Home / General / West Fertilizer Violated Federal Anti-Terror Regulations

West Fertilizer Violated Federal Anti-Terror Regulations


Does it go too far to call the West Fertilizer Corporation a terrorist corporation for its actions that led to the explosion that has killed at least 14 people so far, a number that could still go higher, and destroyed much of the town of West, Texas? Perhaps it goes too far to use such a term. On the other hand, the West Fertilizer Corporation actually violated federal anti-terrorism law:

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.

A U.S. congressman and several safety experts called into question on Friday whether incomplete disclosure or regulatory gridlock may have contributed to the disaster.

“It seems this manufacturer was willfully off the grid,” Rep. Bennie Thompson, (D-MS), ranking member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, said in a statement. “This facility was known to have chemicals well above the threshold amount to be regulated under the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards Act (CFATS), yet we understand that DHS did not even know the plant existed until it blew up.”

That’s a pretty incredible violation. It’s hardly the only problem with the plant. Last summer, it was fined $10,000 for safety violations, although that was reduced after the company ameliorated the problem. It last received an OSHA inspection in 1985, when it was fined $30. The town itself is devastated, not only because of the 14 dead but because of the destruction of its infrastructure.

So what punishment should the owners of the West Fertilizer Corporation receive? Should they be treated like other violators of anti-terrorism law? They killed far more people than the Tsarnaev brothers. Should they be charged with murder? Should they even serve prison time? It’s highly unlikely that even the latter will happen given the amount we excuse anti-social corporate behavior. Corporations now have free speech rights but they don’t have personal responsibility.

Of course, the real question is how many other ticking time bombs are in communities around the nation? There are few industries with the potential for massive disaster of fertilizer, but between petroleum, chemicals, and mining, there are all sorts of communities suffering from enormous environmental and workplace safety problems. Grain elevators with poor safety standards litter much of the nation. Then there’s industries most of us don’t even think about, like fertilizer. Without a far more vigorous regulatory structure with real consequences for corporations, workers and communities will continue to bear avoidable burdens. It might be a long time before we see a workplace disaster this bad again (although it will eventually happen in coal), but smaller disasters will kill 1, 2, 5 workers in various places, while the poor will contract cancer, black lung, and other diseases from their inability to escape exposure to industrialized nature and the consequences of corporate malfeasance.

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  • Nutella

    Making the public pay the environmental, social, and disaster recovery costs for private companies while their owners keep every nickel of the profits is the American way.

    Making the middle-class white Christians of West Fertilizer who violated terror laws, endangered the lives and property of thousands, and actually killed at least 14 people responsible for their actions isn’t.

    Somehow I don’t think we’ll discussing whether the owners and managers of the fertilizer company need to have their Miranda rights read to them or not. Instead of getting arrested by cops in body armor they’ll probably be showered with sympathy for their sad loss.

    I’ll believe corporations are people when they get the death penalty in Texas just like people do.

    • Hogan

      What if corporation al Qaeda? What if it death panel? What if it Benghazi? Yes, in some cases, punch corporation.

    • Unhinged Liberal

      Making the middle-class white Christians…

      Well, *THAT* didn’t take long, now did it?

      • Skywalker the terrorist

        Yeah, he should have save that. It’s pretty obvious already to point it out.

  • Jon

    The Tsarnaevs intended to kill people (assuming what we think we know about them holds up), so the situations aren’t the same. But negligent homicide could be a fit.

    • sparks

      I am reminded that drunk drivers who do not intend killing people have been charged with murder when they run someone over.

      • Fake Irishman

        Though people who aren’t drunk are almost never charged with a felony — or even a written a ticket. Streetsblog had been tracking this sort of thing for a while now. Of course, the victims are usually pedestrians or cyclists (often of color and often poor people), so they don’t count as much because they aren’t driving a care like Real Americans (TM) do. In fact, it sounds like traffic justice works a lot like corporate responsibility.

