is a classic case of the fox watching the chicken coop.  It gathers information on what the real regulators may be interested in and runs a cover up for industry.

Governor Perry needs to pardon Donald Adair now for any criminal wrong doing, under state law! President Obama can do the same under federal law. The Texas Legislature need to pass legislation to prohibit state lawsuits against Donald Adair and the “Adair Grain and West Fertilizer Co.” to prevent lawsuits and any compensation for the victims. We need more protections for business, as Grim Reaper said Donald Adair and “Adair Grain and West Fertilizer Co.” is already over regulated, he should have been left completely to his own devices. As for the city of West letting schools, parks, homes, old folks homes within the blast radius, that’s simply good government at work for all of us.

Barbara Ruether

April 25, 2013, 5:09 p.m.

Texas is among the worst states interested in worker protections, particularly with chemical and other toxic substances. OSAHA basically across the U.S. has been whittled down to be nothing, it is not the employees who are at fault, it is the Congress. Same thing as in the coal industry in West Virginia, or any mining sites.

Also, there was no union in the West Plant.  Texas is not friendly to unions or healthcare and the like. Keep the people poor, and don’t educate ‘em either, makes ‘em dangerous..

“In Texas it is left to local zoning boards.” In other words, local government makes the decision as to what will be built and where. Clearly the local government had no concern about allowing homes and schools to be built near a fertilizer plant.

States like Texas, LA and others pride themselves on “State Rights.” Hence the States can make strong or weak laws, regulations and policies regarding regulation of chemicals, environmental concerns, ecetera. 

However when it comes time to clean up the mess and try to assist the homeowners, the people and government of Texas will be more then happy to ask the Federal Government to subsidize there choices of weak regulation and development decisions.

Hey Ric
That tongue firmly planted in cheek? Freedom, baby!!

Barbara
You go girl. What a country! Most of this whole situation started about @ 30 years ago with the move to deregulation, primarily brought to you by the corporate butt-boy Republicans and the movie-actor President.

The libertarians and ‘Fox News’ (now there’s an oxymoron) are keeping ‘Joe the plumber’ and the lower middle class fixated on terrorism, illegals, welfare moms, and street crime, while behind closed doors, the guys with the suits and briefcases steal a billion times more money from us. Scapegoat the easy targets, while the 1% re-distributes our money…. a Cato Institute Libertarian’s wet dream!

Rick Perry has a long history of overriding technical decisions that are contrary to the wishes of corporate managers and owners.  One of the most glaring is his decision to allow Harold Simmons to build a nuclear waste dump in Andrews County on top of the Ogallala aquifer over the objections of the technical staff of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.  Harold is Perry’s second most generous donor so any regulations that may interfere with him making money are set aside.

i smell a another rick perry failure with cash bonus to corporate out of the texas treasury at our cost

I am disappointed with all of you who are passing the blame and pointing the finger at different groups saying why aren’t they doing some thing.
What about you, why did you not do your civic duty and ask questions about these different plants, why did you not say that this plant was located too close to a school. You sit and read such sad stories and then paint a banner of protest shouting for a while until some other accident happens.
Read your history and learn, then take action to make your local area safe, once you have done that, look to make your neighbor safe.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aberfan_disaster
On 21 October 1966,    It was caused by a build-up of water in the accumulated rock and shale, which suddenly started to slide downhill in the form of slurry killing 116 children and 28 adults in a small School below the tailing heap from the local cool mine.

There is a saying in Australia “She’ll be Right! Mate.” meaning that it’s been like that for a while now and nothing has gone wrong nothing will go wrong.  Disasters are the result of a lot of little problems in them selves of no consequence but collectively produce dire results.

Dan Miller

Good post.

When corporate self-reporting, which is what corporations seek in terms of regulation, is the primary mode of “official” oversight, then corporations must act responsibly.  Because the West Chemical and Fertilizer Company falsified its report to the EPA, saying that there was no risk of fire or explosion at the plant despite 270 tons of ammonium nitrate being present, then the company must be held fully responsible for its recent explosion and fire.  The company and its owner(s) deserve to be sued for every penny they have.

When Governor Perry went to California to promote the friendly business climate in Texas, what do you think he meant? I translated to mean “bring your business to Texas where we won’t burden you with pesky health and safety regulations”.

This wasnt a plant, it was a retail facility.

michael spexarth

April 25, 2013, 9:25 p.m.

