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Posts tagged as “Arkema”

Judge ends Arkema trial with no convictions

August 25, until September 2, 2017 Hurricane Harvey brought a historic deluge, flooding knocked out power and refrigeration units were lost. Organic peroxides blazed after all cooling methods failed.As warned by company executives at a press briefing at Crosby Volunteer Fire Department Station Two in Newport, trailers containing chemicals that become volatile at normal temperatures explode outside a warehouse at Arkema Chemical Crosby. About 200 locals were evacuated and 21 first responders were treated at local hospitals.

By Lewis Spearman

HOUSTON – On October 1, Arkema SA and executives were acquitted of criminal charges related to events that followed Hurricane Harvey in 2017.

Arkema executives were charged with the crime of felony assault related to failure to provide adequate emergency response information related to first responders entering into a location with toxic fumes. The company was earlier similarly indicted for failure to assess risks.

Although the acquittal bears directly on the responsibility of the company it does not necessarily end the lawsuits related to the incidents.

The same judge found that prosecutors had committed unintentional misconduct.

A 2018 US Chemical Safety Board final report indicated that Arkema had not considered flooding a “credible risk” although it is within the flooding plain and that agency urged better preparation for extreme weather.

Arkema trial: Prosecutor drops assault charges

HOUSTON – The Arkema trail is on hold currently due to COVID-19 but resumes on September 21, already prosecutors have submitted for and State Judge Belinda Hill accepted on Monday to drop assault charges in the release of toxic fumes affecting to two deputies.

The prosecution admitted that charges against three company executive may have been based on a lie in relation to reckless behavior charges.

“Prosecutors always have a duty to seek justice; in this case, a prosecutor felt that there was enough evidence for a criminal charge, but that he could not prove that charge beyond a reasonable doubt at this time, so he requested it be dismissed,” Dave Schiller, Harris County District Attorney’s Office.

Richard Rowe and Leslie Comardelle (the former plant manager) are still charged with reckless emission of air contaminants. Possible consequences for those charges could be $1 million dollar fine for Arkema and five years for the decision makers.

The defense argues that prosecutors are still withholding exculpatory evidence, illegally.

Arkema motions charge misconduct

HOUSTON – When the Arkema criminal trial resumed weeks ago in the new setting, second floor of NRG Arena, both prosecution and defense filed motions charging each other with legal misconduct; prosecutors alleged jury tampering, the defense alleging disregard for disclosure obligations and violation of due process.

Just as flood waters receded, as Crosby residents were beginning to recover from Hurricane Harvey in late August of 2017, US 90 was shut down and over 200 residents were evacuated from their homes because it was learned that there could soon be an explosion at Arkema Chemical Plant. Trailers containing chemicals that had lost their refrigeration had reached critical temperatures and were separated from others to a nearby warehouse. When the explosion happened, fumes were emitted that hospitalized more than twenty people including first responders.

Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg took the unusual step to bring criminal charges against certain decision makers for Arkema. Alleging that Arkema acted recklessly through a “‘gross deviation’ from objective standards of conduct within the chemical manufacturing community.”

Backlog of criminal cases imperils justice

By Lewis Spearman

HARRIS COUNTY – Local government is trying to catch up an extreme backlog of cases threatening destruction of the criminal justice system.

While a backlog of felony and misdemeanor cases is nothing new in the county, several factors have made the situation critical. Nearly 81,000 cases are now pending, a doubling of last year.

The criminal courthouse was water damaged by Hurricane Harvey, the COVID-19 pandemic rendered housing inmates, selecting juries, and the halt of trials problematic. Add to that since the 2018 election more than 140 lawyers no longer work for the prosecutor’s office.

District Attorney Kim Ogg discharged some of the lawyers after taking office, others quit citing low pay and the progressive agenda she has initiated. More than a million and a half dollars in compensation and vacation time went with them.

All jury trials and jury selection were stopped by the Supreme Court of Texas due to precautions over COVID-19, that order was extended until September 1. Special permission from regional judges and the state Office of Court Administration can provide the rare exceptions.

A Harris County Commissioners Court meeting invited the Justice Management Institute, (JMI) a nonprofit organization to address the county’s problems over the last five years. Commissioners heard from Thomas Eberly, “inability to handle the volume of felony cases,” causes delays and long pretrial incarceration.

Complications in Arkema trial

HOUSTON – Arkema SA’s U.S. arm has the dubious distinction of being one of few industrial companies charged with criminal behavior related to exploding chemicals and the fumes that came from those explosions after Hurricane Harvey.