        • DocAmazing

          That has been the one and only downside of MADD’s otherwise praiseworthy crusade against drunk driving–non-drunk bad, reckless, and irresponsible driving is often let off the hook.

          Hey, maybe we could go after West Fertilizer for operating a plant while drunk!

          • Anonymous

            Operating while stupid is still negligent homicide; it was their responsibility to know.

          • John

            The drinking age being 21 isn’t a downside?

      • Neglect to tend to an issue that you know could potentially cause danger or harm to other people has the same effect as if a singular person was to inflict purposeful harm onto another person.Why were the explosions in Boston more important that the explosions in Texas, because one of them has a face and the other forces us to look at how our system that we live by runs. http://www.favorfreedom.com/2013/04/why-are-explosions-in-boston-more.html

    • Anonymous

      I can go with the idea they didn’t intend to kill people. However, it should be recognized that neither did they intend to keep people safe.

      • PhoenixRising

        I’m not familiar with CFATS, but I know the compliance laws around offshoring pretty well. If it’s anything like those laws it’s strict liability. Meaning that the failure to comply triggers civil penalties and a willful failure to comply (we issued notice & you did nothing) is criminal.

        I know this because I sell software that helps manufacturers comply with all applicable regulations, fed and state. It would have cost this plant, with 12 workers (?) about $12K a year to be continuously updating a compliance audit that covers everything from this issue to whether they are properly training their staff in emergency procedures.

        Who here thinks it should cost some exponent of that, plus potential criminal liability, to ignore the regulations?

    • Anonymous

      Negligent homicide/manslaughter with depraved indifference. Plus insurance fraud. Plus willfully ignoring anti-terror laws. I hope they’re tried like any other mass murderer.

      • cpinva

        “Plus insurance fraud.”

        not sure where you got this from, unless you know something no one else, in the world, is aware of. that said, you do raise an interesting point: i’m betting there’s a requirement, in the plant’s liability insurance, that the company be in complience with all applicable local/state/federal laws/regulations. the failure to do so would automatically void the contract, and release the insurance company from any legal obligations.

        in other words, it’s going to be a long, long time, before the injured parties see any compensation from this company.

        • Cody

          Most likely the company will just go bankrupt, sell it’s assets to the CEO’s new company, and resume normal operations.

          At least they’re not doing something evil like discharging student loans.

  • News Nag

    It seems the plant was owned by an 85-year-old pillar of the town, very well-respected and such, who also is the owner of a large grain storage and distribution operation that predated his relatively recent purchase of the fertilizer plant. In rural Texas, the anti-regulation resentment comes with the territory but has been intentionally cultivated under the dunce-like iron grip of Rick Perry’s governorship. The Texas Department of State Health Services shares the blame, maybe even holding most of it. Perry’s appointees run the department. I could see an elderly owner, fatally intransigent or not, assuming that the information would somehow automatically be learned by the feds, even if he realized that he, himself, was supposed to report to them directly, though that doesn’t make his culpability any less clear. I’m just describing the situation a bit more fully.

    • Y’know I can think of at least one fertilizer supplier in North Central Tx that made me fill out the paperwork every time I got NH3 in quantity. We had to report it. He had his to send in and I signed and gave them the requisite identification. Rick Perry has zero interest in having competent and thorough inspectors. It has been left up to the corporations to police themselves. Though the man I mentioned did follow those rules his place resembles a dump. No, it is a dump. Fertilizer fall out all over the ground near the mixer, no fire suppression systems, stuff just lying around hither and yon. And nobody will ever say a word or do anything because nobody will ever know it until it is too late. If he has ever been inspected it was probably before I was born.

      And here is a little tale to warm your heart about inspections in Texas.

