The fertilizer plant that exploded on Wednesday, obliterating part of a small Texas town and killing at least 14 people, had last year been storing 1,350 times the amount of ammonium nitrate that would normally trigger safety oversight by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
Yet a person familiar with DHS operations said the company that owns the plant, West Fertilizer, did not tell the agency about the potentially explosive fertilizer as it is required to do, leaving one of the principal regulators of ammonium nitrate - which can also be used in bomb making - unaware of any danger there.
Fertilizer plants and depots must report to the DHS when they hold 400 lb (180 kg) or more of the substance. Filings this year with the Texas Department of State Health Services, which weren't shared with DHS, show the plant had 270 tons of it on hand last year.
To recap then, Texas knew literally that the plant was explosive and dangerous. They ignored telling the DHS. The company ignored telling the DHS. They had 1350 times the required amount of ammonium nitrate stored at the facility and said "No, that's not a problem."
And now at least 12 people are dead. Democrats at least see this "self-regulation" as a problem.
A U.S. congressman and several safety experts called into question on Friday whether incomplete disclosure or regulatory gridlock may have contributed to the disaster.
"It seems this manufacturer was willfully off the grid," Rep. Bennie Thompson, (D-MS), ranking member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, said in a statement. "This facility was known to have chemicals well above the threshold amount to be regulated under the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards Act (CFATS), yet we understand that DHS did not even know the plant existed until it blew up."
So no, these guys broke the law. They broke the law and people died because of it. But Republicans will almost certainly come out and say that "oversight failed" and that OSHA should be cut or eliminated since it "obviously cannot stop" workplace related accidents like this.
Government designed to fail by those who want it to fail are surprised it ends up failing. Amazing.