Arkema CEO dropped as defendant in criminal case related to Harvey chemical release

Smoke and flames are seen at the Arkema plant in Crosby, Texas, on Sept. 1, 2017.
Smoke and flames are seen at the Arkema plant in Crosby, Texas, on Sept. 1, 2017. (KPRC)

HOUSTON – The CEO of Arkema was dropped as a defendant Wednesday in the criminal case against the company in connection with the chemical release that happened during Hurricane Harvey.

Prosecutors confirmed Richard Rowe was dropped from the case that accuses the company and some employees of recklessly releasing chemicals into the air during a fire.

The blaze happened after floodwaters inundated the Crosby plant and knocked out power to the cooling system used to keep certain chemicals stable.

The news comes after prosecutors said they were seeking to drop charges that were filed against Michael Keough, the company’s logistics officer.

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.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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