Chemical Safety Board on Stand-Down: West, TX Probe Halted

October 9, 2013 08:26 AM

The impacts of the government shutdown are beginning to ripple outward. Funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has rolled in to the tune of $16 million, but the probe by the U.S. Chemical Safety Board into the cause of the blast has been suspended.

According to news reports, 37 of the Chemical Safety Board's 41 employees have been laid off during the shutdown, effectively bringing the investigation to a halt. Other, similar investigations in at least four states have also skidded to a stop leaving questions unanswered.

The Obama administration had ordered the probe at the hands of Senator Barbara Boxer (D Calif.) who chairs the Environment and Public Works Committee. The result of the investigations will likely be increased regulation and stricter safety standards at chemical facilities and fertilizer depots.

But as the delays continue on these investigations, regulation is kicked down the road just that much farther.

Perspective --

The April explosion in Texas shone the spotlight on the small town fertilizer supplier in Everytown, USA and highlighted the potential risk involved with storing chemicals and fertilizers in proximity to rural communities. The sticking point here is that the West, TX facility was in full compliance with applicable regulations at the time of the explosion. To a politician, that means that enough rules were not in place to begin with, and regulations must be increased.

In a legislative environment that has proven itself to be out of touch with the nitty gritty of American agriculture and more than willing to pile on regulations, expect the end of the government shutdown to signal a heightened risk for arbitrary safety standards, and self-gratifying regulation for politicians to tout at the next election. But the truth is, the tragic loss of 15 Texas citizens has thus far been found to be an accident. As much as we would like for regulations to eliminate the risk of the unexpected altogether, an end to accidents can not be legislated.

I tell my kids at home, "Safety First. Nobody expects to have an accident." Even with increased regulation and safety standards, accidents will continue to plague the human condition, no matter how illegal the government makes them.

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