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Louisiana Chemical Plant Explosions


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.

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  • 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!!!!!

  • DocAmazing

    It’s not the only spot that’s been written off:


    • Michael H Schneider

      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

        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

          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

          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.

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

    But, seriously, shameful.

  • BlueLoom

    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

      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

        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.

        • ChrisTS

          Interesting idea. Now all we need is someone with the $$ and the will.

    • Anonymous

      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

      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.

      • The Fool

        The area around Scenic Highway, where all the chemical plants are located — not just the ExxonMobil

        …I’m not sure if that’s a brilliant way of keeping nonlocals away from Baton Rouge or a flabbergasting error.

        • Just remember: the Vikings named the useless island Greenland and the fairly nice island Iceland.

          • Cody

            Baton Roguians – the new Vikings?

      • dp

        Glad you’re coming home. What’s the occasion?

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

  • Blue collar worker

    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.

    • 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

        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

          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

            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.

            • ajay

              SEK’s first name is Scott…

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

    • ChrisTS

      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.

      • News Nag

        I hear people are letting lead go very cheap.

        • ChrisTS

          :-) Maybe for the toilet lines it would be ok.

      • cpinva

        if it makes you feel any better, the solder on those copper pipes has lead in it, which can, over many years, leach into the water. the adhesive used on PVC is slightly less toxic.

        • ChrisTS

          Jesus. Maybe we should just take the house back to its original 1720 condition. No indoor plumbing, no problems. (Except with the well water, but we still have that now.)

        • Modern regs require lead free solder

          • ChrisTS

            How ‘modern’ exactly? I think most of the plumbing that we have not replaced was put in around the 1950s-1960s.

          • cpinva

            modern regs also require only copper wiring. there are one hell of a lot of structures that were built, before the modern regs came into existence. I know, my first house was one of them, almost caught on fire as a result. I expect the same is true of lead-free solder.

        • Anonymous

          PVC water supply lines (commonly known as PEX) do not use adhesives. No water supply lines use adhesives. All of them use cast fittings made from brass, bronze, stainless steel or PVC and are sealed with crimp rings.

          Nobody has ever managed to show that lead from solder actually leached into water supplies or had potential to do so. Leaded solder has been banned for quite a while in water supplies anyway. As a plumber I am grateful that it has been banned because otherwise as a worker I would be constantly exposed to lead. It has nothing to do with the water supply.

          • ChrisTS

            Whew (for both of us).

            • ChrisTS

              ETA: Now, I will only have to worry when scraping off years of paint.

      • GotOutofLA

        was this the documentary you saw?


        It centers in Lake Charles, which is in the middle of where Cancer Alley now sits.

        • ChrisTS

          YES! It was great – particularly because she is/was so funny.

  • ChrisTS

    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!”

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

  • Red_cted

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

  • News Nag

    Chinese hackers! It’s Snowden’s fault.

  • heckblazer

    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.

  • El Guapo


    There is nothing wrong with this. Our Leader knows what is best. Hail Obama.

    • If you’re not doing anything wrong you’ve got nothing to worry about.

      Isn’t that what you guys were saying a few years back?

      • El Guapo

        No, then there was reason to complain. The Evil Republican was in charge. Now The Good Democrat is in charge. So it’s ok. Everything is ok.

        • Hey, don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.

          See kids? Right-wing talking points are fun!

        • Malaclypse

          I blame fluoridation. That, and expansive reading of the Commerce Clause.

      • Mike G

        El Guano doesn’t object in principle to the creepy authoritarian practice of mass wiretapping, he’s just pissed that a Democrat is doing it.

    • What does any of this have to do with Louisiana chemical plants?

      • Louisiana chemical plants, republican talking points: nauseating receptacles of toxic sludge that can explode and destroy people at any time.

    • ChrisTS

      You know, there have been a couple of posts ad threads on this topic.

    • cpinva

      sorry, that doesn’t seem to have anything to do with chemical plants exploding in LA, did I miss something there?

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