|Crime scene in West, TX, LM Otero/AP, via the CSM|
So, when Adair Grain, Inc, of West, TX, failed to report that they had "been storing 1,350 times the amount of ammonium nitrate that would normally trigger safety oversight by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security," they were violating the law. Donald R. Adair (President of Adair Grain) Wanda Adair (Vice President), and Tedd Uptmore Jr. (General Manager) broke the law by not reporting the fact that they were storing more than 400 lbs of ammonium nitrate. In fact, according to the Reuters story, they had 240 tons of the stuff on hand last year.
"It seems this manufacturer was willfully off the grid," Rep. Bennie Thompson, (D-MS), ranking member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, said in a statement. "This facility was known to have chemicals well above the threshold amount to be regulated under the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards Act (CFATS), yet we understand that DHS did not even know the plant existed until it blew up."Reuters contacted Bryan Haywood, a hazardous chemical expert.
"That's just a god awful amount of ammonium nitrate," said Bryan Haywood, the owner of a hazardous chemical consulting firm in Milford, Ohio. "If they were doing that, I would hope they would have gotten outside help."
In response to a request from Reuters, Haywood, who has been a safety engineer for 17 years, reviewed West Fertilizer's Tier II sheets from the last six years. He said he found several items that should have triggered the attention of local emergency planning authorities - most notably the sudden appearance of a large amount of ammonium nitrate in 2012.
"As a former HAZMAT coordinator, that would have been a red flag for me," said Haywood, referring to hazardous materials.
|Crime scene in West, TX, via KABC|
To "qualify" for felony murder, the underlying felony must present a foreseeable danger to life, and the link between the felony and the death must not be too remote.Storing 240 tons of a highly explosive material in the middle of a town of 2000 people certainly presents a foreseeable danger to life, and the link between not reporting the storage of more than 400 lbs of the stuff and the deaths of the people who died in the explosion is certainly not too remote.
I'm not a lawyer, but considering the fact that this occurred in the Great Law and Order State of Texas, where people are railroaded on trumped up murder charges all the time in the name of Justice, I find it odd that the Governor hasn't sent the Rangers to arrest the Adairs and Mr. Uptmore. But since it's a felony, who needs Ranger Rick? The FBI could march into West, Texas right now and arrest these people for their role in the killing of at least 14 people.
The reckless endangerment of the residents near this plant certainly qualifies as manslaughter, and the violation of federal chemical storage safety rules suggests it's felony murder. And yet the owners of this plant sit in their presumably nice homes, releasing statements of heart break:
"We are presenting all employees for interviews and will assist in the fact finding to whatever degree possible," Adair said. "We pledge to do everything we can to understand what happened to ensure nothing like this ever happens again in any community."
|Crime scene in West, TX, by Mike Stone/Reuters/Landov, via NPR|
Texas is one of the 24 states that actually allows the execution of people convicted of felony murder. I'm against the death penalty, but it would seem that in a state where the driver of a car that transported a murderer can be executed, the state might want to go after folks whose 240 tons of high explosives in the middle of a town exploded after they had not informed the DHS, as required by law.
This is the state of corporate responsibility in the US today. A couple of idiot kids set off some pressure cooker bombs that kill and maim hundreds, and we have US Senators calling for them to be treated as enemy combatants and tried in military courts. But a corporation can willfully and blatantly flaunt federal law, leading to the flattening of a small town, killing and maiming hundreds, and the owners and operators of that corporation walk free and lament the heart break of such a tragedy, knowing that they will likely just have to pay a fine, and maybe get sued.
It's enough to make you think that if you want to commit felony murder in this country, you should incorporate first.