That’ll Teach Them!

If you want to know how miserable our regulatory system is (yet wingnuts keep claiming that businesses are over-burdened), read this:

The federal government announced this month that a West Virginia chemical company would be fined $11,000 for a spill earlier this year that poisoned the drinking water for 300,000 people in the state.

According to a citation document obtained by The Charleston Gazette, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) hit Freedom Industries with a $7,000 fine for keeping chemicals in diked areas that were not “liquid tight.”

The administration fined Freedom an addition $4,000 for not providing employees with a proper hand railing to walk over the storage dikes.

About 300,000 people were left without drinking water when coal cleaning chemicals leaked on Jan. 9. A recent survey found that one in five people reported health issues after the chemical spill.

Anyone want to bet the fine is cheaper than building the appropriate storage tanks, and every other sociopathic corporation will notice…

65 replies
  1. 1
    Schlemizel says:

    See, this is just proof that protection does not work therefore we should just quit trying, business will work it all out once ll the burdensome regulations are removed.

  2. 2
    Tom Levenson says:

    This would be OK if and only if the next announcement was of criminal charges against the company’s board of directors and top execs. After Hobby Lobby, the personhood of the corporation would seem to demand no less, amirite?

  3. 3
    Linnaeus says:

    That’s the OSHA fine (which I agree is pretty low), but there should be more fines coming from EPA, etc.

  4. 4
    BGinCHI says:

    Please tell me some residents are suing the bejesus out of that corporation of criminals.

  5. 5
    jayackroyd says:

    every other sociopathic corporation will notice

    It’s worse than that. ONLY sociopathic corporations will get involved–the ones willing to comply with the regs will be priced out of the “marketplace.”

  6. 6
    Trollhattan says:

    $11k? “Haven’t they suffered enough, already?”

    No, no they haven’t. Cripes. Well, I’m certain Texas is now showing the way by regulatin’ ammonium nitrate in response to that town gettin’ blowed up, amirite?

  7. 7
    Mike in NC says:

    Freedom Industries, huh? Is the CEO named Tom DeLay?

  8. 8
    Punchy says:

    @Linnaeus: And what about lawsuits? Or are those companies protected from liability?

  9. 9
    catclub says:

    Those were the fines from OSHA. I can hope that there will be fines from EPA for the actual spill.

  10. 10
    Linnaeus says:


    I would certainly hope not. But I’m not an expert on that.

  11. 11
    srv says:

    I guess Heckuva Job Brownie got promoted to OSHA.

  12. 12

    @Tom Levenson: However the Freedom Industries owners believed that 4-methylcyclohexanemethanol would improve water purity and wash away sins, so they should not be punished.

  13. 13
    TG Chicago says:

    @Tom Levenson: At minimum, you’d think there would be a case for criminal negligence. If I personally mishandled chemicals and poisoned 300,000 people, I think I’d be in some serious trouble.

    Any law-talkin’ folks know of similar criminal cases?

    $4,000 for the handrail sounds reasonable. But only $7K for improper storage? Even if the EPA levies more fines, I just don’t see $7K being enough for what sounds like a huge occupational hazard.

  14. 14
    BGinCHI says:

    What’s the difference between a corporation and a criminal conspiracy?

  15. 15
    JPL says:

    If you sue the corporation, they will just declare bankruptcy and open up under a different name.

  16. 16
    Trollhattan says:

    @⚽️ Martin:

    And it “smells nice.”

    “We made your water smell better; who’s going to pay US?”

  17. 17
    MikeJ says:


    What’s the difference between a corporation and a criminal conspiracy?

    The individuals in a criminal conspiracy are sometimes held accountable.

  18. 18
  19. 19
    MikeJ says:

    @Tom Levenson:

    After Hobby Lobby, the personhood of the corporation would seem to demand no less, amirite?

    It’s a one way valve.

  20. 20
    Schlemizel says:

    FREEDUM industries has already done that.

