Environment Texas and U.S. PIRG Statement on Port Neches Explosion

AUSTIN - This morning the TPC chemical plant in Port Neches, Texas exploded, sending three workers to the hospital and causing damage throughout the city. 

“Yet another disaster at a chemical plant in Texas, putting local communities, workers, and first responders at risk,” said Catherine Fraser, Clean Air Associate with Environment Texas. “This facility has a track record of violating the Clean Air Act, with five other illegal emissions events just in 2019, emitting carcinogenic 1,3 butadiene and other chemicals, and a history of community complaints. According to the EPA, the TPC Plant has been in non-compliance 12 separate quarters over the last 3 years, and has received 7 formal enforcement actions over the last 5 years. According to the TCEQ, the chemical of most concern is #butadiene. The TPC plant emitted 61,379 pounds of butadiene in 2018. Butadiene is a known human carcinogen.” 

“This event, days after the Trump EPA overturned parts of the Chemical Disaster Rule, is a timely warning that state and federal officials need to do more to keep communities safe.  Disasters like these are terrifying and unacceptable, and the TCEQ and EPA need to take much tougher enforcement actions and strengthen safety regulations, like the Chemical Disaster Rule, to build safer and healthier communities.”

A Nederland community member filed this complaint to the TCEQ following a May 2018 emissions event at the TPC Port Neches Plant, “I have lived in the Golden Triangle area my entire life, and I myself am a victim of multiple respiratory diseases directly related to the refineries, at which I have never even worked. I find it sad that my personal and my community's health seems to be mean less to the State and Federal Entities than the profits of corporations. Just look at the rate of cancer per capita in Jefferson County compared to the rest of the United States. Events such as this pollution release are killing hard-working, law-abiding, tax-paying Americans, just so corporations can save a buck. It evokes the idea that these corporations and the government that is supposed to regulate them place a very low value on human life.”

“The risk of chemical disaster is not just a Texas problem,” said Yana Kucher, Chair of the Toxics program at U.S. PIRG. “More than 40 percent of Americans live in the danger zone of a facility that stores or uses hazardous chemicals.” 

The Port Neches explosion comes only a week after the Trump administration significantly weakened the Chemical Disaster Rule, which was passed by the Obama administration in response to a 2013 explosion. The original rule would have required  companies to take measures to prevent chemical accidents, including the use of safer technology and procedures, third-party audits in the event of a problem, and determination of the “root-problem” of any accident. “Tragic incidents like this underscore the need for stronger safety policies to protect our communities and prevent disasters like this from happening in the future,” said Kucher.