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Nothing to See Here, Just Freedom

Deregulation kills more people in this country than ISIS ever will.

Chemical plant outside of Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo: Screenshot)

Chemical plant explosion outside of Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo: Screenshot)

Speaking of things blowing up in Texas—the home of the unregulated fertilizer plant and other such sophisticated pre-explosive devices made possible by a business-friendly economic climate—over the weekend, a chemical plant outside of Fort Worth went up. From The Fort Worth Star-Telegram:

Investigators believe a worker dragging his foot along a factory floor sparked a Thursday explosion at a Texas chemical plant that injured two workers and left a third unaccounted for, and fears of another blast amid the toxic chemicals prevented crews from battling the ensuing blaze, an official said. Nine emergency-rescue and fire departments responded to the blaze at the Tri-Chem Industries plant in Cresson, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) southwest of Dallas, but were evacuated from the vicinity because of risk of exposure and of another explosion, Cresson Mayor Bob Cornett told The Associated Press. The worker who dragged his foot while chemicals were being mixed caught fire from the waist up and was airlifted with critical burn injures to a Dallas hospital. Another worker with less severe injuries also was treated at a hospital. Cornett identified the missing worker as 27-year-old Dylan Mitchell.

And, as usual, the state government in Texas is right on the ball.

A spokesman for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the state agency responsible for coordinating the cleanup, declined to produce a list of the plant's on-site chemicals, telling an AP reporter to file a public information request. In recent years, Texas leaders have made it increasingly difficult for the public to find out about the chemicals manufactured and stored at such plants. After a fertilizer plant explosion in the city of West, Texas, killed 15 people in 2013, Greg Abbott, who was then attorney general and is now governor, ruled that state agencies could withhold information about hazardous chemicals because of "ongoing terroristic activity."

We could tell you what poisons you’re breathing right now as the fire continues to burn but, if we did, the terrorists would win. Al Qaeda didn’t blow up an entire town. An unregulated fertilizer plant did. Deregulation kills and injures more people in this country than ISIS ever will. Where do they get these people?

Of course, the state already has its hands full doing the linguistic two-step over what might still be going into the air from the chemical plant outside of Houston last August, when Hurricane Harvey came to call. From the Star-Telegram:

When it comes to how dangerous the smoke from the plant is, local officials and FEMA have given statements that range from "non-toxic" to "the plume is incredibly dangerous."

Well, they seem to have that surrounded. What’s the administration*’s stance on exploding chemical plants? Glad you asked. The answer is, as it is in all things environmental, Scott Pruitt. From the Union of Concerned Scientists:

In 2013, President Obama finally issued an Executive Order directing federal agencies to enhance chemical facility safety. EPA then undertook a multi-year effort of stakeholder engagement and requests for information in the run-up to a proposed rule. After receiving comments from the regulated industry, advocacy groups, and other stakeholders, a rule was finalized in January. The updated rule, which modernized the EPA’s Risk Management Program, was scheduled to go into effect March 14, 2017, though some of the provisions were scheduled to phase in over time, some as far out as 2022, which gave the covered facilities some flexibility in figuring out how to comply with the updated requirements. Upon entering office, Administrator Pruitt put this rule on hold until February 2019, almost 2 years later than the rule was supposed to go into effect. This decision prompted the legal challenge from UCS and others.

So, the Obama administration comes up with this rule and it provides four goddamn years of public input from every group that has a stake in the rule. Then Pruitt and Camp Runamuck blow into town and push the date back nearly two years. Where do they get these people?

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

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Charles P. Pierce

Charles P. Pierce

Charles P. Pierce is a writer-at-large for Esquire and his work has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, the LA Times Magazine, the Nation, the Atlantic, Sports Illustrated and The Chicago Tribune, among others.

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