Wire: Texas fertilizer plants say no thanks to fire inspections, fire marshal sorry to have bothered them

West Texas explosion
This apartment complex was completely destroyed in the fertilizer explosion to impacted West, Texas residents on April 17, 2013. — Photo via State Farm


As we all know, Texas is wide open for business, just waiting for your hot throbbing business to come and spray money all over the Lone Star State. And don’t worry about no stupid regulations! If your roller coaster kills someone, go ahead and investigate it your own self. Or if you’re into fracking, come on down and the guys who “regulate” oil and gas will run help you drill and pump as fast as you can. If you want to run a potentially explosive fertilizer plant, you don’t need to worry too much about the state fire code, because there isn’t one. And if you don’t want the state fire marshal’s office seeing anything iffy, NO PROBLEM:

Five facilities in Texas with large quantities of the same fertilizer chemical that fueled the deadly plant explosion in West have turned away state fire marshal inspectors since the blast, investigators said Monday.

A railway operator that hauls hazardous materials across Texas was also said to have rebuffed a state request to share data since the April explosion at West Fertilizer Co. that killed 15 people and injured 200 others.

Even better, when State Fire Marshal Chris Connealy was asked if the plants’ turning away the inspectors raised concerns, he said, “Well, sure.” And then he added, “In their defense, they may have a very good reason[.]” He seems nice, just a “go along to get along” kind of guy. Exactly the sort of person Texas wants regulating big explodey factories. We’re thinking he should be played by Robert Wuhl.

As the AP report points out, Texas has no state fire code, and the fire marshal’s office does not have the authority to make unannounced inspections or compel businesses to comply with an inspection.

Following the explosion of the fertilizer plant in West, Connealy’s office announced that it would step up inspections of the roughly 150 businesses in the state that store over 10,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate. If, you know, it’s not too much trouble for them:

Testifying to the House Committee on Homeland Security and Public Safety, Connealy said his office has completed about 60 inspections and aim to finish the rest by October. He said he did not know why five facilities wouldn’t let inspectors inside.

“They just didn’t want the fire marshal to come on the property,” he said.

Speaking to reporters afterward, Connealy declined to name the facilities. He said he didn’t immediately know whether he could make that information public.

You know the bumper sticker what says “I’ll believe that corporations are people when Texas executes one”? How about a state official standing up for their privacy rights — that’s pretty humane of him, too.

The chairman of the committee, state Rep. Joe Pickett, a Democrat, also seems pretty understanding of the special anxieties that owners of potentially explosive facilities might feel:

“At this point, today, I would say that any resistance is more just fear of the unknown than anybody trying to hide or cover up some situation like West,” Pickett said. “I would believe if somebody thought they had something that was really dangerous, the only reason they would say no was to get it fixed that day.”

Your modern “safety regulations” confuse and frighten them, so please, be understanding if they’re a little twitchy about all this snooping around you want to do. You don’t want to make people working in a building-sized bomb get nervous, now do you?

Oh, and the head of the Texas Department of Emergency Management, Nim Kidd — who despite his name, does not appear to have any previous work experience as a chimp in a language experiment — also testified that

his agency asked three railways that represent major hazardous material haulers to share data since the explosion. Kidd said Kansas City Southern Railway Co. was the only to tell state officials “no thank you, we’re not interested.”

William Galligan, a spokesman for Kansas City Southern Railway, did not immediately return a phone message or email seeking comment.

Again, these are busy people, busily doing their busy business. And Texas is wide open for business. Stop asking a bunch of nosy questions, or they may take away their precious jerbs and go someplace with less oppressive regulations, like Somalia.

By Doktor Zoom

[Manufacturing Business Technology via Wonkette tipster “RC”]