A Harris County judge has dropped the remaining charges in the criminal trial against French chemical manufacturer Arkema and its executives, leaving county prosecutors with no convictions in a case tied to a chemical fire during Hurricane Harvey.
In what was the second directed verdict in two days, Visiting Judge Belinda Hill ended the case against the company and former Crosby plant manager Leslie Comardelle, finding not enough legal evidence for a reasonable jury to reach a different conclusion. They had faced felony charges for reckless emission of air pollutants.
I suspect this would have depended on the jury's reading of the term "reckless". I also think that the Harris County prosecutors have set a new standard for the many petrochemical firms in its jurisdiction, and I imagine that the threat of arrest and trial are driving some Houston-area plant managers to listen to their EH&S managers just a little more.
(If you'd like to read a back-and-forth with one of the reporters on this case, click here.)