The case will test if the states can hold companies, their decisions makers and personnel accountable for not handling their products safely.

Arkema’s Richard Rowe, the U.S. Chief executive of the company, and Leslie Comardelle, the plant manager, are charged with reckless emission of air contaminants. Michael Keough, then Vice President of Logistics, who helped coordinate the response to a situation in which some chemicals would explode was charged with assault on first responders who inhaled fumes after “a controlled explosion,” alleging that it was an assault on a public servant after select chemicals exploded.

The threat for these executives is a possible five years in jail for endangering the public and the company could be fined about a million dollars. All pleaded not guilty in court.

Related cases have made everything somewhat complicated. Arkema Inc. wants a pretrial consolidation of eight law suits for 750 plaintiffs that allege harm by chemical releases. On April 20, the company asked Texas Judicial Panel on Multi-district Litigation to appoint a pretrial judge to oversee the pending cases now in six district courts within Harris and Liberty Counties against 63 defendants. Defense attorneys say similar complaints are related to failure to prevent the release of the toxic fumes.

Arkema trial begins

The flames that evacuated over 200 neighbors after they had flooded.

CROSBY – Three men and the company they work for begin trial next Monday on criminal charges for explosions, fumes and fires related to the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.

After the deluge of over 40 inches, the flood killed power to the plant 175 tons of chemicals that become volatile if they are not congealed within their chilly temperature range were taken to a location away from other chemicals and allowed to blaze and explode.

A grand jury concluded Arkema was responsible for the release of a toxic cloud over the Crosby community, prosecutors announced last year.

Arkema North America, its CEO Richard Rowe, and plant manager Leslie Comardelle, are named in the indictment. Mike Keough was charged with felony assault for “causing bodily injury” to two sheriff’s deputies because the company withheld information from first responders that was vital to their safety and the safety of others. Keough is now retired.

The company lawyers, Arkema North America’s, are arguing that the series of incidents were an “act of God” but local authorities say it is time that chemical companies were held accountable for decisions that endanger the public and public servants.

ARKEMA: Safety Board must develop plan for reporting emissions

CROSBY – The Arkema accident continues to have repercussions at a national as well as local level.

The U. S. Chemical Safety Board has dropped an appeal of a federal court decision that requires the agency to regulate the reporting of chemical emissions resulting from accidents like the one at Arkema Chemical Company, in a motion filed August 8th, 2019.

That was related to Judge Amit P. Mehta of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled on Feb. 4 that the Chemical Safety Board had to develop a final requirement for organizations to report chemical releases to the agency.

The CSB subsequently tried to get that decision reversed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

A lawsuit was filed concerning a chemical release from Arkema Inc. after Hurricane Harvey flooded the area and some inadequately refrigerated chemical decomposed and caught fire. Then they were allowed to explode and some 21 people needed medical attention from exposure to toxic fumes. Plaintiffs in the federal suit include Air Alliance Houston, the Louisiana Bucket Brigade and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.

Arkema faces new charges

CROSBY – According to Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg a grand jury has indicted Arkema Inc. and Mike Keough, the company’s vice president of logistics, on a felony charge of causing bodily injury to two sheriff’s deputies by withholding critical information needed by first responders to protect themselves and the community from chemicals released when Arkema’s Crosby Plant caught fire after Hurricane Harvey in 2017.

Said Ogg on April 10, “The facts show Arkema knew of the dangers, withheld vital information, and unleashed harm on first responders and the community. 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.”

Rusty Hardin has been retained by Arkema as attorney and answered the charges on the company’s website.

“Harris County prosecutors are doubling down on an unprecedented and outrageous attempt to criminalize a natural disaster,” Hardin said in the statement.

Arkema indicted for toxic emissions

CROSBY – Arkema has been indicted for Emission of Air Contamination under the Texas Water Code. It carries with it a penalty of up to 5 years in jail and/or $1 Million fine.

A Harris County grand jury on Friday indicted the French chemical company Arkema North America in connection with the release of toxic chemicals during a fire after the Crosby plant was flooded during Hurricane Harvey last August.

Richard Rowe, CEO, and plant manager Leslie Comardelle made their initial court showing Monday on criminal charges. Allegedly, they had felony “reckless emissions” of chemicals into the air and water, putting residents and first responders at risk in the days after Harvey dumped 51 inches of rain on the Houston area, according to the Harris County District Attorney’s office. Bond for each man has been set at $20,000. Arraignment should be in October.