On April 26, 2014 a major explosion occurred at a Koch Industries owned, Georgia Pacific pulp and paper plant, located in Corrigan, Texas. The explosion severely injured at least seven people. NBC affiliate KETK reported at least four life flight helicopters on the scene, on Saturday evening, following the explosion. Others were taken by ambulance to a hospital in Luftkin, Tx.
According to Khou, 11 news, the explosion happened at around 6:30 pm. Initial reports from firefighters on the scene suggest that the explosion was the result of faulty equipment at the plant. The Corrigan fire chief stated that the injuries appeared ‘very bad.’
Georgia Pacific was acquired by Koch Industries in 2005. It should come as no surprise that Georgia Pacific, owned by the anti-government, anti-inspection, anti-regulation, libertarian Koch brothers has a history of injuring and killing workers.
Less than a week before the explosion, on April 15 2014, WTOK in Alabama reported that an employee of a Georgia Pacific paper mill was killed, following a ‘workplace accident.’
In October of 2013, another worker was killed after “a vacuum-pressure relief device discharged steam and paper stock” causing a watchman to fall 30 feet, to his death. That incident occurred at a Georgia Pacific plant in Cedar Springs, GA. Following that death, OSHA cited Georgia Pacific for several serious workplace safety violations,
“Investigators found that a rusted, loose and improperly anchored catwalk guardrail system gave way when steam pushed the worker against it. OSHA also issued citations for inadequately written procedures for assuring that equipment was rendered inoperable while employees performed welding operations; failure to locate pressure-relief devices, so they vented away from employees; and failure to assure that input valves were closed and locked before welding began.”
Georgia Pacific employee deaths occur regularly; for instance, deaths were reported in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and so on.
Residents of Crossett, Arkansas, where a Georgia Pacific paper mill is located, are experiencing far higher than normal rates of lung cancer, which have been linked to the Koch owned plant.
It’s no surprise, either, that these incidents have taken place in Republican states like Georgia, Texas and Arkansas. Red state governments send out open invitations for companies that are looking to skirt safety regulations, avoid inspections, dodge taxes and exploit workers.
Last year Texas governor Rick Perry released a series of ads that were meant to attract businesses to his state. In the ads, Perry bragged about the lone star state’s lax regulations and oversight of businesses. Shortly after he released the ads, a massive explosion at a West Texas fertilizer plant went off ‘like a nuclear bomb,” nearly wiping an entire town off the map. Hundreds of people were injured or killed and clean up costs following the devastating explosion are likely to exceed $100 million dollars.
The truth is those ‘job killing regulations’ that republicans like Rick Perry, and tea party libertarians like Charles and David Koch, are always railing against, are actually vital, life saving oversight programs. Regulations protect workers from being blown up on the job. They keep corporations from destroying the water supply or sending poisons into the air we breathe. They protect ordinary people from exploitation.
Charles and David Koch have poured billions of dollars into the political process, in an effort to decimate regulatory policies and eliminate the agencies that enforce them. How many people would be alive today if the poured that money into ensuring that the companies they own meet all state and federal workplace safety standards instead?