Texas Petrochemical Company Pleads Guilty to Violating Clean Air Act: Explosions Cause Millions in Damages

Port Neches, Texas – Texas Petrochemical Company (TPC Group) recently pleaded guilty to violating the Clean Air Act in connection with two explosions at its Port Neches plant in November 2019. The explosions left three workers injured and forced the evacuation of over 50,000 residents, with the impact felt up to 30 miles away. The company operates three plants along the Gulf Coast of the United States.

An investigation by the US Department of Justice revealed that the explosions released over 11 million pounds of hazardous chemicals, causing more than $130 million in offsite property damage and significant health and environmental impacts. The Port Neches facility is a key producer of butadiene, a crucial component in rubber manufacturing known for its flammability and health risks.

The events leading up to the explosions were attributed to a buildup of hazardous material within a pipe at the plant, a known safety hazard that had been identified in a 2016 internal report by TPC Group. Despite recommendations for regular maintenance, the company failed to address the issue, resulting in the catastrophic incident in 2019.

In response to the investigation, the US Chemical Safety Board confirmed that TPC Group had ignored safety hazards related to the hazardous material buildup. The company’s negligence was further highlighted by its failure to comply with EPA regulations regarding air pollution emissions.

As a result of its guilty plea, TPC Group agreed to pay $30 million in fines and penalties, in addition to committing $80 million to improve safety measures at its facilities. The case underscores broader concerns about corporate neglect of safety standards in pursuit of profit, with other recent incidents, like the Norfolk Southern train derailment in Ohio in 2023, serving as further examples of the consequences of such negligence.

The Port Neches explosion serves as a stark reminder of the importance of prioritizing safety in industrial operations to protect workers, communities, and the environment. In the face of increased scrutiny and accountability, companies must take proactive measures to prevent similar incidents and uphold their responsibility to ensure public safety.