Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Regulating Ahead of the Facts

Three weeks ago a horrific accident occurred in the US. This was the massive fire and explosion at the fertilizer plant in West, Texas that killed 14 people. Most of those killed were fire fighters and other first responders who were fighting the blaze just before the explosion occurred.

This accident is being investigated, and as of this writing a cause has not been identified. In the case of the fertilizer explosion, there has been considerable commentary indicating that at the heart of the disaster was some sort of regulatory failing.

I have to disagree with this perspective. Three weeks of investigation have not revealed the cause of either the fire or the subsequent explosion. Although there were large quantities of ammonium nitrate at the plant, ammonium nitrate alone is not explosive. Typically it is mixed with diesel fuel to create the conditions for a bomb. Even then it requires a detonator.

If you don’t know what causes a problem, it is difficult to guard against the problem before it occurs. This fertilizer plant was in operation for at least forty years before the accident, and it is one of many scattered across the country. In the last 60 years, this is only the third unintended explosion of this type to occur in the US. When you operate for tens of thousands of man-hours between incidents it is difficult to make a case that underregulation is to blame.

More government is not always to solution to every tragedy.

1 comment:

Mark Only said...

Wow..You got this one 100% correct. I want to say something snarky, but I can't. You nailed it. I suppose now you will reverse your stance, since I agree with you completely...