When Republicans Mess With Legislation, People DIE!!!

dupont chemical leak

Early last Saturday morning, a quartet of Texans died at a DuPont plant on Strang Rd. in the coastal berg of La Porte, 20 miles outside of Houston. The toll included two brothers, a 40-year employee and a new hire of just eight months duration. They died, as is often the case in the Lone Brain Cell state, needlessly. It took the company 12 hours before acknowledging the deaths. It should surprise no one that the weekend fatalities were a consequence of a chemical leak. An additional worker was hospitalized as a precaution, but seems OK.

In a two-hour period from 4-6 AM, enough of the release escaped containment to kill the employees who were responding to the leaked chemical, methyl mercaptan, also known as methanethiol (CH4S). In La Porte, it was used as feedstock in the insecticide and fungicide manufacturing process. The odor stretched for 40 miles.

Our right-wing brothers and sisters who go fiddlesticks berserk over the possible presence of the dreaded Ebola, but most likely live in close proximity or downwind of a chemical that makes the largely manufactured (1 death in the U.S.?) Ebola threat look like a hangnail. First, because the Ebola threat is 99% political: The “millions of Americans will die; it’s all Obama’s fault!” disappeared from the front pages November 5th). Secondly, this CH4S stuff is everywhere. In many parts of the U.S. it’s in your natural gas, but, not to worry, you’ll be dead of bunches of other chemicals long before the methyl mercaptan hits you.

Here’s the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry Centers (TSDRC) scoop on methyl mercaptan. First of all your last breathe will be stale with the smell of “rotten garbage” because that’s the odor emitted from this chemical gas. You’ve got a harmless smidgeon of this gas in your tissues, blood and brain. It’s also, YUK, in animal feces.

There’s a naturally occurring quantity in some nuts and Beaufort cheese. Less natural is its use in wood-pulp mills, sewage treatment plants, the manufacturer of jet fuel and poultry feed. Methyl mercaptan has not been found in drinking water. It has been approved for use as a food additive, but because of its unpleasant smell, very little can actually be added to food. You could be exposed to small amounts of methyl mercaptan by eating foods that contain it.

However, we have no information on the levels of methyl mercaptan in food. How comforting. The scary part is that little to nothing is known about methyl mercaptan levels in many areas. Nonetheless, unless you discharge, spill or release more than 100 pounds of the gas, you don’t even have to report it to the Environmental Protection Agency. This being the case even though the feds admit to not knowing how much it takes to kill a human being.

Of great comfort to the owners and stockholders of the plant, DuPont, is secure in the knowledge that the state of Texas environmental officialdom has their back. The major consequences will be borne by the innocent dead employees and their survivors. The company will skate with what these indifferent corporate monsters always escape with, a fine.

Sometimes these fines are substantial, but as they say, who can put a price on a human life? Well, in its way, Texas, and some federal agencies, severely restricted by Republican legislation, put a price on human life and that amounts to very little. Hopefully, trial attorneys will take these corporate louts to court and drain them for millions. That’s why the biggie corporations are always getting their Republican legislative toadies to renounce trial attorneys and call for “tort or court reform.” Reform, as in minimal compensation and miserly punitive awards for deaths and horrific life-altering injuries and pollution-friendly judges, recipients of huge special interest campaign contributions.

The first company reaction is always an expression of deep sympathy for those who have died as a result of accidents of inhalations, explosions and collective chemical insults over the years. The familiar and predictable bromides of “Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the employees” and the mandatory “We know something wrong happened today and we are going to do the proper investigation to make sure it doesn’t happen again” always follow these catastrophic events.

Yeah, yeah. My sense is, beating sure lawsuits is where DuPont “thoughts and prayers” really reside while “doing the proper investigation” means making sure DuPont avoids all liability. In addition to manipulating the judicial system, after the initial shocked reaction blows over and the public returns to their football and the Kardashians, numerous backroom moves are made to guarantee that no manufacturer or business of any major proportion ever pays the full price for their roles as killers.

Yes, I realize that chemicals and other dangerous substances are an inevitable part of being a corporate-controlled country, and accidents will happen. And, I guess I have to accept that, or most of my creature comforts and occasional luxuries will disappear.

But I also have to accept that far fewer people need to perish to serve an oligarchy of enormous power, money and assets. This issue of environmental and pollution safety goes to the very core of the Koch brothers role in using huge, limitless, dark money, now into the SuperPac realm, to influence self-serving policy decisions of pliable elected and appointed officials and judges. Remember, Koch Industries is the second largest privately owned company in the country and relies on very weak environmental regulations to add untold wealth to their bottom line.

When the 2014 North Carolina and Kentucky Senate races settle in at expenditures of around $100 million each, society has lost control of its political self. Full public financing of elections and attacking Citizens United should be ballot issues in every state in 2016. The people must do what their legislators won’t do.

