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Fire Continues at Texas Petrochemical Plant as Company's History of Violations Gets Renewed Scrutiny

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A fire erupted Sunday at a petrochemical plant in Deer Park, Texas. NowThis News / YouTube screenshot

By Andrea Germanos

A petrochemical plant near Houston continued to burn for a second day on Monday, raising questions about the quality and safety of the air.

The Deer Park facility is owned by Intercontinental Terminals Company (ITC), which said the fire broke out at roughly 10:30 a.m. Sunday. Seven tanks are involved, the company said, and they contain naptha, xylene, "gas blend stocks" and "base oil."

"It's going to have to burn out at the tank," Ray Russell, communications officer for Channel Industries Mutual Aid, which is aiding the response effort, said at a news conference. It could take "probably two days" for that to happen, he added.


No injuries were immediately reported.

"Although the risk of explosion is minimal, we continue to take precautions to further reduce this possibility," the company said in a statemnt.

An order to shelter in place for the city of Deer Park was lifted Monday morning.

Filming outside the plant on Monday, local ABC13 reporter Miya Shay said that despite the assertion by the city, informed by results from a private air monitoring contractor, that the air quality was safe, it is "hard to believe it's all fine."

As Luke Metzger, executive director of Environment Texas, pointed out, "Intercontinental Terminals estimates the fire has already resulted in 3.1 million pounds of unauthorized emissions. That's more than all the facilities in the Houston area put out during Harvey."

What's more, he said, the company "has a history of violations. For example, the company discharged cyanide into the impaired Tucker Creek eight times above permitted levels — once as high as 1138 percent above the permit."

The Deer Park incident erupted just one day after a fire broke out roughly a dozen miles away at ExxonMobil's massive refinery in Baytown. That fire has been contained.

The Texas arm of advocacy group Public Citizen pointed to the recent incidents as evidence that the U.S. Environment Protection Agency and Texas Commission on Environmental Quality should do a better job at protecting public health:

Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.

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Here are some of the challenges the river faces.

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Protesters gathered outside US Bank and Wells Fargo locations around the U.S. to protest investment in the Dakota Access Pipeline on Dec. 1, 2016. This photo is from a protest outside US Bank in south Minneapolis, Minnesota. Fibonacci Blue / CC BY 2.0

By Jake Johnson

As a growing number of states move to pass laws that would criminalize pipeline protests and hit demonstrators with years in prison, an audio recording obtained by The Intercept showed a representative of a powerful oil and gas lobbying group bragging about the industry's success in crafting anti-protest legislation behind closed doors.


Speaking during a conference in Washington, DC in June, Derrick Morgan, senior vice president for federal and regulatory affairs at the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM), touted "model legislation" that states across the nation have passed in recent months.

AFPM represents a number of major fossil fuel giants, including Chevron, Koch Industries and ExxonMobil.

"We've seen a lot of success at the state level, particularly starting with Oklahoma in 2017," said Morgan, citing Dakota Access Pipeline protests as the motivation behind the aggressive lobbying effort. "We're up to nine states that have passed laws that are substantially close to the model policy that you have in your packet."


The audio recording comes just months after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law legislation that would punish anti-pipeline demonstrators with up to 10 years in prison, a move environmentalists condemned as a flagrant attack on free expression.

"Big Oil is hijacking our legislative system," Dallas Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network said after the Texas Senate passed the bill in May.

As The Intercept's Lee Fang reported Monday, the model legislation Morgan cited in his remarks "has been introduced in various forms in 22 states and passed in ... Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Missouri, Indiana, Iowa, South Dakota, and North Dakota."

"The AFPM lobbyist also boasted that the template legislation has enjoyed bipartisan support," according to Fang. "In Louisiana, Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards signed the version of the bill there, which is being challenged by the Center for Constitutional Rights. Even in Illinois, Morgan noted, 'We almost got that across the finish line in a very Democratic-dominated legislature.' The bill did not pass as it got pushed aside over time constraints at the end of the legislative session."

Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.

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