Class Warfare Blog

April 19, 2013

The West, Texas Debacle—Business Republican Style

Is it any surprise that the Federal agency dedicated to workplace safety (OSHA) has been handcuffed by Republicans in the cause of reducing “reg-u-lay-shuns.” The West, Texas “fertilizer” plant that blew up and destroyed much of its community including a middle school only 1000 feet from the plant had, repeat had, no alarms, no firewalls, and no automatic shutoff systems because, being self-regulating, they didn’t need them things.

A little background chemistry now, boys and girls, ammonium nitrate (NH4NO3) is a good fertilizer because it contains a goodly amount of nitrogen in it (those are the “N’s” in that there formula) which plants need to grow good.

To make an explosion, a chemical reaction needs to do three things: it needs to produce a lot of heat, it needs to produce a lot of gas, and it needs to do it quickly.

 NH4NO3(s) → N2O(g) + 2H2O(g) + heat

Ammonium nitrate does all of these things in spades and has been used as an explosive. So, obviously, no special precautions need to be taken. (Yes, that there is sar-cas-em, y’all.)

“It looks as if the appropriate thing to do is to require that a union represent
the workers at dangerous worksites to prevent just such things from happening.

A reporter commenting on the destroyed community stated that the Republican efforts to hogtie OSHA had their effect in that the last visit this plant had from OSHA was in 1985. Because of a lack of funding, OSHA only investigates a plant when an employee complains to OSHA about unsafe working conditions and “that only happens in union shops.”

In other words, in non-union shops workers do not report unsafe working conditions because they will be fired if they do. If there is a union to protect them, their odds of keeping their job apparently goes way up.

This is yet another example of Republicans not giving a shit about working people. Apparently a destroyed community and a bunch of dead and maimed people is a small price to pay for a vibrant economy . . . without unions.

It looks as if the appropriate thing to do is to require that a union represent the workers at dangerous worksites to prevent just such things from happening. A union helps but isn’t a panacea because some industries with unions, like coal mining, have deplorable safety records anyway because they went out and bought all of the local, state, and federal politicians and judges so there is nowhere for the union to go to get safe working conditions.

A Followup

In a Reuter’s article the following quote was given: “Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott toured the devastated area on Thursday and compared the scene to ‘a bombing site, the kind you see in Baghdad.’ He said authorities were combing the area ‘inch by inch.'” So, apparently after the thing blows up we will send the money to go over the plant “inch by inch” but we won’t spend a dime to do so before it blows up.

Is this crazy?



  1. Yes the fact that it was recently hand-slapped by the EPA for certain violations and was allowed to exist so close to homes, schools and parks says a lot about how crony capitalism gets away with things that have shown to be fatal for innocent people


    Comment by lbwoodgate — April 19, 2013 @ 8:30 am | Reply

    • The factory predated the schools, etc. I believe, but the denial that anything dangerous was going on allowed the encroachment into the blast zone. I believe, ahem, you are also aware of Texas’s somewhat notorious zoning laws.


      Comment by stephenpruis — April 19, 2013 @ 8:36 am | Reply

  2. Perry will pray for no more nightmares.


    Comment by john zande — April 19, 2013 @ 11:33 am | Reply

  3. As a Texan who lives very near West and loves West (actually loves) and its citizens, let me just say that you’re being an ass. I say this for your own good. You could have made your points (good points) respectfully (like ibwoodgate did in his comment), without the bigoted stereotypes of my neighbors, but you chose to insult them in the wake of a terrible tragedy.

    Please understand that you are a bigot, just as bad as any anti-Semite or white supremacist. Your smug sense of superiority may blind you to that fact, but it is a fact. You should come to grips with it and make an effort to rectify it.

    I read your blog to get another side of issues and to argue and to work through my own ideas. I’ll not comment on your blog any further until you start to show a hell of a lot more maturity. I sincerely hope that’s soon.

    God bless y’all.


    Comment by conservative2cents — April 19, 2013 @ 9:44 pm | Reply

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