No immunity for FEMA

Published 10:57 pm Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The issue: Fumes in FEMA trailers

Our position: Immunity shouldn’t be granted.

It’s ironic that as hurricanes churn in the Gulf of Mexico, the Federal Emergency Management Agency should stand in court and request immunity from lawsuits filed by hurricane victims who claim they were exposed to dangerous fumes while living in government-issued trailers.

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Acres and acres of those trailers reside just outside Selma near the Dallas County Jail.

Many people in Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana and Texas were glad to live in those trailers shortly after hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005.

Then came the word that companies had supplied FEMA with tens of thousands trailers after the storms.

The legal battle comes as attorneys for the Gulf Coast victims accuse the federal agency of negligence for sheltering them in trailers with elevated levels of formaldehyde, a preservative used in construction materials that can induce breathing problems and is believed to cause cancer.

FEMA spent more than $2.5 billion to buy 140,000 trailers from recreational vehicle dealers and trailer manufacturers after the storm, according to the government’s attorney’s.

FEMA’s attorneys are pointing the fingers at the manufacturers, saying the government believed the trailers were safe and would be liable only if they could oversee the day-to-day operations of the manufacturers.

This is the same governmental agency that late last year had some of its employees act as reporters during a press conference about California wild fires. The fake reporters asked planted questions.

Later, FEMA officials apologized, but the damage was done.

There’s a lot of difference between fake reporters and unethical behavior at a press conference than putting homeless people in toxic trailers for months on end, then creeping into federal court to ask for immunity.

Remember the billions of dollars lost by driving by the fields of trailers north of town.