    EDIT: I see @gene108: beat me to it

  21. 21
    JPL says:

    @Schlemizel: Well Freedom isn’t free. Thank you to both of you for letting me know.
    So I guess lawsuits are out of the question.

  22. 22
    LanceThruster says:

    I was gobsmacked watching this on TRMS last night. Go Wendy Davis!

  23. 23
    Belafon says:

    I’ll bet that most WV residents would have said that’s too much if OSHA had seen these violations before the spill; I know most Texas residents would have said so.

  24. 24
    kindness says:

    You know we love you John but isn’t this a case where the good people of West Virgina should speak up?

  25. 25
    Berial says:

    The ‘red tape’ canard can be both true and false at the same time.

    I noticed it when I first went to work for my State’s equivalent of the EPA. The Clean Air Act had pollution behave much like a progressive tax, but only up to a certain point. The ‘big boys’ would just have a write off they pay every year (the max) while the smaller guys had to really work to figure out their ‘burden’. So in the end the small guys complain about red tape and regulatory burden while the big guys can basically just ignore it as ‘business as usual’. Then the ‘big boys’ can use the smaller guys grumbling to reduce their burden even more later by getting those smaller guys to go along with their ‘ideas’.

  26. 26

    I just don’t see $7K being enough for what sounds like a huge occupational hazard.

    @TG Chicago: That ammonium nitrate explosion that killed 15 people in Texas? And injured 200? And destroyed the town? $118.000 fine. I think that works out to not quite $12,000 per corpse.

  27. 27
    MattF says:

    OT, but it looks like living in Bethesda is more exciting than I thought:

  28. 28
    shelley says:


    Saw that. And here I’d thought we’d been told that there were only two existing smallpox samples in existence. One in a deep freeze at the CDC, and the other at a similar Russian facility.

  29. 29
    John Dillinger says:

    OSHA protects workers. That is what this fine is about–violation of the regs that protect the company’s workers. The regs that protect the public outside of the workers is a whole different ball game, so calm down people.

  30. 30
    LanceThruster says:


    Oops. Misread the piece. WV and not TX. Same diff, though. Screwed, blued, and tattooed by TPTB.

  31. 31
    kindness says:

    Sorry this is not a threadjack attempt.

    I see Germany is up 5-0 at the half time.

  32. 32
    burnspbesq says:

    Cole, before you went off on your rant, did you bother to do any research to determine whether that might be the maximum fine permitted under the applicable statute?

    That’s what I thought.

  33. 33
    Schlemizel says:

    you might notice a whole thread for that just the other side of this one.

  34. 34
    Barbara says:

    Well, to look at it from a slightly more optimistic perspective, the affected towns and people now have a better opportunity to bring lawsuits for damages because there has been a finding of negligence.

  35. 35
    J R in WV says:

    The good ole boys that started and ran Freedom Industries went bankrupt 2 or 3 days after the “accident” and formed a brand new company that purchased the assets of the bankrupt company as soon as they could get approval from a bankruptcy judge.

    I understand that bankruptcy judges are responsible for seeing to it that any bankrupt business entity is aided to escape from bankruptcy as soon as possible… that may not be technically true (de jure) but it certainly appears to de facto true from my observation of how the world works.

    When I learned about how air quality worked, I realized that environmental protection was a terrible misnomer – after all it was invented by Nixon.

    @John Dillinger:

    And OSHA doesn’t protect workers particularly. They come around after an atrocity and fine the survivors, if any. There aren’t enough OSHA inspectors to visit every facility and or building site once a century. So they allow events to determine their priority list, visit sites where a catastrophe had happened, determine the cause, usually appalling carelessness and a total unwillingness to spend fifty cents on safety. Then they fine the owner an absurdly small amount, and go on the the next disaster.

    The bastards that ruined a good water system, which may never recover from the damage done, are already back in business, with litle or no oversight. The husk they left holding the bag can’t afford lawyers to defend themselves. Let alone to make the people they damaged whole again.

