Trump’s Involvement In Houston Chemical Plant Explosion Will Set Your Hair On Fire

In the aftermath of the historic flooding that accompanied Hurricane Harvey’s high winds and torrential rains, there was a surprising effect on the Arkema chemical plant east of Houston on Greens Bayou. The facility was inundated with so much water that it lost power, and that’s when the chemical reactions began. When stored at improper temperatures, the organic peroxides at Arkema are unstable, leading to “popping” sounds, smoke, and eventually fire.

Those fires emitted a smoke that many in the area described differently. Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said the emissions were like”standing over a barbecue pit or something like that, where you get smoke in your eyes,” according to NBC News. Richard Rennard, a representative of Arkema, described what came from the plant a little more cautiously:

[The emissions are] noxious, certainly. I don’t know the composition of the smoke.

A deputy was, in fact, taken to the hospital after inhaling the fumes coming from the plant.

But after officials warned everyone in a nearly two-mile radius that more explosions could follow, questions about whether the plant was following proper safety protocols began to arise. That’s when Arkema’s connection to the Trump EPA came to light.

The International Business Times got their hands on federal records that showed Arkema successfully lobbied EPA Chief Scott Pruitt and a number of Republicans in an effort to delay new safety regulations for chemical plants that were passed by the Obama administration. Those rules, crafted after the chemical plant disaster in West, Texas 200 miles from Houston, would have taken effect in March. They also would have directly affected Arkema.

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In their letter opposing the new regulations, Arkema used standard conservative trope: That the rules would “likely add significant new costs and burdens to the corporate audit process.” Those costs, of course, would be on top of the more than $90,000 in OSHA fines assessed to the Crosby Arkema plant this year alone, all for “serious” violations. But it was nonetheless Arkema’s conclusion that “the final rule includes a litany of costly changes that have not been shown to increase safety.”

That seems a little less than true at this point.

Although Texas Governor Greg Abbott has blocked public access to state records of just what chemicals are stored in which facilities, the AP reported that the Arkema plant also housed sulfur dioxide and methylpropen, which are, respectively, toxic and flammable. Storage of these chemicals would have required Arkema to file a risk management plan with the EPA — which would have triggered the new Obama-era rules.

If Trump hadn’t struck them down, that is.


Featured image via Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images