Perry and Texas Won't Take Any Responsibility for West Explosion, But We Will Take Money

Count this out with me, will you? Texas Governor Rick "Oops" Perry won't support increased government regulation of fertilizer makers or sellers like the plant that blew up in West on April 17, killing 15, injuring 200 and inflicting property damage now estimated at $80 million.

Don't need no stinking regulation.

Governor Oops won't dig into the state's $8 billion reserve fund to help West. He can't find any serious money for West in the state's $197 billion two-year budget.

Ain't got no stinking money.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, meanwhile, has approved more than $7 million in low-cost loans to residents, has agreed to pay 75 percent of the cost of debris removal and will fully compensate local and state agencies for the cost of the initial emergency response. FEMA declined to hand out more money because the disaster at West did not meet guidelines in federal rules and statutes that would allow bigger payments.

So now Governor Oops is saying the whole thing is Obama's fault. In a written statement Governor Oops raked the president because he prayed with West. Obama, Perry said, "stood in front of a grieving community and told them they would not be forgotten."

Yeah. Pray, pray, pray. So where's our stinking money?

As Brett Shipp has reported at WFAA-Channel 8, the town of West took federal money for years that was supposed to set up a local emergency response committee. They did absolutely nothing. They didn't need no stinking committee, although they were happy to take the money.

The owner of the plant that blew up, a pillar of the community in the West, carried a grand total of $1 million in insurance, less than the umbrella liability coverage for a small lake house. Can't sue him: no pockets. So now with the aid of plaintiff's attorneys -- and I bear no animus toward good plaintiff's attorneys -- the town has found a big chemical company with deep pockets to plumb.

Apparently CF Industries, the suit-worthy target, sold nothing to the plant in West. But they may have produced chemicals that other companies used to make fertilizer that they then sold to the West reseller. And CF Industries has pockets. Yeah, I guess all's fair in love, war and lawsuits.

But here's the bigger picture. Senator Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat, is urging a review of federal chemical safety regulations. So far only radio silence has emerged from the office of Governor Oops on this score. The mayor of West, meanwhile, has offered back-up to Oops, endorsing his no-stinking-regulation position.

Even The Dallas Morning News, hardly a liberal Democratic house organ, points out in an editorial today that simple conflicts of jurisdiction between state and federal agencies have stymied relief efforts in West. Forget about the regs themselves. We can't even decide whose regs to follow.

So here is my question. Before Governor Oops tries to use the president's prayers against him as a gouge for more cash, might it not behoove him at least to concede that Boxer is correct in seeking a review of the regulations and jurisdictions already in place? Before local officials in West do a reach-around to grab money from a corporation whose name they just learned a week ago, might it not behoove them to own up to at least some of their own failures of responsibility?

Because otherwise, here's what it looks like: Texas will do nothing as a state to responsibly regulate industries. Local Texans will do nothing to protect their own towns. But if anything bad does happen, Texas and its towns will regard a disaster as a kind of moral holiday, a chance to reach out and grab money from foreigners.

In other words, the basic moral and political model offered in this by the governor of the great state of Texas is a speed trap. Pass through here -- or don't pass through, just sell something to somebody else who does pass through -- and you better watch it, because we want your money. How is that "business friendly?" I'd say it's more like business better keep a hand on its wallet if it comes through here.

There has been a lot of chit-chat since Oops announced he's not going to run for re-election. Did you see that speech? Did anybody else think Oops was trying to channel Charlton Heston down from Sinai with the tablets?

Anyway, people are speculating about whether he will run for president again and if he does what it will take for him to expunge his oops moment in the last national campaign. The only thing I can think of is martyrdom.

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