Systemic Risk: Increased Technological Hazards and Current Regulatory Frameworks in the U.S.

Monday, 11 July 2016: 16:15
Location: Hörsaal 5A G (Neues Institutsgebäude (NIG))
Oral Presentation
Lee MILLER, Sociology, Sam Houston State University, Huntsville, TX, USA
Three recent case studies --- a deadly explosion at a fertilizer company that all but leveled a small town, a mysterious fire at a chemical company near a residential area, and drinking water contamination from oil fracturing --- are examined to highlight weaknesses in the current regulatory structure that may benefit businesses in the short term but have serious, and frequent, ramifications for residents and the environment. Drawing on Miller, Antonio, and Bonanno (2011), Lakoff (2010), Perrow (2008, 2007), and Beck (2007) this paper explores how the current regulatory context embodies the contradictory goals of facilitating business growth and protecting people and places. The lack of zoning restrictions, little oversight of hazardous chemical storage, and the ability to preserve trade secrets even when response crews are attempting to extinguish the flames, contribute to increased technological hazards. All three incidents discussed here occurred in Texas, a state that is particularly contrary to regulation, and therefore serves as a cautionary tale to other regions favoring economic development at all costs, even to the detriment of public safety.