Billowing black clouds filled the air with noxious fumes Friday after two more containers exploded at the Arkema chemical plant in Crosby, Texas, northeast of Houston — which successfully lobbied against the implementation of safety regulations earlier this year.
In Crosby, TX, residents near the Arkema Plant have been told to stay away from their homes due to a looming chemical explosion. pic.twitter.com/X4s02s4DYk— CBS News (@CBSNews) August 30, 2017
In an attempt to quell the risk of more explosions, the company decided to burn the six leftover containers of organic peroxides after three containers already burned. The United States Chemical Safety Board is investigating the fires at the plant.
In an executive order in 2013, the President Barack Obama administration planned to overhaul the EPA’s safety regulations in order “to improve chemical process safety, assist local emergency authorities in planning for and responding to accidents, and improve public awareness of chemical hazards at regulated source.”
These new rules would have gone into effect on March 14 and would have governed safety management at the French-owned chemical plant, but the Trump administration halted these plans in response to a strong lobbying campaign by Arkema and its affiliated trade association, the American Chemistry Council.
According to the International Business Times, a 2014 Risk Management Plan admitted that the Crosby facility would be at risk of equipment failure in cases of extreme flooding, yet they still lobbied against the implementation of safety rules because the regulations would have added “significant new costs and burdens to the corporate audit process.”
The American Chemistry Council has spent more than $100 million supporting federal lawmakers since 2008, including Sen. John Cornyn (R), Rep. Joe Barton (R), Rep. Pete Olson (R), Rep. Gene Green (D), Rep. Pete Sessions (R), and Rep. Kevin Brady (R).
Republican lawmakers who received funding from the industry were integral in supporting a bill that ended the EPA safety regulations. Now, the Crosby plant is at risk of even more explosions, with the prospect of Arkema’s additional five plants in Texas facing risk of equipment failure due to flooding.
Daryl Roberts, vice president of manufacturing for Arkema’s American division, said in a news conference Friday that about 500,000 pounds of organic peroxides, which are used in making plastics, were in the trailers — along with the corrosive chemical sulfur dioxide.
“We continue to advise everyone to avoid the smoke and seek medical attention if they are exposed,” said Richard Rowe, the chief executive of Arkema’s American unit.
The plant has yet to release the extensive list of chemicals located in the Crosby facility, or the amounts of chemicals that are there, but it is clear the situation could escalate soon. Residents in the area should stay clear of the fumes, but hopefully, the company will be held accountable for avoiding the responsibility to keep people safe.
This company put their business ahead of the safety of everyone involved; the consequences are serious.
Banner/Thumbnail Credit: REUTERS/Adrees Latif