CROSBY, Texas (FOX 26) - Arkema and one of its executives were indicted by a grand jury on a new charge in connection to the fire at the Crosby plant during Hurricane Harvey, Harris County District Atttorney Kim Ogg announced on Wednesday.
Ogg says a grand jury indicted Michael Keough, the vice president of logistics, with felony assault in the injury of two deputies who responded to the plant.
The district attorney’s office says Arkema and Keough caused “bodily injury to two sheriff’s deputies by withholding critical information needed by first responders to protect themselves and the community from chemicals released from Arkema's Crosby Plant.”
"The facts show Arkema knew of the dangers, withheld vital information, and unleashed harm on first responders and the community," Ogg said. "This felony indictment is a wake-up call to companies that would pollute our air and waterways, ignore best practices in safety, and put our communities at risk."
According to the district attorney’s office, Arkema told emergency personnel they were tracking the chemicals with off-site, real-time monitoring and would notify emergency personnel before there was a risk of exposure to toxic chemicals. The district attorney's office says evidence shows several chemical containers were completely unmonitored.
"In truth, what happened was the deputies unsuspectingly drove right into the middle of toxic fumes, and when mixed with the air, those toxic fumes became a cloud that exposed not just those first responders, but the residents of Crosby," Ogg said.
The Felony Assault charges announced Wednesday carry a punishment of 2-10 years as a third degree felony.
Rusty Hardin released this statement on behalf of Arkema Inc.:
Harris County prosecutors are doubling down on an unprecedented and outrageous attempt to criminalize a natural disaster. They have filed more charges trying to prosecute a company for the Act of God that was Hurricane Harvey. We can only conclude that with a May trial date looming, prosecutors realize they can’t prove the previous charges and are grasping at straws. This is a political prosecution in search of a theory.
Many citizens, businesses and even Harris County courthouses have still not recovered from the unexpected disaster that Harvey was. Yet the DA’s office persists in trying to place criminal blame on Arkema and its employees despite their remarkable and heroic efforts amid the six feet of water no one predicted.
The Harris County Flood Control District concluded that in the area of Arkema’s Crosby plant, Harvey was a 5,000- to 20,000-year rainfall event. That our county prosecutor persists in desperately seeking a way to criminally blame a company for the ravages of this storm should give us all pause. Arkema stands by its employees and will fight this unwarranted political action.