Blowing up the discourse

Bad days for Dow, Pfizer, and children in death-row cell blocks


Dow Chemical celebrates the release of Oppenheimer on July 15

On Friday, a fire broke out at the Dow Chemical Plant in Plaquemine, Louisiana, one of the many petrochemical facilities that make up Cancer Alley. Six explosions sent a fiery mushroom cloud into the sky. “The incident occurred in Dow’s Glycol 2 Unit, which makes and handles the potent flammable and explosive chemical ethylene oxide,” the Advocate’s Lara Nicholson and David Mitchell reported.

“The company’s onsite firefighters spent more than a day battling the blaze before it was fully extinguished early Sunday morning,” WWNO’s Halle Parker reports. “The incident prompted an 8-hour shelter-in-place order for those living within a half-mile of the plant. Residents were asked to close their windows and turn off their air conditioning despite the humid, summer weather.” Temperatures reached 99° on Saturday, with a heat index of 107°.

U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration officials have opened an investigation into the disaster, only the most recent incident of many at the toxic plant.

“Neither Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) nor U.S. Rep. Garret Graves (R), who live in the area, have addressed the explosion.”

Maybe they were too busy playing NORCO.

Seventy miles up the Mississippi River is Louisiana State Penitentiary, the former Angola slave plantation and work camp that is now the nation’s largest maximum-security prison. A year ago, Gov. Bel Edwards began sending juveniles to the prison, where they are now housed in former death row cells, suffering under inhuman heat:

Youths housed in the former death row unit at Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola have had no air conditioning in their windowless, concrete cells as the heat index has risen above 130 degrees at times, according to an emergency court filing on behalf of juveniles held there.

An emergency filing from the American Civil Liberties Union notes that many of the children—almost all Black boys— are “being placed in routine solitary confinement for 72 hours.”

Louisiana’s Republican-dominated legislature has taken action this week, overriding Bel Edwards’ veto of their bill to ban trans youth health care.

One quarter of the nation’s supply of injectable drugs, flattened by a tornado.

When global warming meets corporate consolidation (obligatory plug: Matt Stoller’s Big newsletter), the result can be truly frightening. Yesterday, a fossil-fueled tornado ripped through Rocky Mount, North Carolina, utterly destroying Pfizer’s major drug-production facility there:

According to Pfizer’s website, the company’s Rocky Mount location is “one of the largest sterile injectable facilities in the world,” with around 25 percent of all sterile injectables used in U.S. hospitals being produced at the site.

The plant was a dominant source of intravenous antibiotics, anesthetics, chemotherapy medications and other medications needed for the sickest of patients.

For years, Pfizer was a top funder of the climate-denier think tank, Heartland Institute. Oops.1

Yesterday, Climate Defiance activists shut down the lunch of White House Deputy National Climate Advisor Mary Repko with House Democrats, including Rep. Sean Casten (D-Ill.), calling out the Biden administration for continuing to support fossil-fuel projects. Nine protesters were arrested. Here’s their legal defense fund

Wen Stephenson writes that “the willingness to take large risks—including the willingness to break things, in particular the things that are breaking the very biosphere—would seem a minimum requirement for any revolutionary-left movement worthy of the name.”

Reporters at the mainstream wire services are starting to connect the dots between our extreme summer and fossil-fueled global warming. Reuters’ Brendan O’Brien and Julia Harte lead the story “U.S. hit by blazing heat, smoky air, tropical storm all at once” with:

“As the United States and China, the world’s biggest polluters, tried to reach agreement to cut carbon emissions, Americans experienced a sampler of the extreme weather events that scientists say are likely to become more commonplace under fossil fuel-driven climate change.”

Atmospheric scientists say the global warming responsible for unrelenting heat in the Southwest also is making this kind of extreme rainfall a more frequent reality, because clouds hold more moisture as the temperature rises, resulting in more destructive storms.


“In Pennsylvania, searchers are still trying to find two children visiting from South Carolina who were swept away in what one fire chief called ‘a wall of water’ that hit their family and killed their mother Saturday. Four other people also died in those flash floods.”

At 9 AM, the House Natural Resources federal lands subcommittee held a hearing on legislation to subsidize veterans using national parks and public lands, as well as a bill to transfer federal land in Utah to facilitate the construction of a highway.

At 9:30 AM, Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), chair of the Senate Commerce subcommittee on oceans reviewed the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration budget with NOAA director Richard Spinrad and NOAA Corps Rear Admiral Nancy Hann.

Also at 9:30 AM, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee received testimony on the draft Water Resources Development Act of 2024, which will determine the next two years of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers water projects. Witnesses represented the Port of Los Angeles, the North Dakota-Minnesota Red River’s Metro Flood Diversion Authority, the Delaware Bayshore, and Mississippi River barge companies.

Hearings on the Hill:

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1 Until a campaign I helped run forced Pfizer to dump Heartland in 2012.

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