Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Koch money flows to Texas pol who opposes worker safety measures in fertilizer plants

Five months after a fertilizer plant in West, Texas, blew up, killed 15 people and injured 160, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott received a $25,000 check from Chase Koch. 

Abbott is running for governor. Koch is the son of one of the Koch brothers that owns Koch Industries. We're not sure which brother, as they are extremely secretive about their family. 

Chase Koch is also the head of Koch Industries' fertilizer division. That $25,000 was followed by another $50,000 -- insurance to make sure Texas continues to be wary of regulations. The state is doing little to promote safer chemical plants. The EPA isn't doing much, either. 

Yesterday, the Dallas Morning News reported, 
Abbott, who has since been criticized for allowing Texas chemical facilities to keep secret the contents of their plants, received more than $75,000 from Koch interests after the April 2013 explosion at the West Fertilizer Co. storage and distribution facility, campaign finance records filed with the state showed. 
The West accident focused public attention on the storage of potentially dangerous chemicals across Texas and regulatory gaps in prevention, data-gathering, enforcement and disclosure to prevent explosions in the future. In addition to the 15 deaths, scores of people were injured, and homes and businesses were leveled. 
The issue has re-emerged for Abbott in his run for governor. The Republican nominee recently declared that records on what chemicals the facilities stored could remain hidden, citing state laws meant to deter potential terrorist threats. 
The campaign of his Democratic opponent, Wendy Davis, has charged Abbott with protecting campaign donors. On Tuesday, Abbott struggled to explain how Texans might learn of dangerous chemicals in their midst. 
“You know where they are if you drive around,” Abbott told reporters at an event in Austin. “You can ask every facility whether or not they have chemicals or not. You can ask them if they do and they can tell you, ‘Well, we do have chemicals or we don’t have chemicals.’ And if they do, they tell which ones they have.”
You will not be surprised to know a Koch subsidiary owns a gypsum plant in Sweetwater, Texas, that stores at least 10,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate or ammonium-related material. You will not be surprised at the Kochs' hypocrisy in supporting a candidate who wants government to keep vital information from its citizens and saying they're in favor of a 'free market.'

The Teamsters are fighting for better workplace protections for chemical plant workers. The West tragedy should have lit a fire under regulators to prevent that kind of disaster from happening again.