Arkema chemical plant had help in blocking EPA safety regulations

Posted Aug 31, 2017 by Karen Graham
Two blasts at the Arkema SA chemical plant in Crosby, Texas, about 25 miles northeast of Houston, shook the area early Thursday, sending billowing plumes of black smoke into the sky. The company warns there could be more explosions.
The chemical plant was forced to shut down operations when floodwater six-feet deep inundated the facility. Organic peroxides used in the plant's manufacturing process started heating up after the facility's main source of power was lost.
Then, the power from the plant's backup generators was lost. Without refrigeration, the chemicals start to degrade with the end-result being an explosion or fire. At this point, Tuesday night, all plant employees were evacuated along with any residents within a 1.5-mile radius of the plant.
"We want local residents to be aware that product is stored in multiple locations on the site, and a threat of additional explosion remains," Arkema said in a statement, reports CNN. "Please do not return to the area within the evacuation zone until local emergency response authorities announce it is safe to do so."
The twin blasts on Thursday occurred because organic peroxides overheated. Wednesday evening, Rich Rowe, Arkema’s president, and CEO said that any explosion or fire damage will be minimal, saying the fire is “nothing that would pose any long-term harm or impact,” while environmental damages would be small.
Arkema Chemical Plant
Arkema Chemical Plant
#chemical plant - Twitter
Organic peroxides are harmful
However, 15 first responders this morning ended up being taken to hospital emergency rooms after coming into contact and breathing the thick, black smoke. And while plant and city officials are saying they believe the smoke is non-toxic, in a statement, Arkema says the thick black smoke "might be irritating to the eyes, skin, and lungs."
The company also says there is a small possibility that the organic peroxide, which is used in the production of plastic resins, will get into flood waters. Arkema says if the compounds do get into the water they will not explode or ignite. But the response they are giving the public may not be complete.
While the main hazards related to organic peroxides are their fire and explosion hazards, they may also be toxic or corrosive. Depending on the material, route of exposure (inhalation, eye or skin contact, or swallowing) and dose or amount of exposure, they can harm the body. Corrosive organic peroxides can also attack and destroy metals.
Arkema had lawmaker's help in blocking safety rules
In an interesting twist to this story, it has come to light that Arkema, a French Company successfully lobbied to get federal regulators to "delay new regulations designed to improve safety procedures at chemical plants," according to federal records reviewed by International Business Times.
Scott Pruitt signing the proposal that would begin the lengthy legal process of rolling back the Cle...
Scott Pruitt signing the proposal that would begin the lengthy legal process of rolling back the Clean Power Plan rules enacted under president Obama.
Scott Pruitt - EPA
The regulations were set to go into effect this year but they were blocked by the Trump administration after some heavy lobbying by Arkema and its affiliated trade association, the American Chemistry Council. They have poured tens of millions of dollars into our federal elections. Their success was due to being backed by top Texas Republican lawmakers who received big campaign donations from chemical industry donors.
Arkema has six chemical plants in Texas and has received over $8.7 million worth of taxpayer subsidies from the state. But here's something worth thinking about - OSHA fined the Crosby, Texas plant over $90,000 last year for 10 "serious" violations.
And while Texas Governor Greg Abbott has given chemical companies legal cover to hide the locations of their EPA-regulated chemicals, the Associated Press is reporting the plant also houses large amounts of toxic sulfur dioxide and highly flammable methylpropene. Arkema is required to submit a risk management plan to the agency, and this would have subjected the company to the strengthened safety rules. But EPA chief, Scott Pruitt blocked the rules that would have gone into effect on March 14.
In a letter to the EPA in August of 2016, which would not have made a difference when the rules went into effect in March this year, Arkema said the rule’s requirement of independent risk management audits “will likely add significant new costs and burdens to the corporate audit process.” The company also expressed their dislike for the rule’s “Safer Technology and Alternatives Analysis” (STAA) requirements.