The More Things Change

Here’s the ProPublica Q&A about West, Texas:

The plant also filed a “worst-case release scenario” report with the EPA and local officials stating there was no risk of a fire or an explosion. The scenario described an anhydrous ammonia leak that wouldn’t hurt anyone.

Media coverage focuses on the ammonium nitrate, which is what exploded, but anhydrous ammonia is deadly stuff. There was an anhydrous ammonia leak caused by a derailed train in 2002 in Minot, ND that killed one and injured 100, and it was only dumb weather luck that more weren’t killed.

Also, too:  None of the media reports I’ve seen have mentioned this, but the West disaster is part of a Texas tradition. The worst industrial accident in US history was the explosion of a ship carrying 2100 tons of ammonium nitrate in Texas City, TX in 1947, which killed at least 567, injured at least 5,000, and broke windows in Houston, 40 miles away. A baby born the day of that explosion would be getting Medicare and Social Security by now, but fertilizer is still being mishandled and blowing up in Texas.

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52 replies
  1. 1
    rk says:

    It wasn’t caused by Muslims so it doesn’t matter.

  2. 2
    Baud says:

    Two disasters over 60 years apart is hardly a tradition. But it is starting to appear that there was some gross mismanagement at this plant.

  3. 3
    Warren Terra says:

    Given that there was no sprinkler system, no blast walls, and (on the day of the event) nothing in the fire hydrants, it’s a darn good thing there was no risk of fire or explosion.

    (Seriously, how do you have a public building without a sprinkler system, let alone a fertilizer plant?)

  4. 4
    Baud says:

    This information clearly shows that the EPA should be abolished.

  5. 5
    mistermix says:

    Also a fire in Bryan Texas in 2009 where 80,000 were evacuated.

  6. 6
    Schlemizel says:

    Industrial accidents kill thousands in this country every year, many of them needlessly as they were preventable. More people died in the US from industrial accidents THIS WEEK than have died from terror attacks since 9/11.

    Why do we freak out, running around with our hair on fire and pants wet over the rare occurrence that we have very little actual control over while ignoring the much, much, greater threat for which the preventative is known and has been proven to work?

    Will our masters not be happy until we reach Bangladesh levels of of health and safety requirements? Why are we trying to race down to them instead of helping them grow up to better?

  7. 7
    Baud says:


    no risk of a fire or an explosion

    WTF? Is that a sloppy paraphrase, or is that in the actual report? There’s always some risk of fire with every structure.

  8. 8
    Xboxershorts says:


    We all know the EPA is the boogieman of choice. Unfortunately, the responsibility for oversight of this plant was taken away from the EPA by Dick Cheney’s son-in-law

  9. 9
    Baud says:


    What do you mean? I thought there wasn’t money for adequate safety inspections. I hadn’t heard about authority being taken away.

  10. 10
    weaselone says:


    Texas has suffered numerous mass casualty industrial accidents in the interim period.

    For example:

    On March 23, 2005 15 people were killed and more than 170 injured in an explosion at BP’s Texas City, Texas refinery.

  11. 11
    Baud says:


    Is the rate or impact of Texas accidents greater than other states? It wouldn’t surprise me if that’s the case but I just don’t know.

  12. 12
    Schlemizel says:

    In news that will shock nobody:

    Seems US companies use foreign workers to depress US wages

    The researchers found that the US produces a surfeit of STEM graduates, but only half of them are hired. The rest of the jobs in the IT industry, primarily entry-level positions for the under 30s, are filled using foreign workers and may account for up to 50 per cent of new hires.

  13. 13
    Todd says:


    Jesus Christ, is there anything the Cheneys couldn’t fuck up in the name of cronyism? The whole extended family needs to face a tribunal.

  14. 14
    c u n d gulag says:

    Texas POV:
    So f*ckin’ what?
    Who gives a sh*t?
    F*ck off and die, Liberal Yankee scum!!!
    Die, or I’ll shoot y’all!

    Damn Yankee Liberals – won’t even let our Texas “Job Creators” create more jobs, any way they see fit.

  15. 15
    gene108 says:


    Why are we trying to race down to them instead of helping them grow up to better?

    Short term profit…duh…

  16. 16
    Capri says:

    The day after the explosion, Gov Perry was airing ads telling folks to move their companies to Texas because there are no meddling laws or inspections. It seems that losing a few dozen workers every year is the cost of doing business.

  17. 17
    gene108 says:


    Seems US companies use foreign workers to depress US wages

    From my experience, it’s more about not wanting to train up new workers.

    I’ve never rarely seen a good IT job for someone with no experience. The entry level jobs require people with 2-3 years experience.

    The foreign consulting companies are willing to train new graduates, because either in the U.S. or on off-shore projects, they can bill them and turn a profit after they finish the training.

    And some of these firms have very good training programs, which I have yet to see a U.S. staffing firm bother to even try to rival.

  18. 18
    Ben Franklin says:

    At least seven different state and federal agencies can regulate Texas fertilizer plants like the one in West: OSHA, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, the Texas Department of State Health Services, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and the Texas Feed and Fertilizer Control Service.