We know policy is influenced because you can knock off 15 people and injure hundreds of others (226 is the most accepted number) and receive little more than a slap on the wrist, as in a $118,000 fine from OSHA on 24 different counts of West Fertilizer wrongdoing, among other benign punishments. Jail for owner Donald Adair? Meaningful action from the state legislature? ROTFLMAO!!!

The Dallas Morning News had a wonderful special section on the West Fertilizer Company explosion in the small community of West, Texas back in April of 2013. Visit these pages and read accounts of the tragic event, the immediate aftermath and the series of foul-ups and questionable activities by Texas officials that kept a deadly secret from a vulnerable local population until it was too late.

I’m reminded once more of how much I miss Molly Ivins.

Lesson learned: Keep voting Republican and my colleagues and I will be writing dozens of stories that are mirror images of this one.

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13 Replies to “When Republicans Mess With Legislation, People DIE!!!”

  1. So the republicans will be freaking out about these 4 deaths compared to one from ebola – only if they can think of a reason to blame Obama.

  2. And Joan, if they can’t blame Obama… it never happened. :( For the families who lost someone they love and who was a breadwinner for them, it’s “too bad, so sad” in that insincere tone.

  3. This type of behavior CAN NOT be tolerated any longer. Chemical plants/companies, oil companies are killing us directly or indirectly by a slow death of cancer or neurological diseases. They are literally getting away with murder because they are paying politicians to make the rules!

  4. Dennis S. Republicans call for “Tort” reform, not “Court” reform. Look it up please. I agree with most of what you’ve said in this article. I am in sync with your outrage–I see myself in it. But your angry writing has gotten in the way of your effectiveness. You never made it clear just how Republican legislation has affected policy. What specific legislation? Which specific policies? Which legislators pushed it through? What judges approved it? Who was in office at the time and lauded it as “landmark” legislation or administrative rulemaking? Who warned us? It’s important.

  5. Yea Laughlia…cite specific legislation…how about this:Republicans oppose and vote against anything having to do with regulating dangerous industries? you know…abolishing OSHA, the NLRB, the EPA?…Laughia…you obviously don’t have to do much labor to support yourself…nor do you have to expose urself much to hazardous environments other than debate

  6. This is the reason they don’t regulations.Money has been the issue not lives.I hope they will find lawyers to sue.

  7. If you don’t want any regulation and centralized control how the hell do these dumbazzez think you are going to stop a health epidemic? Just asking.

  8. Laughia:

    I must agree that in my zeal to get the word out, I used ‘court’ singularly instead of both ‘tort’ and ‘court’ for the phrase that included legal reform. Both terms apply collectively in this case. I’m sure you’re aware that ‘court reform’ would refer to right-wing judges who always hand down corporate-friendly corporate pollution decisions.Just for giggles, why don’t you research the amount of SuperPac money that goes to certain State Supreme Court Justice campaign coffers. The recipient judges, in turn, rule unanimously in favor of the anti-environment folks.Start with North Carolina. Now that we’re past that hurdle, perhaps we should address Republican blockage of all meaningful Democratic legislation trying to save lives, prevent true epidemics, pollution-based respiratory diseases in children and cancer in adults.Then we can inject at least a minimal sense of environmental responsibility into the corporate consciousness. Thank you for your contribution.

  9. I give up on a the right wingers. If they think their air should smell like garbage and keep voting those who don’t care if they live or die than I give up and let them all sink into oblivion. Obviously they do not want a better air or safety regulations,so let them suffer. I feel sorry for the people who died and their family’s but they will be satisfied with all pittance for a settlement so it’s their bad not ours. Until they change nothing can or will be done. So let’s all sit back and watch the show.

  10. Since Ellen Kullman became CEO in 2009 there have been 6 fatalities in
    the corporation. This amidst the claim that safety is a core value.

    Four at La Porte
    1 at the Belle WV site
    1 at the Yerkes site near Buffalo.

    These are only the deaths and not the numerous injuries and
    environmental issues associated with the supposed leader in safety.

    It is time for the her to step down and have someone move the company in
    the right direction. Write to the board of directors and boycott the
    products made by DuPont.

    She gets to spend Thanksgiving with her friends and families and the six killed will never see their loved ones again.

    I have spent 30 years with the company and can’t remember any deaths in
    my first 25 years, but since she has taken over there are 1.2 deaths per
    year.

    Safety is a core value is a tactic to appease to the masses and when
    more money is spent giving the executives bonuses then to fix
    operational safety you can see that they are not quite …

  11. Mr.Reagan the big spender did an excellent job of scaring and selling the southern vote into the Republican Party. A party that wants you to work until you die and if you get hurt on the job tough! Louisiana, where I live, is a leader in teen pregnancy, illiteracy, children living in poverty, religious fanaticism and fear any change, and they vote republican. There is an equation here that is not hard to figure. Why isn’t the democratic party not using this more? We are not getting this vote now, are we afraid of hurting someone’s feelings?

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