Prosecutors seek to drop some charges in Arkema case

HOUSTON – Harris County prosecutors are seeking to drop some charges filed in connection with the fire and chemical release at the Arkema plant near Crosby during Hurricane Harvey.

Both Arkema and Michael Keough, the company’s logistics official, were charged with assault of a public servant after prosecutors said two deputies suffered injuries because of the chemicals that were released. According to court documents, prosecutors believe they cannot prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt and have asked the court to drop those charges.

Two other company officials still face charges in connection with the fire that started when floodwaters inundated the plant and knocked out power to the system that is used to keep the chemicals stable.

Arkema has said that the fire was caused by an act of God and that plant officials did everything they reasonably could to prevent it.

In 2018, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board said Arkema crews worked “to the best of their ability” to keep equipment that stabilized its organic peroxides, which are used to make such things as plastic resins, from losing power. But Arkema didn’t consider flooding of safety systems “a credible risk,” even though the plant was inside flood zones and its insurance company warned in 2016 that it was at risk.

Attorneys representing the company have also accused Harris County prosecutors of withholding evidence. A hearing on that is scheduled to resume Monday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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