    It would be expensive to buy off that many agencies, but this is Texas, and everything in Texas is BIG.

  19. 19
    mai naem says:

    Yes, well Morning Ho is telling me Jimmy Carter is responsbile for all that is wrong with this country.

    Dick Cheney’s going to need a secret service agent protecting his grave when he’s dead because people are going to be doing more than just peeing on it.

  20. 20
    The Dangerman says:

    …no risk of a fire or an explosion…

    Damn liberals; there WAS no fire or explosion. It was just a particularly violent exothermic reaction. Where’s my taxcut?

  21. 21
    YellowJournalism says:

    @mai naem: Fertilizer for the entire cemetery!

  22. 22
    NotMax says:

    Sadly, there is too often too little effectively stopping the invisible hand of the market from becoming a fist.

  23. 23
    MikeJ says:

    @The Dangerman:

    It was just a particularly violent exothermic reaction.

    A particularly energetic exothermic reaction. Violent sounds like something some people might be against.

  24. 24
    NotMax says:

    @The Dangerman

    Damn liberals; there WAS no fire or explosion.

    Enhanced renovation.

  25. 25
    Zagloba says:

    My enduring image of the dangers of anhydrous ammonia comes from a Neil Stephenson novel where a NPC gets basically mummified by a spray of the stuff.

  26. 26
    NonyNony says:


    A particularly energetic exothermic reaction.

    Why that doesn’t sound like anything more dangerous than what goes on daily at the local gym.

    Why are you libs always going off the deep end about such innocent stuff like energetic exothermic reactions?


  27. 27
    Debbie(aussie) says:

    Is their some relationship between Cheney’s s-I-l and Texas governor? Curious!

  28. 28
    debbie says:

    Reminds me of the oil companies’ safety plans, all promising to protect the walruses in the Caribbean.

  29. 29
    El Tiburon says:


    It wasn’t caused by Muslims so it doesn’t matter.

    Give Fox and Malkin some time. Eventually it will be blamed on the browns or the homo gays.

  30. 30
    weaselone says:


    I don’t know off the top of my head, and unfortunately don’t have the time to do the research. I do know that Texas has a high concentration of refineries and chemical plants due to it’s status as a major crude oil and natural gas producer. This probably contributes to Texas having a seemingly disproportionate share of national newsworthy accidents. Of course, given the frequency of events it’s almost puzzling that Texas and these firms do not go the extra mile for safety.

    It’s also puzzling that the EPA and OSHA seem not to have the resources to do a proper and thorough review of these facilities, but the EPA is still able to hound my wife’s high school chemistry department about expired containers of Sodium Chloride and having more than 1 2-Liter bottle of 70% ethanol.

  31. 31
    Trakker says:

    Everyone keeps missing the point. This explosion was an act of God. God works in mysterious ways. We must never question God’s actions. He decided it was time to take those victims home, and they are now in a better place. For the survivors who lost their homes and belongings, God is testing them, don’t you see?

    And these people have far more clout in Congress than we can imagine. This is why America will be one big trashy trailer park by 2020.

  32. 32
    MobiusKlein says:

    @Zagloba: Nice use of NPC. Remember, we’re all NPCs in the lives of the folks with levels.

  33. 33
    MomSense says:


    Maybe they are just planning to comply retroactively.

  34. 34
    NotMax says:


    Good thing they didn’t catch the jar of olives and container of toothpicks next to the extra ethanol.

    /mediocre talk show monologue

  35. 35
  36. 36
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    The worst industrial accident in US history was the explosion of a ship carrying 2100 tons of ammonium nitrate in Texas City, TX in 1947

    I have always taken a perverse pleasure in the fact that the town I was born in (1958) almost wasn’t.

  37. 37
    BethanyAnne says:

    @weaselone: Heh. Dad was a boy in Texas City during the 47 explosion, and my brother was in the 05 one. My brother was escorting a new hire around the plant, and they had stepped into one of he new “bombproof” buildings to use the restrooms. The only thing they noticed was a ceiling tile fall down, while the explosion happened outside.

  38. 38
    Tokyokie says:

    @weaselone: Don’t forget the Phillips refinery explosion in Pasadena in 1989 that killed 23.

  39. 39
    Booger says:

    I think it says it all that “Texas City Disaster” has a Wikipedia disambiguation page. EDIT: not a page. There are just more than one TCDs.

  40. 40
    Bighorn Ordovian Dolomite says:

    Look, it was just entropy pushing itself to fast forward–and since entropy proves evolutioon is impossible I’m voting for Jesus.

  41. 41
    Bighorn Ordovian Dolomite says:


    It’s a little hard to do a state by state comparison, as most of the statistics are broken down by industry. But I just did a quick comparison between NY and TX, and Texas comes in with around 3X higher number of fatalities.

    Again, this is really off-the-cuff kind of stuff, but I figured both TX and NY have large populations and large amounts of petroleum and petrochemical type industries. But it’d take awhile to really break things donw in a meaningful fashion.

