Report: The Government is Really, Really Bad at Keeping Records About Chemical Plants

Benjamin Prengler/Cal Sport Media/ZumaPress.com

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In April, a massive explosion ripped apart a fertilizer storage facility in West, Texas, killing 12 first responders and injuring at least 200 people. This didn’t have to happen—as Mother Jones reporter previously, the disaster was a product of lax regulation and mismanagement at various levels of government, and a company that had taken few steps to protect itself or the community. (The county didn’t even have a fire code.)

Just how bad is the oversight of chemical facilities like West Fertilizer Co.? According to a new report in the Dallas Morning News, 90 percent of the federal government’s chemical safety data is wrong:

A Dallas Morning News analysis of more than 750,000 federal records found pervasive inaccuracies and holes in data on chemical accidents, such as the one in West that killed 15 people and injured more than 300.

In fact, no one at any level of government knows how often serious chemical accidents occur each year in the United States. And there is no plan in place for federal agencies to gather more accurate information.

As a result, the kind of data sharing ordered by President Barack Obama in response to West is unlikely to improve the government’s ability to answer even the most basic questions about chemical safety.

And that’s just the beginning. Give it a read.

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It’s really that simple. But if you’d like to read a bit more, our membership lead, Brian Hiatt, has a post for you highlighting some of our newsroom's impressive, impactful work of late—including two big investigations in just one day and covering voting rights the way it needs to be done—that we hope you’ll agree is worth supporting.

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