Freedom Industries! and why I ♥ Regulations

It’s the mantra that makes me want to grab the TV remote, smack the person who held it, and change the channel ASAP away from FOX News.


Me?  I  Regulations.  I dote on them.  I support them.

I understand them and why they are there.  I even lecture about them (and not just here on Word Press – people actually pay me money to do so).*  Regulations, I always tell folks, are the IKEA instructions that accompany the bookcase.  They are the “how-tos.”

Laws are enacted in response to our understanding that a problem exists, and we need to change what we do as a country to prevent it from happening again.  At the same time, we hopefully have enough vision to see some of the related problems that might occur and try to prevent them from occurring.  A few examples:

Our current Food and Drug laws, the Food and Drug Act of 1936 and the Food and Drug Act Amendments (commonly known as the Kefauver-Harris Amendments).  The FDCA was first enacted after a manufacturer added antifreeze (without testing its effects on people, animals or using their brains very much at all) to a cough remedy to make it more palatable to the kiddies.  The then-current law didn’t actually say that they couldn’t add antifreeze.  Guess what happened!  105 people died.

Another disaster involving a drug that was tested and tried, thalidomide, was found to cause serious birth defects in the babies born to pregnant women.  It wasn’t ever approved in the US thanks to Dr. Frances Kelsey

Dr. Frances Kelsey.   (Photo from Wikipedia article you should have already linked to and read.)

Dr. Frances Kelsey.
(Photo from Wikipedia article you should have already linked to and read.  What are you waiting for?)

Laws designed to safeguard our waters and land came about mostly in the 1970s after two hundred years of treating our country’s land and water like a sewer.  Diseases were springing up in neighborhoods where chemical companies had dumped chemicals.

Love Canal, where Hooker Chemical buried 21,000 tons of toxic waste! (Google Image)

Love Canal, where Hooker Chemical buried 21,000 tons of toxic waste!
(Google Image)

Our rivers were polluted.  If you fell into the Potomac River when I first moved here in 1979, you had to get a typhoid shot.  The Cuyahoga River in Cleveland burned.

Cuyahoga River Burns (June 22, 1969) (Google Image)

Cuyahoga River Burns (June 22, 1969)
(Google Image)

And so our then-FUNCTIONAL Congress (made up of folks who understood why they were elected and who believed in compromise and who believed in the need for government) passed laws to protect us and our land and our water and our air.  Now, our hazardous materials and hazardous waste are to be carefully monitored under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act and the Hazardous Materials Transportation Act.  Under the Clean Water Act.  The Clean Air Act.  And a bunch of others designed to keep you and me safe and keep industry behaving itself.

But laws only say:

 We’re Gonna Fix This Problem

Regulations give us step by step instructions on

How to Fix This Problem

Regulations are very specific.  In order to comply, you must do A,B and C, according to specific instructions.  When regulations are promulgated the agency asks the regulated industry to comment on them, how to make them more manageable, workable, less expensive to follow.  But the regulations cover testing, manufacturing techniques, storage, monitoring, record-keeping, transportation, the works.  Regulations have the force of law.  If a company doesn’t follow them, they are liable for penalties and/or imprisonment.


Regulations protect me.  They protect you.  They protect the United States of America from bad manufacturers.  They penalize the bad ones so that they don’t get away with messing up our planet.  They must be strong enough so that manufacturers fear them and therefore follow them.  Slaps on the wrist are ignored when there is money to be made by ignoring regulations. They must be strong.  (Because remember, there are idiots who would add antifreeze to cough syrup for a buck.)

Regulations are the rules that society agrees to adhere to often in spite of the fact that they are a serious pain in the ass.

Regulations, I say to those still awake in my lectures, are like the IKEA instructions.  The furniture is no good without them.  But they need to be followed.

Take this week’s Freedom Industries leak of 4-methylcyclohexanemethanol, or Crude MCHM, a heavy-duty chemical used in processing coal.  Current estimates are that this leak — from a facility brilliantly located upriver from a water purification plant — contaminated the drinking water of more than 100,000 residents of West Virginia.

Thirsty? (Photo from CNN)

(Photo from CNN)

Freedom Industries has said don’t know when the spill started.  They don’t know how much spilled.  They don’t know whether the stuff that has made the entire area smell like licorice is, in fact, terribly toxic to people or if so, how toxic it is to human health.

They are supposed to know or they didn’t comply with the regulations.

They are supposed to measure the amount in the tanks.  Frequently.

They are supposed to record the amount they add or remove from the tanks.  Every single time they do this.

They are supposed to test.  Frequently.

They are supposed to monitor for leaks.  Frequently.

They are supposed to comply with the regulations.  It seems as if they did not.

They are supposed to make sure that they don’t fucking contaminate the fucking water for a hundred thousand people and possibly, probably more.