      There is a quarantine on certain species of palms. You are not allowed to import them from FLA due to a particularly devastating disease. However, I know of a nursery that regularly violates this rule of law. How? Oh the shipper says philodendron? Righto! Carry on sir!
      Then one day a young man from the TDA comes by for our yearly inspection. He strolled around and looked at a few things. Walked right by half a dozen examples of palm trees that never should have made it out of Florida. Should have issued me a stop sale immediately and waited while I sawed them in two. Should have made me call the brothers and read them the riot act. Instead he handed me a nice copy of our inspection report marked ‘Passed’. The boy had no clue whatsoever. If I stuck all of our verboten palms in a nice neat row I would be willing to bet my next paycheck he couldn’t even give me the common name for a third of them, much less tell which ones fell under the quarantine.

      And that my friends is the state of affairs in Texas inspections.

  • c u n d gulag

    Boy, I bet that $30 fine by OSHA in ’85 pur the fear of God in the company!

    Without that $30 fine, that plant might have blown up then, instead of now.

    If we have to say that corporations are people, can we at least be allowed to say that they’re sociopathic people?

    • RLSoxy

      That last sentence should go viral. Permission to post it on Facebook?

      • c u n d gulag

        Though I don’t think I’m the one who originally thought of it.
        I rarely am.

      • Leeds man

        Have you seen The Corporation? They apply the Hare Psychopathy Checklist to corporations.

    • Anonymous

      Tee hee hee :-))

    • DrDick

      I think this is the perfect opportunity to test the SCOTUS;\’s commitment to Citizens United. Since corporations are people, charge the corporation with murder (or negligent homicide), along with all corporate officers and the owner.

      • Leeds man

        I think it’s important to get ‘depraved indifference’ in there as well. The shoe is a perfect fit.

  • Shakezula

    Does it go too far to call the West Fertilizer Corporation a terrorist corporation for its actions that led to the explosion that has killed at least 14 people so far, a number that could still go higher, and destroyed much of the town of West, Texas?

    This is hyperbole I can live with.

    What if instead of the shit going off bang there, failure to follow the rules allowed someone to steal a bunch and set it off bang elsewhere? What if an employee sold some off to a friend because there was so much of it laying around no one would miss a stray ton?

    I also must – because I am pissed – point out that the same people who scream like stuck pigs at the thought of having to follow laws designed to stop acts of mass murder are the very same fucks who are sweating their balls off to outlaw abortion, allegedly because they want to save lives.

    • Considering their lack of attention to safety standards, I would say that their security standards are just as feeble and it is a certainty. At least that we might as well assume so, unless there is some way of ascertaining that it isn’t so.

      You know, like putting in the additives to fertilizer and other explosive compounds that would allow tracking where the stuff comes from when it goes boom. Except, oh yeah, that’ just ANOTHER thing that infringes on the second amendment and that the NRA has managed to squelch.

    • c u n d gulag

      In their minds, corporations are people, and so are fetuses – until they’re born.

      You know who they don’t consider people?
      Anyone outside of a womb, who doesn’t agree with their Cro-Magnon way of looking at things.

      They dehumanize people like us, and use eliminationist rhetoric all of the time, Shakezulu.

      But, since we ask them to get a brain and a heart, while they talk about smashing our brains in, and cutting out our hearts, what the MSM says, is, “SEE! BOTH sides do it!”

      • Shakezula

        Anyone outside of a womb, who doesn’t agree with their Cro-Magnon way of looking at things ^and isn’t wealthy. Only heaven forbid the deluded proles find out about that last bit because they’ve been hoarding weapons on their masters’ say so and there’s no way the MOTUs can bear the thought of not taking it all with them should they have to flee an uprising.


        • c u n d gulag

          Yes, nicely fixed!

  • dp

    Plainly, West Fertilizer should be treated as an enemy combatant.

    • What, we need to blow them up there so they don’t blow US up there?

      • DocAmazing

        We don’t want the OSHA violation to be a mushroom cl…

        oh, screw it.