Having lived in North Texas and other small towns in other States, most local Zoning Codes simply do not exist. Most small towns can’t afford to hire a Planner, or Zoning Administrator. Most don’t even have Zoning Laws relating to simple safety such as school or housing near businesses that might put people at risk. In fact, most small towns don’t have the financial resources for ANY restrictions on major business that employ local citizens. If business leaves, the town is dead. That business can control government is well known in even large cities.
Given the interlocking over-jurisdiction of Fed-State Agencies noted above, it is too idealistic to expect coordination or enforcement of existing law. The only solution I know of has been local community organizations demanding changes and/or legal action. Around here, we just tax and fine dangerous/polluting businesses to pay for emergency services, mitigation, relocation and infrastructure.

JG, it’s called privatizing the profits, socializing the costs, especially the costs of clean-up, in California we have thousands of mines in the Sierra’s that spew poison all winter long, who pays for it, the tax payer, either by paying for clean up, or by being poisoned. It would not surprise me one bit if Obama does not declare West a disaster area, and let us provide the low interest loans for rebuilding, rather that put the cost where it belongs, on the city that allowed this disaster to happen in the first place, the state who’s failure is criminal. Of course, the federal agencies with oversight responsibilities exercised their responsibilities in a criminal fashion too.

Dan Miller, if you know of a nuclear waste dump in Texas that does not meet ridged requirements you need to let the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) know (go to nrc (dot) gov/waste/llw-disposal (dot)html) regarding low level waste. It is highly regulated and if Perry has overridden these laws he may have overstepped his authority.

Like Diogenes, Pro Publica’s search for competent government bureaucrats continues…

“Competent government bureaucrats” may be hard to find, but that is precisely because the revolving door from government to industry and from industry to government is so well greased by corporate lobbyists and corporate bribery (I.e., the offer of lucrative jobs after public “service”).  The present system, made ever so legal by career politicians beholden to big money, is utterly broken—particularly and most cynically by those who claim that government is the problem.

Throughout history, there are countless examples of cases where people have had to die before inept government organizations ‘began’ to acknowledge their incompetence and react in an appropriate fashion.

Time will tell if it is as simple as the usual incompetence, or whether dollars were exchanged to keep the officials looking the other way.

No time like the present!

Heh.  This is adorable.  Was the government or the company more responsible for the explosion?  Obviously, yes.  Both.  Possibly in collusion, though probably not in the legal sense when both have enough knowledge to avoid prosecution.

As Dennis points out, the way the organizations are structured today, it’s entirely likely that investigators have a financial stake in the company not getting fined, due to the inane idea that only industry leaders can become industry experts and that their expertise is unbiased.

That’s doubly a problem in an economic climate like this, where the claim is always (see also Hollywood and Wall Street) that regulation is expensive and will cost jobs (that the company was invariably planning on phasing out anyway, but never mind that…), so we need more power and less oversight, even where there’s any useful regulation.

Dennis: Your statement that “the company and its owner(s) deserve to be sued for every penny they have” is spot on - and I suspect they need to get on it fast since Texas seems to be at the forefront in passing tort reform laws. Just a small step from restricting the medical malpractice awards already made law in 2003 to include the restriction of company malpractice awards - and we can logically assume the legislation is currently being written and will be rushed to the Texas congress for rubber stamp approval.

It’s the same ole thing, our politicians form these areas claim they care about family values when it fact, all they care about is how much money they will get for their campaigns. The rules only apply to citizens. voters/ workers not corporations or their minion politicians. Roughly over 50,000 workers die every year. ALMOST as much as what happened in VIET NAM. BUT THIS IS EVERY YEAR!. That is not counting those that are hurt or made ill in the workplace. This is 2013 and the workplace are like THE OLE plantations of the south!

What went wrong?  Quite obvious, TX doesn’t want any corporations held to any kind of regulations & be free to do as they wish & this is the results of total deregulation.

These politicians who don’t want regulations have blood on their hands because this community was a sitting target and they went totally unprotected by those who claim to represent them, the reps don’t. They are not only complicit but aided and abetted this crime by and of unregulated explosive plants. These politicians belong in jail now ..including the governor who is going to states promoting more of the same!

Write all the regulation you want, the government bureaucracy will never effectively enforce. Legal action for harm done with sever penalties for the guilty is the correct action, not burying all the businesses not doing harm with regulatory gridlock.

I will bring up Triangle Shirt Factory… city inspected just week or two before the fire… likely cause was the employees smoking in a room filled with highly flammable fabric dust. That the employer had locked the rear door to prevent employees from sneaking out the back while on the clock was a contributor to the deaths but not the cause.

A big part of the plan is to make the feds look bad and that means not having enough people to enforce the laws. It’s simply blame everyone but the real folks who have been undermining the feds while now wanting cash from the feds. They have been playing a dangerous game with people’s lives and the people who suffer where there is no regulation will now fight because they too now see the results of not needing regulations or the money that is needed for enforcement!