And if they didn’t they should go to jail.

I’m betting that they didn’t — that they didn’t follow the regulations.  Time will tell.

Freedom Industries  (Washington Post Image)

Freedom Industries
(Washington Post Image)

Just imagine what the rest of our country, our land, our rivers, our air, would be like if there were no regulations.  And you know, don’t you, that the Republican party is oh-so-determined to cut regulations.  To protect industry.  Not you.  Not me.  Industry.  Like Freedom Industries.

Do me a favor.  Think of Freedom Industries whenever you hear someone bitch about the loss of freedom from regulations.

Think of what we’d lose without regulation.

*   *   *

* From 1980-1989, I analyzed environmental regulations and drafted memos to folks on the steps they needed to comply with the regulations that are designed to keep our land, water and air cleaner.

For the past 10 years, I’ve examined a zillion company documents that show how they comply with their IKEA instructions.

*     *     *

Yeah, I know I said I wouldn’t be around much.  But sometimes I just can’t shut up.


Filed under Climate Change, Conspicuous consumption, Criminal Activity, Disgustology, Elections, GOP, Health and Medicine, History, Huh?, Humor, Hypocrisy, Law, Science, Stupidity, Technology, Voting

56 responses to “Freedom Industries! and why I ♥ Regulations

  1. Just another story that proves how much we still need regulations! It would be lovely if we lived in the world that Republicans pretend we do, you know, the one where benevolent corporations and industries can be trusted to regulate themselves because they love people and would never cause us harm. The reality is that there are not enough regulations and penalties since outrageous events like West Virginia would be more rare.


  2. Thanks for this impassioned explanation. You are so right! We have to have regulations to protect us from the unscrupulous, clueless and criminal. We also have to balance that against the desire/necessity for people (and businesses) to be free. It’s got to be a balance, one that is subject to constant scrutiny so that it protects without strangling.


    • Obviously, I’m in favor of regulation, and I agree that there must be a balance, but it is currently tipped drastically in favor of industry. The folks turning on their taps deserve freedom, too — freedom from toxins!

      There is a cost, but I for one think it can be managed by taking it directly out of the pocket of the top execs — you know the ones being paid $ zillions?


  3. Even though we don’t live in the same country, you keep those guys following those regulations! What happens in the US usually follows in Canada.


  4. So, so terrible and easily avoided, I’m sure. You nailed it.


  5. Snoring Dog Studio

    As a former regulatory affairs specialist for a medical device industry, I knew then and still know how very critical regulations are. I hate that some business people (and the Tea Party) think that regulations are here to curtail progress and get in the way. Something went horribly wrong in this toxic spill. People failed by not following regulations or by cutting corners. And because of that, people are suffering, the environment is suffering, and it will cost millions to fix. Thank goodness for regulations, but I also wish we’d stop cutting funding to our regulatory agencies.


  6. Thanks, Elise — I’ve read or heard at least a couple stories about this since it happened, but none of them has mentioned the name of the company or any regulations it violated. They’ve all focused on what people are doing to cope (I hate to think of what it would be like not to be able to use tap water for *anything* except flushing the toilet for days) and how long it will take until the water is safe again.


    • I meant at least a couple stories each day.


    • My assessment isn’t something I read in the paper. It’s just that I once wrote memos on tanks containing oil and/or hazardous chemicals. They must be double-hulled, have containment fields around them. And they must be monitored with levels taken at specified intervals. Careful records must be kept of all of this. That way a leak is found quickly because of course they do happen. But following the regs makes inevitable problems manageable.

      This isn’t very manageable — when I wrote this, the news was saying 100,000 were affected. Now they are saying 300,000 with some hospitalizations. Oy.

      The company is new, but it is a merger of a few companies; management didn’t really change (but I am sure they will play that up when the investigations come).


  7. Mr. Weebles and I were talking about this very thing. What kills me is that so many Tea Partiers etc rip things like regulations, saying that they’re intruding on individual freedoms, etc. But then when things like this happen, of course they expect the government to clean up the mess. I’m not saying the government is perfect as is, because of course it isn’t. But without things like the EPA, FDA, USDA, etc, we’d be in much deeper doo-doo than we’re already in, literally and figuratively. Thank you for articulating this so very well, Elyse.


    • Thanks, Weebs. Of course the Tea Partiers are fine with regulating women’s issues and access to birth control. And who we love ….. Always, always in the name of “FREEDOM” the irony of the name of this company couldn’t be more clear!


  8. Your passion is outstanding Elyse and it runs deep. God help us all if things were not regulated! Where do I get my I ❤ Regulations t-shirt?


