Natural Disasters Expose the Unnatural Ones Too
As the Gulf coast digs out from Hurricane Laura, one particular industry’s history of avoiding government oversight and obligations is going to make recovery a lot worse and much more dangerous. The stretch of land on either side of the Texas-Louisiana border is full of petrochemical companies large and small. These companies have successfully lobbied for relief from regulation, all the while taking significant government funds (including PPP loans intended to help small companies suffering through the coronavirus crisis). The end result is a series of chemical plants and refineries with a bad environment track record that are at risk in the event of a major storm, such as Laura.
Initial reports from Laura’s destruction indicate at least one industrial accident caused by the storm. In Lake Charles, a leak from a chlorine plant caught fire, leaking dangerous gasses into the air and water. The long-term effects of this environmental crisis can’t yet be known.
The 10 refineries that line the shipping channel into Houston avoided a direct hit. But as a 2016 Pro Publica article put it, it’s not a question of if, but when, these refineries will face a serious storm. Concerns about the environmental disaster when a storm hits Houston have only increased in the last few years. In Louisiana, it is no better. The multiple refineries in Lake Charles have a history of leaks despite construction intended to withstand hurricanes. And, in 2018, three major companies in the area settled federal and state charges that they illegally dumped chemicals into the water supply. As climate change increases the likelihood of major storms, we are all going to learn the potentially disastrous ramifications from these companies not ensuring the safety of their facilities.
If you have information about fraud in the petrochemical industry, please contact us.
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