Counterpoint: Why I stand behind government regulation

  • Article by: LOGAN THOMAS FAUST LUCE
  • Updated: September 4, 2014 - 5:51 PM

And against the Koch brothers and their defenders, who may think they have the public interest in mind, but don’t.

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April 18, 2013: Firefighters searched a destroyed apartment complex near the West Fertilizer Co. plant that exploded in West, Texas.

Photo: LM Otero • Associated Press,

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Fritz Corrigan (Opinion Exchange, Aug. 27) would like us to know that he stands with the Koch brothers against the scourge of government regulation. The fact that he doesn’t actually mention any specific regulations indicates that this argument is no more than ideological sour grapes. Instead, Corrigan stresses the economic potential of the ongoing expansion of the chemical and energy industries, which is indeed considerable. But these industries are not manufacturing puppies and lollipops. They produce a vast array of complex and dangerous outputs and byproducts that demand a comprehensive system of regulatory oversight. The history of Koch industries is a perfect example of the need for government regulation of energy and chemical production.

In 2000, Koch was levied what was then the largest environmental fine in Minnesota history, for dumping hundreds of thousands of gallons of jet fuel into wetlands and waterways near the Mississippi River. Additionally, wastewater monitoring and recording requirements were bypassed by dumping millions of gallons of wastewater onto the ground and increasing discharge into the Mississippi during the weekend, when no one was watching. Perhaps this is the “innovative genius” that Corrigan believes “trumps any rule or regulation.” I guess that argument didn’t stand up in court.

Corrigan also lauds the recent increased production of nitrogen fertilizers, which he credits with substantial economic development. These products are also, of course, liable to explode, as happened with tragic consequences last year in West, Texas. Fifteen people dead, more than 100 injuries, and substantial damage to a nearby middle school and nursing home were apparently insufficient to prompt any new regulations of similar facilities. So much for our authoritarian and power-mad regulators. But even the rules already on the books were too onerous for the Koch brothers, whose nitrogen facilities in Iowa and Kansas were fined last year for failing to implement an adequate risk management plan, including failing to properly coordinate with first responders. At least 10 first responders died in the West, Texas, explosion.

We need strong and independent oversight to ensure the safety of our citizens, their communities, and the ecosystems on which we all rely. But Fritz Corrigan seems to believe that regulations exist only to punish businesses. If you buy that, perhaps you can also believe that corporations are people, that limitless campaign contributions are free speech and that none of these toxic ideologies will imperil our democracy.

 

Logan Thomas Faust Luce, of Minneapolis, is an ecological consultant.

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