  9. Just this morning, I was thinking about the late 18th century, when an accident couldn’t pollute nine counties’ drinking supply. What have we done. We can feed more people with our industrialization, but at what price? thanks for the post.


    • Hi Barb,

      Good to see you! Happy New Year!

      Yes, we can do all kinds of things — and we have far more effective ways nowadays to injure, sicken and kill more people than ever before. Progress?


  10. They need to regulate our food products. They are pumping hormones in live stock and feeding it to us. Or we are buying it and feeding it to ourselves.


  11. dentaleggs


    Don’t ever shut up… though I’m certain you won’t… *do I still have to wink when you know I would be?*


    • Even when I say I’m going to be quiet, like I did the day before yesterday, I can’t. Sigh.

      But this sort of stuff does make me crazy. And talkative.


  12. Fortunately, all the regulations they want to cut will be replaced by the ones that control what my wife can do with her body.
    So really, it balances out.

    Can we send them a few cases of that contaminated water for their meetings?


    • Ain’t that amazing, Guap? Regulation is the devil unless it somehow involves sex. Then the holier than thou crowd can’t get enough regulation. Because bedrooms, vaginas and penises are fair game.


  13. I always learn something when you don’t shut up. I appreciate the none shutting up.


  14. Excellent, informative post.


  15. I love your passion.


  16. Wow. My news avoidance this week has been a success, as I hadn’t caught this story. The idea that we can rely on businesses and corporations to police themselves is idiotic. I agree that policies and regulations need to be reviewed on a regular basis and that there should be some adaptability built in, but honestly, I think time has proven that we need government and we need regulation.


    • This only happened on Thursday — I only learned about it yesterday, and I’m a complete news junkie! And idiotic is the word for it. There will always be people who cross the line if they can get away with it, and especially if there is money to be made.

      Regulation is for our own good.


  17. I like regulations. They regulate people. Could not have civilization without them. Too bad so many feel themselves exempt. What a better world it would be if everyone could just “get it” – we are all human in this together and whatever we do that harms anyone or anything also affects us… or the people we love, too… eventually… If not this generation then the next. Living in the moment is just way too common out there. Enough of reality tv, let’s have our true journalism back that reports this stuff and keeps it in the forefront instead of the Kardashians or wtf ever… sigh.


  18. Even the name Freedom Industries used in this context makes me want to barf up buckets of that ugly polluted water. Free to poison? Free to dump with no repercussions? Free to get away with murder?


    • Yup. That’s the way I feel like whenever someone claims to be doing something for “FREEDOM.” To me, that’s code for “I’m going to do whatever I damn well please.”

      Buckets full of barf is right!


  19. I also think about BP oil spill in the Gulf, Texas fertilizer plant explosion last year, garment factory collapse in Bangladesh, multiple coal mine collapses and explosions in West Virginia, and so on, and so on. Private enterprise is out to make money – it’s just what they are, and if they find it cheaper to not follow regulations, they won’t.


    • Absolutely right. There are just too many who put profits above people. Accidents are bound to happen, but regulations are put in place to make them less likely and to mitigate the damage when they do. But of course, they need to be followed. And the people who handle dangerous products — chemicals and oil — that can adversely impact thousands of people in an instant — need to be regulated carefully.


  20. bigsheepcommunications

    Okay, wait, I’m confused. First, why were you watching Fox news in the first place and second, isn’t “functional congress” an oxymoron?


  21. I am so with you on this, and of course, my public health background doesn’t bias me a bit. 😉

    Well said. An important piece to remind people of why we do indeed need regulation and oversight. As I’ve said before, I don’t want to live in a society where little regulation exists. That would be called chaos.


    • It would be Chaos (and not like in Get Smart, either). Sometimes it is willful neglect, sometimes it is ignorance (that shouldn’t be tolerated) and sometimes things happen accidentally. But it is so very important to have plans to prevent, respond, and accept responsibility. And the anti-regulations folks are all about irresponsibility in my book.


      • A usual complaint against regulation is lack of consistency, bureaucratic red tape, redundancies, incompetence, etc. Yes, as with every system, there are flaws and inefficiencies. That’s why ongoing quality improvement is a necessary part of any formal system.


        • That’s absolutely true. And as you said, they are changed and amended to be more workable. And industry is included and asked how to make them more manageable.

          But I think most in the “anti-regulation” crowd don’t have a clue what they are, what they do, and their benefits!


  22. Deborah the Closet Monster

    I am SO glad you did not shut up for this! Or any other post, for that matter. But especially this. I want to say more, and more eloquently, but the lover of process and measures to make sensible change in me just . . . just . . . LOVE.


    • It’s rare that someone tells me NOT to shut up, Deb, thanks!

      I’ve been thinking of writing this post forever. But sometimes you just have to speak up. Because nobody ever says they love regulations! They are so vital though!


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