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Louisiana Chemical Plant Explosions

[ 54 ] June 15, 2013 |

The West fertilizer plant disaster has faded from the headlines but that doesn’t mean our national workplace inspection system has improved at all. On Thursday, a petrochemical plant exploded in Louisiana, killing 2 and injuring about 100. The last time this plant received an OSHA inspection? We actually don’t know. But definitely not since 1993. And this is one of the most dangerous industries in the country. Petrochemical plants should be inspected at least a few times a year, if not weekly. Instead, not even once in 20 years. And again, death results.

And now we have another fertilizer plant explosion on Friday night in Donaldson, LA, killing one and injuring 8. This is only about 10 miles away from the first plant. This is hardly a coincidence. They don’t call the area Cancer Alley for nothing. It’s where we as a nation have sacrificed the health of the people and ecosystems to process our petrochemical needs in a low-regulatory environment.


Comments (54)

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  1. NO!
    It CAN’T be!!!
    Say it ain’t so!

    LA, with the best worker-safety laws in the country?
    LA, with more per capita OSHA inspectors than any other state?
    LA, with the best regulations over dangerous indust…

    *gets up off floor, wipes away tears*
    Sometimes, I even crack myself up!!!!!

    • Michael H Schneider says:

      Um, I think there are some probnlems with that film, although it may have been reasonably accurate two decades ago when it was made. From the desription:

      The film challenges the U.S. government policy of locating destructive energy projects in remote “national sacrifice areas” …

      Um, it’s not just the US Government.

      the 1979 Church Rock tailings spill on the Navajo Reservation,

      I haven’t been following it, but I was told that uranium mining may start again at Churchrock; the Navajo Nation has opposed it, but the Churchrock Chapter of the Navajo Nation has approved the plan.

      It examines Peabody Coal Company’s massive Black Mesa stripmine …

      Again, I may be wrong, but I believe Peabody is mining on Navajo land under a lease from the Navajo nation. I’ve driven through reclaimed coal strip mined land on the way to Window Rock that’s for sure on Navajo land.

      On the one hand, it’s Navajo land, they should be sovereign and do what they want; on the other hand, exploitation of the weak and oppressed and all that. On the third hand, don’t blame the US for allowing the Navajo to do what they want on their own land.

      • DocAmazing says:

        Navajo politics are susceptible to buy-offs and shake-downs in a manner that would shame Tammany Hall. Peabody’s leases were not, shall we say, subject to the usual democratic processes.

        • cpinva says:

          not to mention, the extraction industry doesn’t just affect the area of extraction, it tends to also affect land, air & water in the vicinity around it, absent sufficient safeguards.

        • Michael H Schneider says:

          Peabody’s leases were not, shall we say, subject to the usual democratic processes.

          Are you suggesting that the US should force some of that regime change on the Navajo nation, and bring them the benefits of our usual democratic processes?

          The film, according to the write-up, is blaming the federal government. The problem with federal regulation of mining on Indian land is even bigger than the problem of mining on private land in West Virginia, and we haven’t done so good there, either.

  2. bspencer says:

    This truly truly outrageous. And not in the good way like Gem.

    But, seriously, shameful.

  3. BlueLoom says:

    My son, a PhD Chem Engineer (till he decided to go make some real money) interviewed at a company in Baton Rouge towards the end of his PhD program. He came back from an interview in BR asking why in hell anyone would want to live there. The city reeks of chemicals.

    • ChrisTS says:

      Gawd, yes. I used to haul myself from Texas to the East Coast several times a year and always tried to get through that area as fast as possible. I cannot imagine living in that chemical cesspool.

      • EH says:

        It would be a measure of philanthropy to start a company that can use the skills of the people who live there, but in a harmless direction, and move them the fuck out of there. I wonder how the petro industry would react to that kind of poaching, to starve them of low-skills workers.

    • Anonymous says:

      That Baton Rouge smell of which you speak and of which the city reeks is none other than the city’s huge Exxon plant. Driving east over the Mississippi River bridge into B.R., if you look to your left you will see the indelibly phallic State Capitol building in the foreground and directly in the background is also visible miles and miles of Exxon (which is similar to miles and miles of Texas).

    • SEK says:

      The city reeks of chemicals.

      Um, no it doesn’t. The area around Scenic Highway, where all the chemical plants are located — not just the ExxonMobil — does reek of chemicals, but the majority of the city doesn’t. It’s actually quite beautiful, says the guy who grew up there and is moving back in a month.

    • Doug says:

      I grew up there, and it wasn’t that bad.

  4. Blue collar worker says:

    Having worked in and around these kinds of places for years, I have noticed that most end users of the products of these types of industrial sites could give a rip about the workers as long as their stuff is cheap and readily available except when an accident happens that can’t be easily ignored.

    • Erik Loomis says:

      I think that’s absolutely true and I think that corporations intentionally site their production away from public notice in part to continue this system.

      • News Nag says:

        That aforementioned Exxon plant in Baton Rouge is an exception. It is hidden in plain sight as if to say, fuck you there’s nothing you can do about it cause if we moved out the city would fall into a huge economic sink hole despite your university and state government business.

        • SEK says:

          I should note that back in the ’90s, when it was still solely an Exxon refinery, it did blow up. And also, that if your Google-fu is good enough, you’ll see that I had a hand in that.

          Anyone who thinks I’m kidding clearly hasn’t been paying attention.

          • Cody says:

            I tried, but there seems to be fairly little on the internet about it… and no mentions of Sam Eric Kaufman in any combination except a bunch of lobbyist with first name Sam, and a bunch of others with last name Kaufman.

            Your website wasn’t around back then either! My google-fu must be too weak.

        • Doug says:

          It probably was out at or past the edge of town when Standard Oil started operations in 1909.

    • ChrisTS says:

      I saw a great documentary years back about the making of PVC products, It terrified me. But, then when more of our copper piping springs a leak and sends the kitchen ceiling down, I cannot convince my spouse that we should replace it with more copper. In fact, I admit I selfishly agree with him and somewhat look forward to the day when all the copper has been replaced.

      As he says, “It has already been made, Chris. Our not using it won’t make any difference. Besides, how great do you think copper mining is?”

      And there it is. The stuff is out there, whether we avail ourselves of it or not. And everything else seems tainted by some evil, as well. One feels defeated before one starts.

  5. ChrisTS says:

    My mea culpa aside, we can seek better conditions, safety enforcement, etc. Of course, we have to elect people who won’t underfund enforcement, and that seems difficult to do in a country some portion of whose citizenry is convinced we are “broke, broke, broke!”

  6. Major Kong says:

    It’s like having a little bit of Bangladesh right here in the States.

  7. Red_cted says:

    It’s like have your own little terrorist attacks without having to mobilize to find the terrorists.

  8. News Nag says:

    Chinese hackers! It’s Snowden’s fault.

  9. heckblazer says:

    The fertilizer plant accident is interesting because it’s a risk that never occurred to me. According to the linked article it wasn’t the fertilizer going boom like a bomb, but instead a pressurized vessel of nitrogen gas blowing open.

  10. […] *Louisiana Chemical Plant Explosions: Little regulation, more death. Erik Loomis discusses. (Lawyers, Guns & Money) […]

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