Houston Refinery Explosion Will Endanger Local Communities

ALI VELSHI: As many had feared, explosions were reported in the early hours of Thursday at a flood damaged chemical plant outside of Houston in Crosby, Texas. The Arkema facility in Crosby makes organic peroxides and stores volatile compounds that need to be kept refrigerated. The facility lost power on Sunday.

BROCK LONG: Last night we proactively were able to evacuate about a mile and a half radius around the Arkema chemical plant, for example, to make sure people were safe in anticipation of any problems.

ALI VELSHI: In a statement the company said, “The authorities agreed the best course of action is to let any chemical fires burn out.”

YVETTE ARELLANO: So a lot of the toxics that were released not only during this disaster, but on a daily basis, many of them are cancer causing chemicals. When those chemicals get into the water, they have an even larger span of exposure, and when everything dries up, that doesn’t mean those chemicals are dispersant, they disappear, they basically become evaporated in the air. What we’ve been seeing is multiple reports now being released over not only leaks, but releases that have happened all along the Houston ship channel. There were three or four notable ones. Exxon Mobile was having issues at their facility, and they’re the second largest refinery in the entire nation.

Shell also had reported leaking happened, along with the Kinder Morgan terminal member of the facilities and the refineries and chemical plants shut down during the hurricane, natural disaster, and now they’re starting up, which is going to allow them to re-release chemicals and toxics into the air.

ALI VELSHI: Meanwhile, Houston’s fire and rescue workers face a much larger task. After days of desperately trying to rescue Houston residents trapped or fleeing flood water on Thursday will begin a block by block search hoping to find anyone left alive, and to get a tally of the dead. The streets likely to remain flooded for days, and possibly weeks, as the US Army Corps of Engineers continues to release water from the city’s reservoirs to prevent undue pressure on dams and spillways.

MICHELLE LAVAN: Houston wasn’t prepared. The government wasn’t prepared. The mayor wasn’t prepared.

ALI VELSHI: Meanwhile, the corporate media continues to ignore the links between Harvey and climate change, or hold elected officials accountable for failing to take action against it. When an Al Jazeera reporter raised the link between climate change, toxins released by the oil and gas industry, or how the industry siphons off badly needed resources for infrastructure, his connection was lost.

SHIHAB RATTANSI: We can’t make a connection between the oil and gas industry and climate change much clearer. I knew you were talking to someone in Port Arthur, we understand the largest crude oil refinery in the United States in Port Arthur is shutting down. That might sound very prudent, but what we know from experience is when you shut down these refineries, there’s a huge amount of toxic gas that’s released, so we gotta watch out for that. In the past, oil and gas companies just got away with covertly losing a lot of toxic waste in emergencies like this, but this, this is, I mean it’s not rocket science, I mean this has been warned about for years by climate scientists. ProPublica had a piece just last year warning something like this was about to happen in the Houston area at the very least, and yet this is all coming as a surprise, and there just aren’t the preparations for it, and yet so much money has been generated here.

The mayor yesterday talking about how she spent five million dollars on roadways for drainage, well it wasn’t enough, and yet there is more money here, and Texas politicians clearly have a lot to answer for because they’re the ones …

ALI VELSHI: Think we may have just lost Shihab’s line there, we’re looking at another rescue in Beaumont that …