Energy & Environment

Chemical Company Praises Its Safety Record As Lawsuit Over Harvey Accident Continues

Harris County has alleged that chemical fires at Houston-area plant during Harvey caused harmful pollution

The Arkema plant in Crosby, Texas is covered in debris after a series of chemical fires that occurred as a result of floodwaters from Hurricane Harvey.

The owner of a Houston-area chemical plant that flooded and caught fire during Hurricane Harvey is praising the company’s safety culture. Meanwhile, Harris County is in talks with the company, Arkema, Inc., about settling a lawsuit over the fires.

In an interview for an upcoming chemical industry conference in Houston, Arkema’s vice president of health, safety and environment described how safety procedures at the company’s plants have improved. Paul Leonard said the global company has cut accidents by more than 60 percent in recent years.

Still, Harris County has alleged that the company didn’t have proper flood permits at its plant in Crosby, Texas, and that chemical fires there due to Harvey caused harmful pollution.

Rock Owens, an attorney with the county, said any settlement in the case will have to include improvements at the plant.

“Hardening the facility against floods, improved electrical backup, better safety planning going forward,” he said.

University of Houston chemical engineering professor Ramanan Krishnamoorti said Arkema, as a whole, does have a highly-regarded safety culture. He said it makes sense that the company hasn’t released details yet on any safety changes at its Crosby plant.

“A lot of times we have knee-jerk reactions, and often times when it comes to safety, the knee-jerk reaction is likely to be wrong,” he said.

In a lengthy statement, Arkema said it has a “long-standing commitment to safety,” which the company said it showed as it worked with authorities to shut down and evacuate the plant during Harvey.

“Wherever Arkema operates in the world, it places safety and the protection of people and the environment at the heart of its priorities,” the company said.

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Travis Bubenik

Travis Bubenik

Energy & Environment Reporter

Travis Bubenik reports on the tangled intersections of energy and the environment in Houston and across Texas. A Houston native and proud Longhorn, he returned to the Bayou City after serving as the Morning Edition Host & Reporter for Marfa Public Radio in Far West Texas. Bubenik was previously the...

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