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Houston-Area Chemical Plant Erupts Again, Shows Stronger Protections Are Needed

Statement of Adrian Shelley, Director, Public Citizen’s Texas Office

Note: Today, the ExxonMobil refinery in Baytown, Texas, east of Houston caught fire – sending a massive plume of toxic smoke into the air and causing a shelter-in-place order for nearby residents. At least 37 people were treated for injuries, according to an ExxonMobil spokeswoman. This marks the second time this year that ExxonMobil’s Baytown refinery has erupted in a dangerous fire. The blaze comes at a time when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has rolled back or weakened numerous protections designed to keep communities safe from dangerous chemicals.

How many times must the same chemical plant catch fire before we get the message that stronger safeguards are needed? How many injuries are enough? How many shelter-in-place orders are too many? Enough is enough.

Today’s chemical explosion at the ExxonMobil plant in Baytown is just the latest in an endless list of hazardous incidents that Houston-area communities have been forced to endure. It’s time for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and the EPA to get serious about preventing these dangerous fires.

Lives are at stake. We urge local officials to respond swiftly to contain this incident, keep the public informed of the dangers and take action to prevent other chemical fires in the future.