For Your Reading “Pleasure”
The explosions in the Arkema Chemical plant in Crosby, Texas will most likely not be catastrophic. But the breakdown in this facility’s ability to safely withstand Hurricane Harvey elevated the issue of chemical plant safety in the era of climate change.
And that could be a good thing.
Below are just a few of the better articles I’ve seen so far about this problem (aside from mine, of course). Undoubtedly more to come. If you find any other good articles, please link them in the comments.
The Texas commission on environmental quality received dozens of reports of compromised infrastructure in Harvey’s wake. The second largest oil refinery in the country, a Baytown facility belonging to ExxonMobil, had a roof collapse and released pollutants into the air. Shell reported similar incidents due to heavy rains. Two tanks holding crude oil burst into flames near a wildlife preserve outside of Port Arthur after lightning struck the Karbuhn Oil Co.
“The Crosby plant’s dangerous situation is a symptom of a bigger problem involving the oil and chemical industry in the gulf region,” said Bill Hoyle, a former senior investigator for the Chemical Safety Board and now an independent safety consultant. “The Crosby plant is a wake-up call for an industry and their safety regulators who have not adequately taken action on lessons from Hurricane Katrina as well as the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan.”
Texas has more than 1,300 chemical plants, a large number of them in low-lying areas near the coast that are vulnerable to flooding.
Chemical facilities face danger during Harvey shutdowns — Houston Chronicle
Hurricane Harvey’s winds and floodwaters have created emergencies at chemical facilities across the Houston area, from an Exxon Mobil roof collapse at its massive Baytown complex to the risk of an explosion at a chemical plant northeast of Houston.
The incidents, which also included a shelter-in-place Monday evening in La Porte from a pipeline leak, reveal how dangerous it can be when a storm of Harvey’s magnitude collides with the nation’s petrochemical capital. Even the controlled, Harvey-related shutdowns of refineries and plants are resulting in the release of millions of pounds of carbon monoxide and other chemicals into the region’s atmosphere – primarily through a process called flaring.
First responders and residents may also have been caught off-guard by the chemicals in part because Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R), during his time as state attorney general, restricted access in 2014 to annual reports on facilities that house large quantities of potentially dangerous chemicals. He cited terrorism concerns. Those so-called Tier II reports were once available upon request to any member of the public, the Houston Chronicle reported. The nonprofit Center for Effective Government has argued that posting all risk-management plans and Tier II reports online would make it easier for first responders and the public to make sense of the information.
When a reporter asked Rennard why the company, faced with the hurricane forecast, and with the waters rising, hadn’t moved the chemicals somewhere else, he answered, “We certainly didn’t want to bring these containers out onto the road with hundreds of thousands of people being evacuated and having a trailer stuck on the highway somewhere.” That is a fair point, and an instructive one. The city of Houston didn’t order an early evacuation because officials were afraid of what could happen on the highways. Our coastal cities do not appear to be prepared for a new era of extreme weather; nor, for that matter, do our inland cities. And where are all the people and container trucks and chemical canisters supposed to go, anyway?
Texas Republicans Helped Chemical Plant That Exploded Lobby Against Safety Rules — International Business Times
The French company that says its Houston-area chemical plant is spewing “noxious” smoke — and may explode — successfully pressed federal regulators to delay new regulations designed to improve safety procedures at chemical plants, according to federal records reviewed by International Business Times. The rules, which were set to go into effect this year, were halted by the Trump administration after a furious lobbying campaign by plant owner Arkema and its affiliated trade association, the American Chemistry Council, which represents a chemical industry that has poured tens of millions of dollars into federal elections.