If you need any reminder of why allowing toxic industries to police themselves in the name of “smaller government”, and think deregulation is a bad idea, take a look at the report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released only a few weeks ago.

According to the Office of Infrastructure Security Compliance Division, companies involved in the production of dangerous chemicals have been submitting false and misleading reports regarding the risks of toxic release and how wide an area would be affected (known as the “Distance of Concern”). According to the GAO report, 44% of these companies understated these figures, resulting in the ISCD incorrectly assigning risk levels to such facilities.

The GAO also reports that, since September of 2013, the ISCD has been inspecting these facilities first-hand and addressing noncompliance “on a case-by-case basis.” However, the office has not established any way to enforce compliance deadlines or document whether or not these companies are following through and meeting deadlines. As of this past February, approximately half of the facilities had failed to put measures in place in order to meet required safety standards.

ISCD officials have their hands full; there are still as many as 2,900 plants and factories awaiting inspection – and it’s unlikely these companies will voluntarily do anything that might cut into profit margins – even if it puts lives and communities at risk.

K.J. McElrath is a former history and social studies teacher who has long maintained a keen interest in legal and social issues. In addition to writing for The Ring of Fire, he is the author of two published novels: Tamanous Cooley, a darkly comic environmental twist on Dante's Inferno, and The Missionary's Wife, a story of the conflict between human nature and fundamentalist religious dogma. When not engaged in journalistic or literary pursuits, K.J. works as an entertainer and film composer.