  • Chuchundra

    The thing that really chills me to the bone about this thing is that it could have been much much worse. There was plenty of warning and the plant and surrounding area were mostly evacuated before everything went boom.

    Had there been little or no warning and no time to evacuate with people still in their homes and children still in school you could have had hundreds, maybe thousands of people dead.

  • masaccio


    Similarly prominent is the company’s owner, West patriarch Donald Adair, 83, whose family also owns an adjacent grain and farming business. Adair, who bought the fertilizer plant less than a decade ago, was born and raised in West, where several of his children still live.
    “The man is devastated by what’s happened,” said West resident Len Martin, who attends the West Church of Christ, where Adair has long served as an elder. “This is just a very hard thing. There are no absolute answers, no easy words to make it go away.”
    Adair was attending Bible study when fire broke out at his plant Wednesday evening, according to the Church of Christ’s official organ, the Christian Chronicle.

    • “devastated”. The man is devastated. What an interesting choice of adjective.

    • John Pekrins

      They have an official ‘organ’?

      • Incontinentia Buttocks

        It’s a church. Of course they have an organ ;-)

        • Actually I think Church of Christ has a weird thing about not using any musical instruments based on some obscure biblical quote.

          • “Playest thou not upon the skin-flute”?

            • Hanspeter

              “Playest thou not upon the your skin-flute”

      • LoriK

        Not exactly. The Church of Christ doesn’t have any sort of central governing body and therefore really can’t have an official organ. The Chronicle is just the most prominant publication run by people offiliated with the church.

        And Major Kong is correct that they do not have an organ. No instrumental music of any kind.

    • Malaclypse

      In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light a big fucking explosion: and there was light a big fucking explosion. And God saw the light big fucking explosion, that it was good.

      • chris

        Say what you want about God, at least he made sure there was nobody in the blast area. By not having created them yet, but still.

        • West Native

          The reason more people weren’t killed is because they were attending Wednesday night church services. The plant owner was no exception. Its amazing how people can throw around misinformation as if it were fact, and then use it to point fingers and shout out in judgement. I’m disgusted by people like the author of this trash, who seems to be not only ignorant, but publicly so.

          • Yes, certainly when a bunch of people are killed or injured nobody should point fingers.

    • Hogan

      There are no absolute answers

      In the words of Jim Carrey, STOP BREAKING THE LAW, ASSHOLE.

      • herr doktor bimler

        The end of the sentence makes it clear what the the church-goer expects from an Absolute Answer — “to make it go away.”

        “All these people have died, and more importantly, we can’t think of anything to say that will make us feel immediately better!”

    • herr doktor bimler

      “The man is devastated by what’s happened,”

      The real victim is revealed.

      • What about all the people whose flowers are unfertilized?


    • delurking

      He was at Bible Study. Well, isn’t that special.

      • LeftWingFox

        Man allowed 14+ people to die so he could increase his profit. Not much comfort in either the old or New Testaments.

      • Origami Isopod

        He was “a deeply faithful man.”

    • So the plant has never been inspected the entire time he’s owned the company. And he thought that was OK…. And so did OSHA, DHS, etc.

      It’s their world, we just try to live in it.

  • Steve S.

    So what punishment should the owners of the West Fertilizer Corporation receive?

    If you got drunk and drove the wrong way down the interstate causing a chain reaction involving a hundred vehicles, killing roughly a dozen people, what would be the punishment in Texas?

    • Alan in SF

      That’s not a good example, as drunk driving has kind of a special place in Texas culture, and you’d probably get community service. A better question might be, “If a black or brown person killed one white person…”

      • Steve S.

        I already know what I and most bloggers/commenters think about this, what I’d like to know is how Texas thinks about my hypothetical. That would be a starting point for how I think about the answer to the question.

    • Warren Terra

      Well, if you kills just one person behind the wheel, you can be sentenced to decades as the wife of George W Bush. So I’m guessing the penalty for killing two or more is pretty epic.

