Arkema Inc., a Houston-area chemical plant that has been spewing “noxious” smoke and is widely expected to explode, had successfully lobbied the Trump administration and EPA administrator Scott Pruitt to strike down new safety regulations for chemical plants that would have targeted the Texas plant and gone into effect on March 14th.
After Trump took office, Arkema and its affiliated trade association, the American Chemistry Council, initiated a “furious lobbying campaign” in an effort to stop the Obama-era chemical plant safety rules from going into effect. The industry, which has spent over $100 million supporting federal lawmakers in the last decade, received backing on Capitol Hill by a slew of Republican Texas lawmakers, including Sen. John Cornyn, Rep. Joe Barton, Rep. Pete Olson, Rep. Pete Sessions, and Rep. Kevin Brady. Even Democratic lawmaker Gene Green joined in on the effort after receiving donations to his campaign.
In a letter objecting to the EPA’s proposed rules, Arkema complained that the rules “will likely add significant new costs and burdens to the corporate audit process.”
It should be noted that the regulations were imposed after a West, Texas fertilizer plant exploded in 2013, leaving 15 people dead and injuring 200 more.
Per CBS News:
Federal regulators say the way the fertilizer was stored, with combustible materials nearby, and the lack of ventilation were contributing factors to the detonation. But they also cited a failure to conduct safety inspections of the plant, shortcomings in emergency response such as with hazmat training, and poor land planning that allowed development to sprout around the plant over the years.
As a result, the EPA’s new regulations sought “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.”
To make matters worse, Arkema’s production plants in Texas – which, with the help of Texas politicians, subverted EPA rules and are now threatening the community – have received over $8.7 million in taxpayer subsidies.
According to the International Business Times:
Arkema’s Crosby plant — which OSHA fined more than $90,000 for ten “serious” violations earlier this year and has spewed smoke in Crosby — appears to be covered under the existing EPA rules because of the kinds of chemicals it uses. While Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has given chemical companies legal cover to hide the locations of their EPA-regulated chemicals, the Associated Press reports that the imperiled Arkema facility houses large amounts of toxic sulfur dioxide and flammable methylpropen, which required Arkema to submit a risk management plan to the agency — and which would have subjected the company to the strengthened safety rules.
While the Trump administration and his shills in Congress have been collecting campaign donations behind the scenes to undermine Americans’ safety, the impending Arkema explosion is blood on their hands. And Texans deserve to know why their lives are now in danger.
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Brian Tyler Cohen is a political writer, actor, and comedy sketch director. He graduated from Lehigh University with a dual degree in English and Business. He currently lives in Los Angeles.