Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Untenable Fruits of Deregulation

A petrochemical plant in Geismar, Louisiana that exploded on Thursday, killing one person and injuring 73, has not been inspected by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in the past two decades, according to an analysis by ThinkProgress. The Williams Olefins plant, which produces about 1.3 billion pounds of ethylene and 90 million pounds of polymer grade propylene, according to the company’s website, does not have any recorded inspections for plants producing either substance in OSHA’s database since 1993. 
The explosion, fueled by propylene, started at 8:37 a.m. and burned for more than three hours. Three hundred workers were evacuated and residents within a two-mile radius were told by authorities to remain in their homes. 
The same plant also had an accident in 2009, according to Reuters. At that time, 60 pounds of flammable mixture was released, causing a fire that did not lead to injuries. Louisiana has experienced at least two other explosions in petrochemical facilities in the last two years: an explosion at the Westlake Chemicals vinyl plant in Geismar that “sent a cloud of toxic vinyl chloride and hydrochloric acid over the town” in 2012 and another at a Multi-Chem Group plan in New Iberia in 2011. Neither resulted in injuries, Reuters reports. 
Thursday’s blast comes just months after about 30 tons of ammonium nitrate exploded at a fertilizer plant in West, Texas in April. That accident killed 15 people and injured more than 160. The West plant hadn’t been inspected by OSHA since 1985 and also slipped by six other regulatory agencies.
It's always sad when people are unnecessarily put in harms way. 

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