March 26, 2019
Public Citizen Applauds Harris County’s Vote to Sue ITC for Deer Park Fire
Statement of Stephanie Thomas, Public Citizen researcher in Houston
Note: Today, the Harris County Commissioners Court voted unanimously to sue Intercontinental Terminals Co. for failing to prevent a disastrous chemical fire that burned for several days last week. The blaze spewed an untold amount of hazardous chemicals into the air and prompted 1,000 people to seek medical treatment. According to the Houston Chronicle, Harris County is demanding ITC cover the cost of the government’s response, including air and water monitoring, mobile clinics and an ongoing activation of the county’s Office of Emergency Management.
We commend the Harris County Commissioners Court for voting unanimously to pursue legal action against ITC and any other responsible parties for the damage that has been done to our air, water and communities by last week’s fire. For too long, local and state government officials have stood by as polluters damaged the Houston area’s water and air with few or no repercussions.
Today’s vote by the Court, and last week’s announcement by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton that the state would sue ITC for violations of the Clean Air Act, are steps in the right direction.
We call for aggressive legal action against polluters. They should not be let off the hook with a slap on the wrist. We hope that the state and county pursue these actions with the intent of levying fines large enough to remove the incentive to pollute and with corrective action to ensure that similar incidents do not occur in the future.