      • LittlePig

        Oh, SNAP!

  • Patrick Pine

    Thanks for writing this…unfortunately this won’t likely appear in any major media even as a ‘guest opinion’ – and if either Murdoch or the Koch brothers succeed in buying the Tribune Co. and its eight US newspapers including the LA Times and the Chicago Tribune – as they both reportedly are trying to do – our chances of seeing, hearing or viewing anything questioning corporate responsibility will be even further diminished so that we have to read LG&M or the like. So credit to LG&M but sad that we don’t get this anywhere else…

    • KatWillow

      As our newspapers are taken over by the Oligarchs, fewer and fewer people bother to read them.

      • arguingwithsignposts

        Our newspapers have always been owned by oligarchs.

      • firefall


  • Alan in SF

    Any moment now I expect to hear a Texas congressman or state legislator says that if the people of West were better armed they could have defended themselves against the explosion.

    I often ask conservatarian trolls if I have the right to build a rendering plant upwind and upstream of them, and they’ll cheerfully accept the cost of being poisoned. They never answer, but I think this answers the question.

  • Let me point out that the owners of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory were tried for manslaughter and found not guilty. So there’s a precedent for factory owners’ unaccountability.

    • yeah, but that was WOMEN, not men. there are no laws against WOMANslaughter.

      • Also, Jewish, Italian, and Eastern European women. So, in 1911, not white.

  • Pooh

    Does corporate personhood extend sufficiently to allow for calling for heads on sticks?

  • Hanspeter

    The real terrorist act is using a mobile-specific URL on the world wide web.

  • roger Glasgow

    The only defense against a bad company(person) with a bomb is a good person with a bomb. Or to put it slightly more biblical: An eye for an eye…. this assures that everyone would be blind.

    • It seems to me the last guy in line would still have one eye.

      • You’re stuck in the outmoded serial paradigm. Serious ophthalmojurisprudence is parallel.

      • AnotherBruce

        It seems to me the last guy in line would still have one eye.
        And the one eyed man would be king! I think we’ve come full circle on this.

      • There is an “Eye-For-Eye” module available as an option on the Wingnut Processor.

        • LittlePig

          Not to mention the Ricky Ricardo “Aye-yi-yi” mod.

      • Vance Maverick

        Are you assuming that once blinded, people can’t blind others?

        • I’m assuming that a sighted person stands a damned good chance of getting away from a blind person with a knife.

    • Warren Terra

      We could market this as a new paradigm for the 21st Century: iJustice.

  • Anonymous

    Curious what the vocal newest Senator of Texas, Mr. Ted Cruz, thinks about his homegrown explosion? I haven’t seen anything.

    • jim, some guy in iowa

      check out the post ‘principles’ a bit farther down the list here at lgm

      (typical gop bs: “terrible tragedy, nobody’s fault, and shovel some taxpayer money this way”)

    • OmerosPeanut

      Last I heard, he was asking for the full support of federal disaster funds.

    • Anonymous

      He thinks that’s the town should get federal aid. The d-bag voted against aid for Sandy victims.

      • Warren Terra

        Makes sense. If your god is the god of Mammon and not the god of Nature, the victims of Sandy were foolish layabouts who got what they deserved, while the citizens of West were hit by an Act of God.

      • KatWillow

        The fertilizer company should supply millions in “aid” to the people they harmed. The plant explosion was NOT a Natural Disaster such as Sandy, or an earthquake or wildfire.

  • Matt

    Question, for anybody who’s more familiar with such things: how exactly does one go about *acquiring* 270 TONS of ammonium nitrate without DHS being notified? Presumably somebody further up the supply chain is actually following the rules, so wouldn’t somebody notice that tons and tons of the stuff had simply wandered off-the-record?

    • PhoenixRising

      This will be a key question in assigning civil and criminal liability, I’m guessing.

