Friday, May 10, 2013

Texas Lacks a Learning Curve

It is amazing how Texas politicians are responding to the West disaster.  Not surprising at all but still just pretty remarkable. 
Even in West, last month’s devastating blast did little to shake local skepticism of government regulations. Tommy Muska, the mayor, echoed Governor Perry in the view that tougher zoning or fire safety rules would not have saved his town. “Monday morning quarterbacking,” he said.
I would call it trying to learn and do better, but Monday morning quarterbacking it is, apparently.  

I lived in Texas for six years, but never realized that it was forbidden for smaller countries to have fire codes.  Which means that this should not be a surprise even though it is: "Fires and explosions at Texas’ more than 1,300 chemical and industrial plants have cost as much in property damage as those in all the other states combined for the five years ending in May 2012."

Let's say that again: Texas has more property damage due to fires and explosions than all other states combined.  That is news.  And that is just incredibly awful.  That it happens in a state hostile to regulation might just suggest that regulation does make a difference.  What a great natural experiment except for all those harmed in these fires and explosions.

Why does this continue?  "“In rural Texas,” said Stephen T. Hendrick, the engineer for McLennan County, where the explosion occurred, “no one votes for regulations.”" Good thing then that the rural counties have been losing population to the cities.... except the city folks are probably equally in denial.

Who pays instead?
In chemical fires, firefighters often bear a heavy toll. Ten of the at least 14 people who died in West were firefighters, and two more were residents helping fight the flames. This week, officials from the state firefighters’ association said the 50-foot-tall memorial to volunteers killed in the line of duty, on the Capitol grounds in Austin, had no room left for new names, not even those from West.
Reading this piece reminds me why I felt less like an alien in French-speaking Quebec than I did in Lubbock, Texas.  Businesses facing no regulations will do things that get people killed.  In Texas, that is the price of doing business rather than a reason to regulate.  

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