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Posts tagged as “Hurricane Harvey”

GLO responds to criticism, sends $750 mil to Harris County

HARRIS COUNTY – After last week’s announcement from the state GLO, local leaders in Harris County and the City of Houston were vocal in their unhappiness about the fact that almost no flood mitigation funds had been allocated for these two areas, in spite of the fact that Hurricane Harvey had devastated more homes and businesses than anywhere else in the state. Judge Hidalgo petitioned HUD, the federal department providing the flood funds to the state, to reconsider the criteria and allocate money to the local needs.

As a result, George P. Bush, director of the GLO, changed his original statement and promised the county that they would receive a block grant of $750 million without waiting for the second round of allocations. However, as told to this newspaper by a representative of the GLO, this money will come from the $2.144 billion sent to Texas for flood mitigation from Hurricane Harvey, rather than additional funding.

GLO, Feds deny flood funds to Harris County

Harris County and Houston officials learned Friday that the state GLO (General Land Office) and the federal HUD (Housing and Urban Development) had determined that these two governments would not receive any Flood Mitigation funding of the approximately $1 billion that was available, in the first round of allocations by the state.

The allocations are based on a formula to determine which communities are the neediest, according to GLO. Within Harris County, approximately $90 million was allocated to Baytown, Pasadena, Galena Park, and Jacinto City for flood mitigation projects that they had applied for.

Harris County had submitted an application asking for $900 million, according to Pct. 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia. Commissioner Garcia, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner issued statements expressing their displeasure and disbelief in news of the allocations not including local jurisdictions.

Commissioner Garcia said that he was upset, and “incredibly frustrated.” Judge Hidalgo said, “It is unconscionable that the very community hit with the most flooded structures by far during Hurricane Harvey received nothing as part of this Harvey Mitigation allocation.”

Mayor Turner said, “For the State GLO not to give one dime in the initial distribution to the City and a very small portion to Harris County shows a callous disregard to the people of Houston and Harris County.”

Judge Hidalgo said that she plans to ask HUD for a review of the criteria used, and assurance that the County will receive future fund allocations. She said the formulas that are used disadvantage large urban areas that are hardest hit.

Flood funds need matches for mitigation

By Lewis Spearman

EAST HARRIS COUNTY – Problems matching money set aside to mitigate flooding locally are allowing flood conditions to threaten the Greater Houston Area.

Remember all those floods from the Memorial Day Flood to Hurricane Harvey? Citizens of Harris County passed a $2.5 billion dollar matching funds bond to deal with making an infrastructure to reduce the risk of floods.

The $2.5 billion bond passed in 2018, and Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD) planned for state and federal agencies to match the bond amount. But the HCFCD explained that the Texas General Land Office changed how it allocated funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Houston and Harris County are now competing with the rest of Texas for Hurricane Harvey relief. The 2015 Memorial Day and 2016 Tax Day floods did not receive grants, according to the HCFCD.

Christmas wish comes true: Resident gets New Home from Harvey Reconstruction Program

View of Mrs. Green’s new home in Barrett Station, provided through Harris County’s Project Recovery Homeowner Assistance Program.

BARRETT STATION – A Christmas wish has come true for Mrs. Verna Green of Crosby, Texas. Mrs. Green just moved into her new home, reconstructed on the site of her previous home, which sustained significant damage from flooding during Hurricane Harvey. The leaky roof and inoperable electrical outlets Mrs. Green contended with since the 2017 storm are no longer concerns, thanks to Harris County Project Recovery’s Homeowner Assistance Program (HAP).

New homeowner Mrs. Verna Green flashes the keys to her new home.

“I’m home for the holidays,” Mrs. Green exclaimed, flashing the keys presented to her by Harris County Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia during a key turn-over ceremony on Dec. 2nd at Mrs. Green’s home.

“We are happy to deliver this new home to you. I regret that it has taken longer than we expected, but I hope this will make your holiday season much more pleasant,” Commissioner Garcia said.

Administered by the Harris County Community Services Department, Project Recovery’s HAP repairs and reconstructs flood-damaged homes of eligible applicants. The $30 million program is funded with Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) dollars allocated to the county by the State of Texas General Land Office (GLO) and granted by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

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.”

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.

Hurricane Harvey’s impact on healthcare

Commissioners Rodney Ellis and Adrian Garcia, and State Senator Carol Alvarado, address the problems of inadequate healthcare in Harris County.

NORTHEAST HARRIS COUNTY – The U.S. Census indicates that this area of Harris County from Kingwood to Lynchburg went from 14% without health insurance to about 21% following Hurricane Harvey. This is generally thought to be a product of locals having to make the difficult choice of spend the money to have health or spend the money to restore living.

Recently leaders in the health field and Harris County Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia, along with other public officials, addressed the state of health in Harris County on November 13 talking about the economic impact and healthcare needs.

A survey provided a picture of Hurricane Harvey depriving locals of access to quality healthcare. In addition to the data and research on health care in Harris County the research suggests ways to improve it.