By Lewis Spearman
CROSBY – The strangest political times in centuries is centering around local concerns: the State, headed by conservatives, sued more suddenly than anyone expected the local plants that had fires. If they shutter local plants, who will fund the local schools and provide the jobs that the local plants provide?
Many with friends throughout the nation now hear that they know about Crosby. They know that local officials indicated there was no air quality issue after an explosion and after it was too late issued “shelter in place;” they heard a man was killed and two others put into critical condition at one plant; that law enforcement officers are suing another plant where the managers are facing criminal charges; and that President Trump came through to sign initiatives to “remove all preventative measures.”
When isobutylene ignited, there was an explosion at the KMCO plant on April 2. The plant is waiting to pass an inspection by the Harris County Fire Marshal’s office before it can reopen. It has been cited for lacking an emergency action plan, lack of monitoring, and benzene leaks after the plant had undergone a self-imposed reform program to make everything safer. But Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed suit right away after the explosion. But Ken Paxton did not file suit after a similar and deadlier explosion in 2013 in West at a fertilizer plant when 15 people died. Looks as if someone in government is trying to make up for a regulatory shortfall.
The ITC fire was the first major emergency for Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, who said the incident showed shortfalls in the county’s capabilities. She indicated county government in the past was too laissez faire. She ordered the county health department to hire private contractors to help with air monitoring at a cost of $375,000.
“We’re not just going to hope that this doesn’t happen again,” she said. “We’re going to do a thorough analysis and share the results, and do that quickly.”
Harris County has a Pollution Control department. It was once part of Health Department. Since the time in which it was separated, it has obtained only 2% more funding even though the county population has doubled in the last three decades. Pollution Control has cited 625 violations in 2018 but has not finish their probe of the KMCO fire.
Commissioners Court has been asked by Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg to appoint four more prosecutors for environmental crimes.