Richard, you do know that “Legal action for harm done with sever penalties for the guilty” is regulation.

Dina, what you’re talking about is taxes. I don’t think many in Texas are for higher taxes, even if it saves lives, deaths are the price for keeping more money for yourself. Of course, the “cash from the feds” your talking about is unfunded tax liability for our grand and great-grand children.

“Some of the agencies don’t appear to have shared information before the blast.”

Nor did the FBI and the CIA and heaven knows what other agencies “share information” during the build-up to 9/11. 

What information people desperately tried to convey was disregarded.

John, surely you know that “more power” is more “oversight” [regulation/law] your statement “we need more power and less oversight” is an oxymoron, you cannot have the former without the latter, and both exists only if enforceable by regulations (laws).

Ric, no regulation is action taken by bureaucrats against all businesses in the regulated category that requires significant resources by the business to comply with whether that business has ever caused any harm and often the required actions are irrelevant to determining if any harm has been or will be done. Holding entities responsible for the consequences of their actions in a consistent and serious way from the executives to the hourly employees will serve as a far greater deterrent to any future harmful actions than the millions of pages of Federal, State, and local government often misguided regulations and the incompetent bureaucracies that fail to oversee them.

For example, we could lock up all males between 15 and 30 in this country or atl least require them to report all their activities to their local law enforcement agency on a regular basis and it would significantly reduce crime in just about every significant category. We choose however to focus on the folks who actually commit crimes and hold them accountable for their actions.

Richard: Your post is entirely focused from the viewpoint of entities being regulated, particularly “...requires significant resources by the business to comply with whether that business has ever caused any harm and often the required actions are irrelevant to determining if any harm has been or will be done.”

The purpose of regulation is to prevent harm and when it’s effective, harm doesn’t happen. Then one must try to prove a negative by claiming the degree to which harm is averted. Only through the use of correlative studies comparing ourselves to areas which aren’t regulated can we make a determination as to the effectiveness.

Examples of effective regulation: clean, safe drinking water from tap water. Proof: Mexico. Safe building construction. Proof: Turkey, etc. (ad nauseum)

Richard, DATELINE California: “On Wednesday, the state’s top toxics regulator shut down the state’s largest battery recycler, Exide, for leaking lead, arsenic and other toxins into the surrounding community for more than two decades. The action came only after Consumer Watchdog exposed endemic failures at the Department of Toxic Substances Control to prevent pollution and punish serial polluters in our report, Golden Wasteland. Nevertheless, Californians could be on the hook for millions in clean-up costs because the DTSC never required the company to put money away for cleanup.”

Or, privatizing the profits and socializing the clean up.

In California the regulations were in place, Exide could have voluntarily followed them, and they allegedly didn’t, certainly the regulatory body allegedly failed its duty, yet without the regulations (laws) in the first place, there is no duty for Exide to perform, or for the regulatory body to enforce, there’d be no “regulation” for Exide to subvert, and no penalty, civil or criminal, to apply to alleged wrongful conduct.

Without a law (regulation) to the effect you propose re 15 to 30 year olds, how do you propose to lock up all males 15 to 30? Such a law should be clearly unconstitutional, but who knows with this US Supreme Court. How do you propose to lock up “the folks who actually commit crimes and hold them accountable for their actions” without “regulations” (laws) proscribing such conduct. These are our criminal laws (regulations).

Sorry, in a country that professes the “rule of law”, it is the law from which the power to regulate, civil or criminal, flows. Without regulations we cannot hold anyone accountable for anything.

SAY AMEN BROTHER!

Most are making good point corporations wont do the right thing, politicians want lobbyist to line their pockets so they wont do the right thing and unions if the place even had a union it wasnt big enough to do anything to much money going around for the right thing to ever get done.Several politicains who have retired ar now lobbyist. This isnt a republican problem,nor is it a democrat problem, and you cant blame any other political group either. The issue is all of the political groups make lbbying illegal and then we can see improvements. I dont just blame the president,the gov,or the mayor i blame them all

Corporations do not do anything, people within corporations do things and like all people there are good people and bad people. Regulation is more than just the law, it is the proscribed actions that innocent parties must participate in to prove they have not committed the regulated wrong.

There are many reasons our Country is not Mexico or Turkey… government regulation is very low on that list.

Did a bit more damage and killed and maimed more than the Boston bombs but got and getting a lot less cover in the news?  I am intrigued by the way the USA ( and UK ) seem to feel that regulation of private industries that can do huge damage ( BP? )  is a bad thing while we spend ever increasing amounts militarizing our police forces to ensure regulation of the general citizenry - especially the black ones!  Must be something to do with the ‘right’ people making profits?