    We have a well, even thought we live in an old oil and gas patch first drilled in the 1910-1920 era, the water is pretty good. But one new action by any of the oil and gas companies could ruin our fragile acquifer. So when city water came to our holler, we paid for a tap, and continue to pay the minimum monthly payment for a connection that has never (thank FSM@!) been turned on.

    People with wells shut their city water off as quickly as they could, and many of them were in time, I’m so glad I never actually turned on that water tap!

  36. 36
    Schlemizel says:

    I saw that too & it scares the crap out of me. There was a time when destroying the last of the virus on earth was discussed but all sorts of BS was tossed at it. It boiled down to neither the Ruskies or us trusting the other side not to weaponized the virus. I know the Reds had a huge factory producing it at one time & assume if we did not it would have been a simple thing to do. I still carry some residual protection, I have been vaccinated twice against it but my kids have not & I would guess nobody under 40 has been. If this got loose it would be truly horrific.

  37. 37
    Higgs Boson's Mate says:

    From your link:

    Since 1992, Freedom and its associates have made 12 filings, to found companies, dissolve companies, merge companies and change officers.

    Corporations are people, my friend, and when those people get in trouble they can become other people and thus leave their worries behind. We puny meat-people usually have to deal with the consequences of our actions.

  38. 38
    Seanly says:


    I thought this was a joke, but, umm, it’s not…

  39. 39
    gocart mozart says:

    @Tom Levenson:
    Too bad corporations cannot be treated like people because if a person were to do this sort of thing the recriminations would be severe. Wait What?

  40. 40
    gocart mozart says:

    The jokes on you, or the people of West Virginia to be precise.

  41. 41
    Bobby B. says:

    I’m a sick bastard and I have no problem with people who keep reelecting Kochslaves drinking the bad water.

  42. 42
    daveNYC says:

    @burnspbesq: Would that have disproved his statement about how miserable our regulatory system is? Which would be worse, that they didn’t get the maximum fine for this spill or that they did get the max and it’s chump change?

  43. 43
    Citizen_X says:


    Cole, before you went off on your rant, did you bother to do any research to determine whether that might be the maximum fine permitted under the applicable statute?

    Did you?

    Because, I don’t know, you could have made your point by saying, “Actually, that’s the maximum fine permitted under the applicable statute,” and maybe even have given a link to the regs! But I don’t know the law like you do; maybe snide rhetorical questions count as “argument” in court.

  44. 44
    Roger Moore says:


    What’s the difference between a corporation and a criminal conspiracy?

    A corporation is registered with the government, so everything is legal.

  45. 45
    Eric S. says:

    Shit. No company I’ve ever worked for could hold the preliminary planning meetings to build the tanks for less than $11K.

  46. 46
    danimal says:

    @kindness: Speaking as someone who likes to record games and watch them later, all I can say is that your post was a colossal example of assholitude. There’s already a soccer thread; there’s no damned reason to post spoilers on other threads.

  47. 47

    @CONGRATULATIONS!: Ah, Texas, where the GOP nominee for governor opposes the disclosure of dangerous chemicals by businesses, and when asked how families could find out what chemicals companies were storing in the vicinity of their children, suggested that they “drive around.”

  48. 48
    Zam says:

    @burnspbesq: How does absurdly low maximum penalties make his point invalid?

  49. 49
    Patricia Kayden says:

    @Bobby B.: Me neither. I recall that Balloon Juice once covered a story where Democratic West Virginians voted for a felon over President Obama in the primary. Nuff said.

  50. 50
    Roger Moore says:


    How does absurdly low maximum penalties make his point invalid?

    It doesn’t but it makes him feel good to criticize John for something. Those who can, do. Those who can’t, blog. Those who can’t blog, post nasty snide, critical comments on other people’s blogs.

    Yes, I know I’m the pot calling the kettle black.

  51. 51
    LAC says:

    @John Dillinger: are making sense. And you know how that goes here.

