Advertisement

Texas petrochemical pleads guilty for 2019 explosions that prompted mass evacuations

The Justice Department on Tuesday announced Texas petrochemical TPC Group has pleaded guilty to a single charge in connection to a 2019 explosion at its Port Neches plant. File Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI
The Justice Department on Tuesday announced Texas petrochemical TPC Group has pleaded guilty to a single charge in connection to a 2019 explosion at its Port Neches plant. File Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI | License Photo

May 22 (UPI) -- A Texas petrochemical company has pleaded guilty to violating the Clean Air Act over a pair of explosions at one of its plants in 2019 that injured several people and prompted a mass evacuation.

The explosions at TPC Group's Port Neches plant in November 2019 injured four employees and a contractor, and prompted the evacuation of thousands of residents within a 4-mile radius, affecting four cities for days. Port Neches is located about 95 miles east of Houston.

Advertisement

Federal prosecutors said the incident released more than 11 million pounds of extremely hazardous substances and caused more than $130 million in offsite property damages, on top of other impacts to human health and the environment.

The Department of Justice and Environmental Protection Agency announced Tuesday that TPC Group has entered a guilty plea to one count under the Clean Air Act and has agreed to pay more than $30 million in criminal fines and civil penalties as well as invest some $80 million to improve its risk management program and improve safety at its Port Neches and Houston facilities.

"TPC Group's knowing failure to comply with the chemical accident prevention provisions of the Clean Air Act at its Port Neches and Houston facilities placed its workers, neighbors and the environment in danger," Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division said in a statement.

Advertisement

"Community members have expressed concerns about potential explosions happening at TPC Group's Houston facility, like what happened in 2019 at Port Neches. Importantly, today's criminal plea and civil settlement includes safety requirements that will help prevent future incidents."

The Port Neches plant produced Butadiene, a hazardous chemical used in tires, latexes and plastics that can form a so-called popcorn polymer at an accelerating rate, which can lead to an explosion.

The first explosion in November 2019 occurred at the site's South Unit followed by a second, which resulted in several fires to erupt that expelled contaminates into the air.

Federal prosecutors said the criminal fines amount to $18 million, with the remaining $12.1 million to cover the civil penalty payments.

"The people of Port Neches had their lives disrupted because of a major disaster in their neighborhood," EPA Regional Administrator Earthea Nance said. "TPC must uphold the accident-prevention standards in the Clean Air Act to ensure families and workers are not harmed."

Latest Headlines