There is far more damage in our major cities each month due to criminal organizations defending their markets while meeting the drug demands of our citizens all made possible by the insane GOVERNMENT War On Drugs. Speaking of “regulation” being worse than the supposed problem.

Really a fertilizer warehouse not a processing plant - 10 employees.  There must be dozens (hundreds?) of these in the country.  They probably fall below the threshold for consistent hands-on inspection. Obviously this is a weakness.  A bigger weakness is that anybody still sells dry ammonium nitrate.  However, certain questions of fact are still open.  What was the source of the fire, and why were things arranged so that the fire could burn in close proximity to unstable substances? Are we absolutely sure it wasn’t the anhydrous ammonia that exploded? Did the facility really store tons of ammonium nitrate or was it UAN (urea ammonium nitrate) which is supposedly much less volatile?  Did the fertilizer warehouser deliberately store this stuff in direct violation of regulations, or was he just incredibly careless or terminally stupid, or both?  Were the town fathers so uninformed as to the activities at the warehouse that they can claim innocence about locating dwellings, an old folks home and a school in pretty close proximity to the facility? This will all come out in due course.

Mr. R. L. Hails Sr. P. E.

April 26, 2013, 9:52 p.m.

I do not believe that we know basic facts at this time.  The explosion can be explained by a large amount of ammonium nitrate reacting with an organic in the present of initiating heat.  Other reactions could have been the cause but they do not align with a fertilizer factory. 
What is not mentioned is the name of a professional engineer who was both knowledgeable and in authority in the plant.  It does little good to form committees of technically ignorant people to overview a chemical plant; you need one person who knows what is dangerous.  It appears that some one was suicidally stupid, or a criminal.  We do not know.  If the records were destroyed by the disaster, that, in itself, is suspicious.  Professionals maintain remote redundant record archiving.  We know that fifteen people walked into hell without any warning. 
There are a ton of unanswered questions hanging above this horror.  And unassigned guilt, in both the private and public sector.

Question not asked, let alone answered, in this post: who ultimately (behind whatever shells) owned this plant?

williambanzai7

April 27, 2013, 9:16 a.m.

Apparently, this was all the fault of an editorial cartoonist at the Sacrament Bee.

I find the article intriguing in that it suggest the facility may have some malicious intent to decieve the inspectors or regulating agencies. Or that it suggest the plant was located within the city’s boundaries and therefore, the city should be responsible for ensuring the plants compliance in some fashion. Or perhaps iit’s the statement “(There’s no evidence that anhydrous ammonia played any role in the explosion.)” that puzzles me. Here are some facts, that are conviently distorted and omitted for the sake of a malicious presentation on the State of Texas’ industrial atmosphere. Fact one: although the regulations are in place to require dislcosure of information, inspections etc, most of those laws don’t require the information to provided until the its asked for. Each time a regulatory agency checked for compliance and found any violations, the plant made any remedies required, and promptly regained compliance to which ever agency had charged the violation. Fact two:in Texas and virtually every single other small town in the country, there are limited or no zoning laws present, due a large number of factors, but primarily due to the expense of having properly qualified people create those laws and so on. That aside, in most cases, county governments generally don’t have zoning regulation of any sort, Texas is no exemption to that statement. The plant was built outside the city limits of West in the ‘60s, and it is currently still outside the city limits, thereby exempting it from municipal regulation and exempting the City of West from having to consider it in any municpal zoning that it may have. Finally, the explosion (without expert analysis and complete reports) is obviously the type known as a BLEVE (Boiling Liquid Expanding Vapor Explosion). The Ammonium Nitrate is a salt like substance that was stored in lean to sheds and open, vented bins. Explosions cant happen without some sort of compression, and even if though the product is flammable, it is difficult to ignite (thats why the OKC bombers doused it kerosene).  The explosion in West a BLEVE, and there are hundreds of videos for comparison that would prove this. Further more, the only product on site that would’ve been compressed was the Anhydrous Ammonia (a liquid, stored much like propane). Furthermore, in a recent press conference, an ATF investigator and a State Fire Marshal investigator stated “What we do know at this time is that the Ammonium Nitrate stored at the facility did not play a role in the explosion.” I hope that those who would write the “articles” in the future will complete their research a little more thoroughly and produce writings that accurately reflect the facts, instead of distorting them to give the uninformed and unfamiliar a negative view. I would rather they document and present the facts, and let the readers decide what if any malicious or decietful intent was present.

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