New Indictments Issued in Arkema Fire Case
Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg announced April 10 that 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 during Hurricane Harvey in 2017.
Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg announced April 10 that 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 from Arkema's Crosby Plant outside Houston, when the plant caught fire as Hurricane Harvey inundated Texas' largest city.
"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."
The new charges came eight months after a Harris County grand jury indicted Arkema and two executives for the release of toxic chemicals during Harvey. Arkema CEO Richard Rowe and plant manager Leslie Comardelle were charged with reckless emission of an air contaminant under the Texas Water Code. Their trial is scheduled to begin May 20.
Arkema's attorney, veteran Houston defense attorney Rusty Hardin, denounced the new charges in a statement posted on the chemical 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. "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."
Residents living within a 1.5-mile radius of the plant were evacuated because of the fire.