      HTH did the audit trail end up with no end…and no one noticed?

      Also too: I’m supposed to trust DHS with the contents of my emails, and they haven’t closed the audit loop on explosives?

      Oh dear.

    • ajay

      how exactly does one go about *acquiring* 270 TONS of ammonium nitrate without DHS being notified? Presumably somebody further up the supply chain is actually following the rules, so wouldn’t somebody notice that tons and tons of the stuff had simply wandered off-the-record?

      Not an expert, but judging by the link the law relates to how much of the stuff you can have at a time. So you can bring ten tons of raw AN in through the gate every day, and as long as there’s fertiliser containing ten tons of AN going out the gate, so you finish the day with no AN on your premises, you’re legally fine. There’s no reason for an upstream supplier to get suspicious.

  • Ken

    Intent is important. The Tsarnaevs planned to do wrong, so in religious terms they’re like Satan or Ahriman, one of those gods that actively seek to harm humanity.

    The West Fertilizer corporation just didn’t care, so they’re more like Great Cthulhu or one of those other Lovecraftian deities.

    • AnotherBruce

      When are we going to get a Cthulhu movie? Or any Lovecraft movie, say The Dunwich Horror for example.

      • wjts

        The H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society’s version of The Call of Cthulhu is pretty good (and available for streaming on Netflix). I haven’t seen their version of The Whisperer in Darkness yet, but I’ve heard generally positive things about it. Ditto Die Farbe, which is a German adaptation of “The Colour Out of Space”. And, well, there’s always Re-Animator

        • Hogan

          John Carpenter did a version of In the Mountains of Madness, but it’s more a movie about Lovecraft stories than a Lovecraft story, if you see what I mean.

          • Guillermo Del Toro was in production for a Mountains of Madness movie but when Prometheus came out it was too similar to Del Toro’s art design and he lost financing.

            So not only was Prometheus a wasted opportunity on its own, it helped kill Guillermo Del Toro’s stab at a Lovecraft movie. Gah. (Although he says he’s still trying to scrounge money for it.)

          • herr doktor bimler

            You’re thinking of “In the Mouth of Madness”?

            • Hogan

              You read my mind.

        • herr doktor bimler

          The Whisperer in Darkness is well-done if you’re in the mood for a 1920s period-piece / homage. The budget for CGI and special effects was clearly much larger than for ‘Call’. The plot is elaborated from the original (with a guest appearance from Charles Fort) but in a way that’s true to the material.

    • Warren Terra

      There are good radio dramatizations. BBC Radio 4 Extra reruns At The Mountains Of Morning and A Shadow Over Innsmouth occasionally.

      They may be too atmospheric for Hollywood: not enough car chases and explosions. You can always add those in, of course – but do you really want to see the result?

    • KatWillow

      They were indifferent to the death and destruction their plant could render the community, and are probably still indifferent, except for wondering if they had enough insurance, and if their lawyers are up to snuff.

  • cpinva

    “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.”

    this isn’t very clear to me. does this mean there were actually 270 tons of this stuff sitting around the plant, on 12-31-2012? unfortunately, the article doesn’t say. being a fertilizer plant, and ammonium nitrate being an essential component of fertilizer, purchasing 270 tons of it, during the course of a year, doesn’t seem particularly odd, depending on the level of production/sales.

    the more critical issue is: how much ammonium nitrate, on average, was being stored on-site, daily? sadly, the article’s author fails to answer this very basic question, making the assertion that the company had 1,350 times of it on hand of questionable accuracy. if they’re turning over inventory fairly rapidly, they probably did have a large amount of ammonium nitrate on hand, during the course of the year, along with every other component raw material, that doesn’t necessarily mean that all 270 tons of it was sitting on the factory grounds at one time. in fact, it seems highly unlikely that it was.

    don’t get me wrong, i am in no way defending the company, its owners or managers, they very clearly were in violation of (probably) multiple safety regulations, up to and including the failure to have a sufficient fire suppression system in the facilities. that said, let’s try to do a better job of getting the basic facts correct, or doing a better job of reporting those basic facts.