    Here’s the quickest link I can find–and this is just OSHA stuff and EPA or fire code violations or what have you.

    It’s interesting to see how many more deaths “caused by persons or animals” there are in Texas, although when you look at NY including NYC (they are separate in the data) things close up a bit. Fires and explosions Texas is in the lead by a commanding margin, as they are in “Exposure to hazardous substances.”

  42. 42
    sherparick says:

    @Baud: More recently there was BP’s refinery blow-up in 2005, also in Texas City.

    Texas is a big place, and one thing the are close to lead on is killing off workers.

  43. 43
    NotMax says:

    @Bighorn Ordovian Dolomite

    Would have to include New Jersey* into any New York data. Even then, both NY and NJ don’t have the multiplicity of oil and gas production and year-round climate friendly industrial port facilities. (Whereas TX lacks the widespread multiplicity of hydro-power sources which NY and NJ contain.)

    *See: Bayonne, beautiful – not

  44. 44
    Bighorn Ordovian Dolomite says:


    Yeah, I thought about that, but then you’d have to add in NJ’s sizable population as well, so I figured I’d just get the ball rolling.

    This would probably require a pretty serious academic effort to compare fatality patterns. Texas has more refining, but New York has winter slips, trips, and fallsare a very serious contributor to workplace fatalities, and so on.

    To sum up, I doubt any of us has the time to really answer these questions, but we can probably take enough of a look to highlight areas for closer inspection.

  45. 45
    Ben Franklin says:

    Awlaki the inspiration for Boston?

    Blowback was inevitable. It’s called Karma.


  46. 46
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @mai naem:

    Can the undead have graves? Just wondering…

  47. 47
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Bighorn Ordovian Dolomite:

    Oh, I loves me some fucktards who bring up the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics as invalidating evolution.

    The stupid, it is strong with these types.

  48. 48
    Lurking Canadian says:

    @Schlemizel: There is a chance a terrorist might kill Somebody Who Matters.

    Industrial accidents only kill proles. More often than not, brown ones.

  49. 49
    ricky says:

    Where to start with this post, which exemplifies what Bob Somerby over at The Daily Howler villifies as liberal tribalism. Here the tribe tuts about those evil and/or incompetent Texans.

    I guess its best to start with the fact it first features a post from ProPublica, which bills itself as “Journalism in the Public Interest.” They purport to inform us in their blog piece that they are answering our questions and providing answers about this disater in West, Texas. The best guide to the accuracy with which they do that is found at the bottom of their post:

    Correction: An earlier version of this story mistakenly stated two different figures for the number of people killed in the blast. It is at least 15 people.

    Somebody corrected the easiest of their errors. Wonder how many people stopped by to get the correct “at least” death toll?

    My favorite, of course is the passage contained in blockquotes here in which this terrible company said there was no risk of fire or explosion in a report to EPA. I suggest you peruse the same Risk Management filings to EPA of all companies with the name “fertilizer” in their company title. Their reports are almost identical on the issue highlighted here, which is anhydrous ammonia storage. I linked to that when an eariler poice of nonsense about this was posted and will do so again.

    But hey, while we are discussing the Texas tradition involving two incidents, lest start with the one that happened in the first half of the previous century in Texas City:

    It was fertilizer manufactured in the Midwest whose deterioration in the paper sacks that exploded.

    It was a French operated ship which caught fire that caused the fertilizer to explode. The damn French got the ship as a giveaway from the US Government. It was WWII surplus. Shall we see which state’s lousy workers manufactured the ship, which did not have a blast wall or sprinklers in its holds?

    Too bad Texans didn’t have the foresight to ban French operated American built ships and dangerous midwest American made fertilizer from passing through their ports.
    Texans should have learned then. Next thing you know, a crazy reulatory scheme in which seven or so agencies are given oversight of a fertilizer dealer, none of which apparently can even do the limited job assigned to them by their government in the name of the American people causes Texans to be killed because fertilizer allowed to be manufactured in Lord only knows what state and shipped to Texas on a railroad car owned by some Nebraska train operator blew up.

  50. 50
    ricky says:

    By the way, @Lurking Canadian:

    All you good Progressives tut tutting about how the media and Congress are focusing on terrorism instead of this disaster ought to be mindful of a fact about what is being covered concerning the West Fertilizer Company disaster.

    Most critical coverage notes the company did not file a report about the amount of ammonium nitrate they were storing on site. You know why that report was required to be filed? Fear of terrorist attacks on, or acquisition of, material from fertilizer plants.

    The Department of Homeland Security let this fertilizer plant go unnoticed all these years hidden away like it was right in the middle of some town next to a railroad track. Just shows how devious they are to escape detection by the vigilant government defenders of the American people.

  51. 51
    Pug says:

    @Baud: There been many, many explosions in between Texas City and West, the BP refinery, also in Texas City, being one example.

  52. 52
    Sondra says:

    As it turns out I would be the person mentioned in the article: born on 4/16/47.

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