First Lawsuits Filed Against TPC in Texas

05.12.2019 -

With the fire in a petrochemical plant owned by TPC Group in Port Neches, Texas, finally extinguished, residents of the stricken town are now turning their attention to thoughts of legal action.

As of Dec. 4, local news reports said, the chemical producer and refiner was facing at least six state or federal lawsuits. Reflecting the usual activity after such incidents in the US, there are expected to be more.

A judge in Harris County, Texas, where TPC is headquartered, has granted a temporary restraining order requiring that the company preserve any evidence related to the fire. A similar order was filed in Jefferson County, where the plant is located.

The first order was brought by lawyers for Brian Lange, a resident of Port Neches living less than a quarter of a mile (400 meters) from the affected plant. Lange and an as yet unquantified number of residents plan to jointly file a class-action suit on behalf of anyone living in close proximity to the danger zone.

The lawsuits charge that the company exposed people to toxic levels of butadiene and note also that TCP, which is currently owned by New York-based private equity investors SK Capital Partners and First Reserve, has been fined by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TECQ) for excessive air pollutant emissions more than six times in the past five years.

A federal class action process gearing up in Beaumont says that in a settlement reached with the EPA in 2017 TPC agreed to pay a $72,000 civil penalty and spend at least $275,000 installing a butadiene monitoring system on the fence around its Port Neches refinery.

More than a week after the Nov 27 incident, no details have yet been released of the burning chemicals’ toxicology, though some of the chemicals set ablaze have been pinpointed as known carcinogens. According to the TECQ, elevated levels of butadiene have been detected but at present not identified as a threat.

Reports said the company is providing an emotional support hotline staffed by licensed professional counselors to counsel residents of the area.