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Shorter Texas: We Welcome Another Fertilizer Plant Explosion

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The Dallas Morning News, which has been outstanding on covering the West, Texas fertilizer plant explosion and its aftermath, has a strongly damning report on the response to the disaster from the state of Texas. Which is nothing. Nothing has changed.

This is the state’s response at year’s end:

The Legislature, though it was in session when the plant blew up, did little beyond holding hearings.

Perry has been silent on specific changes in Texas’ laws or regulatory approach.

Texas has taken no measurable steps toward adopting a statewide fire code, which could have prevented the blast.

The state has not tightened rules for storing or securing ammonium nitrate, the chemical that exploded at West.

Texas still does not require facilities that stockpile such materials to carry liability insurance.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the state agency whose mission includes the broader role of protecting the public’s health, has abandoned any role in West-related matters. “We haven’t really been involved,” an agency spokesman said.

Last month, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst instructed a Senate committee to study “regulatory and insurance requirements for the storage of ammonium nitrate.” He added that any changes should not cause “duplicitous practices and procedures for the Texas workforce.”

Such caution is not out of character for a state long wary of rules that might inhibit commerce.

Josh Havens, a spokesman for the governor’s office, said Perry believes “that smart and fair regulations, designed to protect citizens without creating an overly burdensome environment for business, are a key to economic success in this state and the nation.”

There is still no state fire code, reporting requirements, etc. For Texas Republicans, enormous explosions that wipe out half a town are easily worth the price of being seen as “pro-business.” For that matter, it’s worth noting that the actual meaning of “pro-business” is “allowing corporations to do whatever they want to local communities.”

Not only can such an event happen again in Texas, it almost certainly will happen again. After all, it’s far from the first time Texas has been home to a preventable industrial disaster.

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