    • jim, some guy in iowa

      going into spring planting i’d be willing to be most any fertilizer distributor is full and then some of product – but there’s something awfully strange about being so far over the regulated weight

      • PhoenixRising

        Not sure about that.

        The regulated weight=an amount that, if the next Tim McV gets it into his hands is going to cause a fireball.

        Not necessarily an amount that a plant going two shifts some spring days couldn’t process in a day.

        This regulation was developed for public safety, not based on how much of the chemical is needed as an ingredient.

        Point being, it may be a typical amount for a plant making this much fertilizer to have on hand–which is why the local hazmat team, the feds and the state ought to regularly audit the plant’s safety plan.

        The reg doesn’t state that a fertilizer plant can’t or shouldn’t have these quantities, orders of magnitude greater than the floor for inspection and audit–it states that they need a plan and certain safety devices, etc.

        • jim, some guy in iowa

          yes, you’re right, and i should have remembered that from studying for the farm chemical applicator’s license test

        • cpinva

          “Point being, it may be a typical amount for a plant making this much fertilizer to have on hand–which is why the local hazmat team, the feds and the state ought to regularly audit the plant’s safety plan.”

          it might be, i have no idea, and probably most readers of that article don’t either. unfortunately, the authors of the article provided no clarification, leaving us all to conclude, based on the article, that the plant had this unusually ginormous amount of this very unstable, potentially explosive chemical, lying around the plant, that no one knew about. “1,350 times the amount required to be reported to DHS”, “270 tons on hand last year”, absent any other relevant data, i, as a reader, are (reasonably so, i think) left to conclude that there was this huge fucking pile of ammonium nitrate, stored on the plant grounds, with no rational explanation for it being there.

          this is extremely poor reportage, as far as i’m concerned, no less sensationalistic than the The New York Post, and just as lacking in actual facts.

          • Pooh

            I mean, I think it’s pretty clear there was a huge fucking pile of it, and whether there was a good reason for there to be is sort of besides the point.

        • peggy

          Homeland Security requires 25 pounds to be registered and a photo ID is required for purchase, as this is the amount that can level a small house.

          I’ve bought five pound bags of this material at suburban gardening stores. Did they have fifty or five hundred pounds in inventory? Agricultural use is more intense.

          Ammonium nitrate is not that dangerous. It doesn’t ignite till 600F. Germans at Oppau in 1921 had used dynamite to break up 4000 ton clump of it 20,000 times before it exploded. (Don’t try that at home.)

          While it wasn’t being treated with the care it deserved, there are probably similar stores all over america’s agricultural heartland.

  • KatWillow

    The Owners should ALL go to jail for a couple of years, minimum.

    • DrDick

      I think perchance they should literally be hoist upon their own petard.

      • Origami Isopod

        Nicely played.

  • Tnap01

    Don’t lose hope that this won’t go viral, Arianna linked to it on her Twitter!

    • cpinva

      “Don’t lose hope that this won’t go viral, Arianna linked to it on her Twitter!”

      oh well then, if arianna “just send me the money!” huffington linked to it, then surely it will be on the evening news!

  • There is another article very similar to this one comparing the importance of the Boston explosions and the importance of the Texas explosions. http://www.favorfreedom.com/2013/04/why-are-explosions-in-boston-more.html

  • notjonathon
    • LittlePig

      And so the class action suit was born.

  • montag2

    The business about grain silos, etc., is right on point. When I was in high school, I lived a few miles from a sugar beet processing plant that was either owned by U&I or contracted to them. Sugar dust is probably even more explosive than coal dust, and they apparently had a static discharge inside a silo being filled with processed sugar. The explosion blew out windows five miles away. The plant was on the route of my bus to school, and the next day, I saw nothing but chunks of concrete and some twisted rebar sticking out of the foundation. The blast had completely leveled the place.