  52. 52
    Eric U. says:

    @Joseph Nobles: so people are supposed to drive around and listen for large explosions. “Yup, dangerous chemicals”

  53. 53
    Violet says:

    @kindness: Serious dick move commenting on the World Cup match when there’s a designated thread for it right below. Some people can’t watch the game live.

  54. 54
    scav says:

    @Citizen_X: Don’t forget, if it’s legal and on the books or intoned from the bench, it is manifestly the epitome of just and moral and right and never to be questioned, as all such legal minutia and quibbles are. Unless he personally himself choses the other side. Everyone else is just observers and incidental to the Cathlo-Legal Elysium.

  55. 55
    rikyrah says:


  56. 56
    Lurking Canadian says:

    @Eric S.: this. Given the infrequency of OSHA investigations, the fine ought to be orders of magnitude larger than the cost of installing the safeguard. With a trivial fine like this, it might actually be criminal, under current corporate law, and is certainly inadvisable, the way business ethics are taught, for the company to install the safeguard instead of taking their chances.

  57. 57
    El Caganer says:

    Hey, corporate America feels your pain,man. Why, right here in Fraternadelphia, management cared enough to put safety equipment in. Of course, then it was taken out again…..

    If you want a special treat, read the comments.

  58. 58


    Cole, before you went off on your rant, did you bother to do any research to determine whether that might be the maximum fine permitted under the applicable statute?

    That’s what I thought.


    Christ on a crutch, the point is that wingnuts and teatards and corporate America constantly whine about the regulatory excess, and that excess is paltry fines by OSHA. OSHA should be able to fine in the millions for this- put the fear og the dollar into them so they do things correctly.

    And yes, I know that OSHA is separate from the EPA. That’s why they have different fucking letters.


  59. 59
    Chris T. says:

    @Joseph Nobles: Personally, I think the cure for this is for someone to form a corporation that buys the house right next to the chemical company’s CEO, and then “store” all kinds of fun stuff in that house.

  60. 60

    If corporations are going to be treated as people under the law, I want them treated that way under criminal law too. I wonder what the Federal government would do to a person who dumped hazardous chemicals into a river that was the drinking water for 300,000 folks, causing it become undrinkable for weeks and potentially exposed folks to carcinogens and long term health problems?

    I’m guessing a SWAT team showing up to arrest me, a few days being interrogated by the FBI and possibly other three letter agencies, followed by an arraignment and a stay in a Federal corrections facility.

  61. 61
    dmbeaster says:

    You have three basic choices when it comes to trying to shape capitalist business behavior. One is do nothing. We tried that from 1870 to 1930. Only diehard Heritage types and morons who dont know history champion this alternative. They fantasize that free market force will be a policing force, when history teaches us that capitalists hate free markets and will wreck them unless, ironically, they are vigorously policed. That great banker Morgan openly spoke of the inefficiencies of free markets, which is funny given the current opposite fetish today.

    The other two are government regulation with teeth or private lawsuits that threaten pocketbooks of the unruly. To a far greater extent than is commonly recognized, the USA relies on lawsuits to police behavior. Puts all the right wing crap about tort reform into clearer perspective, although as a matter of social policy, lawsuits are an inefficient and haphazzard device for reining in bad behavior.

  62. 62
    dmbeaster says:

    Hey, just think of wingnut paradise in Texas where
    In response to the West fertilizer plant explosion, the Texas AG decided that henceforth, public agencies were barred from disclosing to the public what they knew concrrning what chemicals were being stored by various industries. In response to press questions, the AG indicated that ah shucks, folks could just find out on their own. This jerk is currently running to replace Perry as gov.

  63. 63
    FromTheBackOfTheRoom says:

    I might not “accuse him of grifting, I would probably call him a clueless nattering douche.”
    Obomber in a NutShell..

  64. 64
    Honus says:

    @burnspbesq: did you?

  65. 65
    Honus says:

    @burnspbesq: did you?

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