Democrats Try To Cash In On Texas Fatalities

The explosion at a fertilizer plant in West, Texas that claimed 14 lives is still unexplained; investigators have not yet figured out the cause. But that hasn’t stopped the Democrats from trying to make political hay out of the tragedy. First we have this disgusting cartoon in the Sacramento Bee, which is predicated on the idea that the explosion was caused by lax regulation on the part of the State of Texas:

Governor Rick Perry protested vigorously, saying:

While I will always welcome healthy policy debate, I won’t stand for someone mocking the tragic deaths of my fellow Texans and our fellow Americans.

The cartoonist, Jack Ohman, doubled down in an internet post:

The Texas chemical plant had not been inspected by the state of Texas since 2006. That’s seven years ago.

According to Scientific American, at least seven different state and federal agencies have regulatory authority over the West plant: OSHA, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, the Texas Department of State Health Services, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and the Texas Feed and Fertilizer Control Service. In time the facts will come out as to which of these agencies inspected the plant, and when.

You may have read in the news that Gov. Perry, during his business recruiting trips to California and Illinois, generally described his state as free from high taxes and burdensome regulation. One of the burdensome regulations he neglected to mention was the fact that his state hadn’t really gotten around to checking out that fertilizer plant.

Has Governor Perry ever touted a lack of safety regulation as a benefit of doing business in Texas? Not that I know of. But note how Mr. Ohman assumes that the explosion was caused by an absence of safety regulations, or a failure to enforce an existing regulation by a state agency, as opposed to a federal agency. That could possibly be the case, but it is pure speculation since at this point, investigators have no idea what caused the explosion. Liberals have a childlike faith in regulation: if only we had more regulations, nothing bad would happen! If only that were true. But liberals like Jack Ohman don’t wait to learn the facts before taking advantage of 14 fatalities to smear a red state and a Republican governor.

For what it’s worth, there is no reason to think that Texas is a dangerous place because of lax workplace safety regulation. OSHA cautions against comparing statistics from state to state, since each state has a different mix of facilities that have entirely different hazards. It is inherently safer to work in an office than a mine. Nevertheless, subject to all appropriate caveats, the rate of fatal accidents in manufacturing in Texas–apparently the category into which the fertilizer plant would fall–in 2011, the last year for which OSHA has published statistics, was 2.6 per 100,000 FTE workers. That is exactly the same rate as Indiana and Iowa, virtually indistinguishable from Michigan (2.4), and not much different from California, where Ohman launched his sanctimonious attack (2.1).

Mother Jones magazine made an even nuttier effort to gain political advantage from the West, Texas explosion by implying that the Koch brothers, those all-purpose villains of the Left, were somehow responsible for it. Their axe-grinding article is titled, “Will the ‘Koch Brothers Bill’ Make Industrial Accidents More Likely?”:

In February, 11 congressmen—10 Republicans and one Democrat—joined some two dozen industry groups, including the Fertilizer Institute, the American Chemistry Council, and the International Institute of Ammonia Refrigeration, to back the General Duty Clarification Act. The bill is designed to sap the Environmental Protection Agency of its powers to regulate safety and security at major chemical sites, as prescribed by the Clean Air Act.

“We call that the Koch brothers bill,” Greenpeace legislative director Rick Hind says, because the bill’s sponsor, GOP Rep. Mike Pompeo, represents the conservative megadonors’ home city of Wichita, Kansas. …

Later that year, they introduced a bill to formally prohibit the EPA from using the Clean Air Act to regulate security and safety at chemical production and storage sites, by mandating that any such inspections be carried out by the Department of Homeland Security instead. Their bill also left it up to manufacturers to determine whether or not to make improvements to the safety of their workplace. In February, Pompeo introduced the General Duty Clarification Act of 2013, a repeat of the 2012 bill, with 10 Republican cosponsors—and one Democrat, Rep. Jim Matheson of Utah. The bill was backed by some of the nation’s most powerful lobbying groups, including the US Chamber of Commerce.

It was not, however, backed by the Koch brothers or by Koch Industries. Leave aside for the moment the question why the EPA should be regulating workplace safety rather than OSHA, the agency that is explicitly charged with creating and enforcing safety regulations, and has the expertise to do so. The General Duty Clarification Act is a perfectly reasonable piece of legislation, as you will see if you read it. But, in any event, it has nothing to do with Koch Industries, as the company explains on Kochfacts:

The partisan writers at Mother Jones have consistently gone out of their way, even in the face of facts, to disparage Koch. Call it conspiracy-by-free-association, where the writer seizes on an unrelated tragedy in the news and then tries to blame Koch, no matter how far-fetched or dishonest. We have documented this irresponsible method many times before on this site.

Writer Tim Murphy has another such piece published in Mother Jones on April 22 in which he tries to fault Koch for the circumstances that caused the tragic explosion at a fertilizer facility in West, Texas. The facts of that terrible event are still unknown and are under investigation. But even as memorial services are underway for those who lost their lives, Murphy expresses no empathy for lives lost. Instead, he uses the tragedy as a platform to promote his and his magazine’s partisan views.

Because Murphy’s piece was devoid of facts, we offer them here:

* Koch has no connection to the fertilizer facility in West, Texas.

* Koch Fertilizer Company produces and markets nitrogen-based fertilizer. Like all Koch companies, Koch Fertilizer is committed to a safe work environment and full compliance with all applicable laws and regulations. We strive to manage operations in a manner that protects the health and safety of employees, customers, contractors, the public and the environment. This commitment is evident in how we operate facilities and manufacture products.

* Koch Fertilizer has been recognized as an environmental, health and safety leader. The company has received numerous awards for its performance including those documented here. Altogether, from January 2009 to present, Koch companies around the globe have earned 574 awards for safety, environmental excellence, community stewardship, innovation, and customer service. …

* Koch companies have positive relationships with EPA and other regulators. This document includes a sampling of what others say about our EH&S performance.

* Murphy’s assertion that fertilizer production is “unregulated” is completely wrong. Koch Fertilizer’s facilities are regulated by EPA, state environmental agencies, OSHA and even state Agriculture departments, among others.

* The specific bill cited in Murphy’s story is not one on which Koch has lobbied.

Mother Jones, like many other left-wing mouthpieces, can be counted on to spin the truth and be consistently wrong about Koch. Since the magazine’s editors can’t seem to get the facts straight, we will continue to fact check them for our readers.

Of course, liberals like those at Mother Jones don’t try to get the facts straight. They just try to use every dishonest tactic to advance their political agenda.

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