texas, i declare

Fucking Texas. You know, I really want to like Texas. I really do. I have friends who deliberately live there. I’ve been there my ownself on occasion and mostly enjoyed it. It’s one of the very few states in the U.S. that can be accurately described as iconic. You know — cowboys, longhorns, oil, the open range, all that stuff.

I really want to like Texas, but over the last couple of decades it’s become a sinkhole where politics and religion combine with deep imbecility to form an impenetrable block of stupid. The mass of the stupidity of Texas is so dense it could bend light.

You may remember back in April of this year when a fertilizer plant in West, Texas exploded, killing 15 people (several of whom were firefighters responding to a fire at the plant), injuring more than 300 others, destroying or severely damaging around 150 buildings, and causing US$135 million in damages.

We don’t know what started the initial fire at the fertilizer plant. The reason we don’t know is that the explosion caused by the stored ammonium nitrate was so powerful it destroyed any evidence of the fire. It was so powerful, in fact, that it was recorded by the U.S. Geological Survey as a 2.1-magnitude tremor.

The fertilizer plant was built in 1965. It was last inspected by OSHA in 1985. That’s right, it went uninspected by OSHA for nearly 30 years. Although it had a long record of burglaries and thefts (anhydrous ammonia is used in cooking meth), the plant had no security personnel. They had a permit to store 54,000 pounds of anhydrous ammonia. In fact, it was storing approximately 110,000 pounds, as well as 540,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate. Federal law requires any facility holding more than 400 pounds of ammonium nitrate and a combustible agent (like, say, anhydrous ammonia) to file a report with the Department of Homeland Security. The West, Texas fertilizer plant hadn’t bothered with that. Because, you know…freedom.

What's left of the West, Texas fertilizer plant

What’s left of the West, Texas fertilizer plant

So we’re talking about a facility that was essentially a giant bomb. Located next to an elementary school and an apartment complex for retired folks. And it was last inspected in 1985. Why? Because fucking Texas is pro-business. And pro-freedom.

That’s old news, of course. But yesterday, while all the major news agencies were focused on Miley Cyrus’ ass, the Texas Observer filed a news story: State Agencies Meet Resistance in Policing Fertilizer Industry. Here are a couple of sentences from the second paragraph:

The Fire Marshal’s Office has identified 153 facilities in the state that are believed to store ammonium nitrate. Since Texas doesn’t have a state fire code, the fire marshal lacks the authority to conduct inspections if the company resists.

Texas doesn’t have a state fire code. The entire fucking state…no fire code. Not only that, it’s actually illegal for 173 of Texas’ 254 counties to adopt a fire code. It seems only Texas counties with populations above 250,000 can legally adopt their own fire code. Those counties with more than a quarter of a million people aren’t required to have a fire code because, you know…freedom. But they can. If they want to. If they’re pussies.

Of the 153 facilities believed to be storing ammonium nitrate (they don’t even know for sure how many facilities are storing it), the Fire Marshal has been allowed to inspect only 62. Allowed. Because Texas is pro-business, and has no fire code, so the Fire Marshal has no authority to inspect any plant without an invitation. Five fertilizer plants completely refused an inspection. Because, you know…freedom again.

West, Texas fertilizer plant explosion

West, Texas fertilizer plant explosion

But hey, the Texas legislature is having a hearing on the matter. So that’s something, right? That’s a start. It’s a beginning. It’s a move toward insuring public safety. So there’s that. Right?

Nope.

Much of the hearing was dominated by Republican lawmakers worried about burdening fertilizer businesses with new requirements. Rep. Dan Flynn, R-Canton, said while he respected the victims of the West tragedy, the industry has been doing a “pretty good job of policing themselves” and voluntarily submitting reports. “If we’re not careful we could get like the federal government and try to put diapers on cows,” he said.

Diapers on cows. If the Great State of Texas tried to limit the ability of fertilizer plants to store tons of massively explosive chemicals, it would be a burden on business. And Texas is pro-business. Seriously, if you allow the government to put restrictions on which plants can store explosive, you might just as well put diapers on cows — because that’s what would come next. (Dan Flynn, by the way, is the Texas legislator who tried to reduce the number of training hours required to get a concealed weapon permit from ten to four, because, you know…freedom.)

Texas Republican Dan 'Diapers on Cows' Flynn

Texas Republican Dan ‘Diapers on Cows’ Flynn

Unfortunately, the Texas legislature won’t be able to reach any real decision on how to deal with fertilizer plant safety during this legislative session. But they’ll address the issue again in the next regular session. Which is scheduled for January, 2015. (Governor Rick Perry may call for yet another special session, but only to deal with imposing even stricter legal restrictions on the few remaining women’s health centers that provide abortion services, because, you know…freedom Texas is pro-life.)

 

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10 thoughts on “texas, i declare

  1. I’ve tried leaving three times, but something always causes a return. Anyway, once upon a time I lived in Oklahoma, sadly it was during Timothy McVeighs reig of terror, death and destruction. Forgive me, I’m getting older, a bit hazy in the grey matter, but were there not Federal statues imposed upon the storage and puts base of ammonium nitrate?
    P.S. I’m dang sure you’ve got Texas pegged. They want so badly to be free of The Union, I’m afraid they are unable to see past the tip of their nose’s.
    Oh, tis it true about the fire code thingy? How did that miss the radar screen of the State Insurance Commissioner’s office?
    When I wake up tomorrow, I’ve got some investigating to do.
    Thanks for the ‘Head’s-Up’ …

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    • Yes, there are Federal regulations on storing ammonium nitrate, but unfortunately Republicans in Congress have essentially neutered the regulatory agencies so there are very few inspectors and LOTS of places to inspect.

      And yes, it’s absolutely true about the fire code. The dearth of safety regulations is one of the reasons Gov. Perry says Texas is pro-business.

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  2. “Much of the hearing was dominated by Republican lawmakers worried about burdening fertilizer businesses with new requirements.”

    LOL! I can’t even … I don’t have the words to describe how funny I found this. How about burdening the lives of the public who unfortunately live or work near the plants?

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  3. I love this post.
    We don’t have to worry about Texas seceding from the United States (although sometimes, I wish they would) because they would devolve into a third world country in no time once all the federal money was pulled out.

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    • Of all the places that threaten to secede, Texas and Alaska are probably the only ones that might actually have a shot at coping with independence. They both have oil revenues, which would give them a source of external income — and since Texas doesn’t give a rat’s ass about helping its poor (or its sick, or its marginalized peoples), they wouldn’t have to expend much in the way of social services. Of course, they’d have a hard time finding folks to do the grunt work that illegal immigrants do now.

      It’s an interesting intellectual exercise, anyway.

      Like

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