A Texas grand jury on April 10 indicted chemicals manufacturer Arkema North America and one of its executives on assault charges, alleging they underplayed the dangers of a fire that injured two emergency workers called to the site during a fire.
The U.S. arm of the French chemicals firm and its vice president of logistics, Michael Keough, were charged with “reckless assault” of two sheriff’s deputies by misrepresenting hazards of chemicals released during a fire after Hurricane Harvey, prosecutors said.
“The reckless assault was the misrepresentation by a highly placed corporate official” of the dangers of organic peroxides that burned after the plant flooded, said Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg. A conviction carries a penalty of two years to 10 years, she said.Here's the press release from the Harris County DA. It's an interesting theory: i.e. by not giving the sheriff's deputies all the information they needed about the Arkema peroxides, when the deputies were exposed to the chemicals, it was Arkema who was at fault. I guess I'd like to know - what is the threshold for declaring felony assault as a result of a chemical release? A plume? A spill? How big?
While you can really extrapolate all sorts of interesting legal theories and precedents from this incident, I speculate that it is best understood as an indication of 1) the political ambitions of the DA, 2) the overall irritation of the Houston-area population at the disproportionately high number of chemical plants in the area.
(I am really curious to know - does the relevant VP of logistics live in Texas? because if not, he might want to move to France for a while... (I'm sure France has an extradition treaty with the US.)