Houston News & Search
Arkema, the company that owns the chemical plant in Crosby on the verge of more explosions, is refusing to provide a chemical inventory and facility map to the public, one day after promising to provide the information.
Speaking to reporters this morning, Arkema CEO Richard Rowe said the company was balancing “the public’s right to know and the public’s right to be secure.”
Late Thursday night, the company provided a list, detailing the names of the chemicals on the site. It did not provide the amounts of the chemicals, where those chemicals were located or in what types of containers the chemicals were stored in.
It also refused to specify where even more potentially dangerous chemicals are located on site.
Melissa Wren, a company spokesperson, said the company was advised by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to refer all requests for the detailed chemical inventory, called a Tier Two, to the state agency.
“She’s mistaken,” said Andrea Morrow, spokesperson for TCEQ. “TCEQ has told Arkema they are free to release the Tier Two if they so choose.”
Morrow said if someone requests the Tier Two from TCEQ, it will have to be through a formal public information request and it would be sent to the Texas Attorney General’s Office.
That office, under Greg Abbott and now Ken Paxton, has blocked inventories from the public citing a state law that restricts information that might be useful to terrorists.
The Texas Homeland Security Act, passed in 2003, made government information confidential if it could be used to plot terror attacks. For more than a decade, the law was never invoked to block release of chemical inventories. The state reversed course after widespread media interest in the data following the 2013 explosion at a fertilizer plant in West, Texas.
Then-Attorney General Abbott, quoting the 2003 law, issued a ruling that allows state and local agencies to withhold inventories.
Abbott told reporters in 2014 that private companies were still required to release them to the public.
“You know where they are if you drive around,” Abbott said. “You can ask every facility whether or not they have chemicals … and if they do, they tell which ones they have.”
Former New Jersey congressman James Florio, helped craft the federal Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act, which requires companies to file the Tier Two inventories if they hold more than a certain amount of a long list oc chemicals.
In a 2016 interview with the Chronicle, Florio called the Texas approach “totally irrational” and said security concerns should be addressed by individual companies. The goal of the federal law “was to hold everyone to a minimal standard of disclosure,” he said. “Can you imagine if we relieved nuclear facilities of their security responsibilities, and we just tried to hide where they are?”
Darryl Roberts, a safety official for Arkema, said two chemicals contained on its government mandated worst case scenario report, sulfur dioxide and isobutylene. were located hundreds of yards from the organic peroxides exploding on the site.
“There’s no issues with any of those materials,” Roberts said. “No fire or water damage. No degradation in any of the systems that you’re asking about.”
Houston News & Search