    Fortunately, somewhat different zoning laws applied there than in, ahem, Texas, so there was nothing around the plant. The only casualties were a few second-shift workers at the plant itself.

  • aimai

    I’m in Boston. I don’t think the two explosions deserve the different coverage–but they do provoke different responses. The Boston explosions, being deliberate and malicious, created a necessity to seek justice/prevent further bombings. A task which the city and the police rose to quickly, decisively, and meaningfully. The Texas explosion, to my mind, was also deliberate and malicious (in its negligence) but Texas’s own ideological blinkers, which produced the explosion and the deaths and the crappy health care system which will care for the victims, and the lousy insurance system which will end up beggaring their families and survivors simply is incapable of giving the victims justice. It is also incapable of honestly examining what went wrong. In the Boston case “what went wrong” isn’t really going to be all that painful. I doubt very much that we will find out anything about those boys which will call into question our identity as Americans, or make us feel complicit in the bombing, or do anything but make us sad for everyone concerned. In the Texas case it is going to be impossible to square “Red Adair, that nice grandfatherly christian man who had family in the town” with “corporate negligent homicide.” The press coverage will remain resolutly fixed on sentimental (and terribly sad) descriptions of people whose lives apparently weren’t worth protecting–at least not to the state of texas and red adair.

    • montag2

      Umm, just to clarify, Paul “Red” Adair was the legendary oil well firefighter, who died in 2004.

      The owner of the West fertilizer plant is Donald Adair, apparently no relation to Red.

  • And it doesn’t cause breakouts either, because it is a natural moisturizer. As we age, our skin becomes thinner and often becomes very dry skin. Coconut oil for skin health will make your skin smoother and softer than you could have dreamed possible.

    • montag2


    • DocAmazing

      But is it explosive?

      • LittlePig

        Of course acne is explosive. Didn’t you see Animal House?

  • dollared

    Don’t forget the other purpose for the registration statutes – helping first responders understand the danger presented at the site. If those firemen had known that there was anything more than a few hundred pounds of ammonium nitrate at the site, they would have pulled back 100 yards and let it burn. If there had been 100+ tons on site, they would have stayed a half mile away and evacuated everybody.

    Failure to register the chemical is what killed those firefighters. Simple as that.

    • bradp

      Don’t forget the other purpose for the registration statutes – helping first responders understand the danger presented at the site.

      The principle purpose of the regulation, it seems, is to monitor the movement of ammonium nitrate and keep it out of criminal/terrorist hands, not really for safety concerns.

      I wonder if the firefighters would have any access to that information regardless of whether it was reported.

      • dollared

        The EPA regulates dangerous chemicals and requires registration of storage of dangerous chemicals, for that purpose. The information is made available to first responders.

        • dsn

          At least in New Jersey, the “Right to Know” laws require fire departments to be told about potential hazards, and the fire department is required to do annual training on hazmat / right to know.


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  • bradp

    That article raises a lot more questions than it answers, but if we can be sure of something its that everyone involved in determining these regulations would like to solve this:

    Apart from the DHS, the West Fertilizer site was subject to a hodgepodge of regulation by the EPA, OSHA, the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Texas Department of State Health Services, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and the Office of the Texas State Chemist.

    By rolling all of those agencies into a giant DHS monolith with the power to bring the wrath of god down, but will only do so when politically expedient.

  • Njorl

    I suppose it’s a small blessing that the Tsarnaev brothers acted before finding out that hundreds of tons of ammonium nitrate are laying around without any security.

    • chris

      Yes, they would have just loaded the hundreds of tons of chemicals into their backpacks and…

      Hmm. Maybe it wouldn’t really have helped them much after all. Maybe they even did know about it, but concluded that ammonium nitrate was too bulky to be useful for the kind of plan they were attempting.

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