Chris Hayes has been all over the West, Texas explosion and the egregious lack of oversight. The last safety “inspection of the West fertilizer plant happened in– 1985.”
Two Bush administration officials, Christine Todd Whitman, who was head of the Environmental Protection Agency, and Tom Ridge, who was head of Homeland Security, came up with a plan to deal with the vulnerability. Whitman believed the EPA was already empowered to expand her agency's oversight of chemical plants under a section of the Clean Air Act, and she and Ridge worked out a deal to do so.
That is until the son-in-law of former vice president dick Cheney walked into the room, a guy by the name of Phillip Perry, who was at the time the general counsel of the White House Office of Management and Budget. And he made it clear the Bush administration was not going to support granting regulatory authority over chemical security to the EPA.
Basically, the Bush administration, from above, pulled support for that bill because the chemical industry did not want to be regulated by the EPA.
Fast forward a few years to 2007, and Phil Perry, again dick Cheney's son-in-law, is now over at the Department of Homeland Security as the department's general counsel.
And what he manages to do in an uncontroversial bill, an appropriations rider, is slip in industry friendly language into the bill that moves the task of regulating chemical plants from the Environmental Protection Agency to the Department of Homeland Security. But-- DHS is given none of the tools it would need to actually do that.
So let's recap. The Bush administration's own cabinet secretaries come up with plan to regulate these chemical plants. It is stymied by Phil Perry once. The Bush administration sides with the chemical industry when it's brought before the Congress and then basically in a back room maneuver, Perry does the chemical agency's bidding by moving the oversight of this from the EPA, which the chemical industry hates, to DHS, which the chemical industry thinks they can more easily manipulate.
Now, go ahead to six years. The West Fertilizer Company is storing more than 1300 times the amount of ammonium nitrate that would normally trigger safety oversight by DHS.
It does appear now not only did DHS literally have no idea that the West Fertilizer Company was storing ammonium nitrate, but according to Congresswoman Betty Thompson, a democrat from Mississippi, DHS did not know the plant existed until it blew up.
Now, here's what makes this incredible. In 2006, when a bill was introduced in the Senate to make chemical plants safer, a bill that was blocked by Republicans, the young Senator who introduced that bill was this man: