Houston community coalition calls on petrochemical industry to protect its neighbors after most recent Houston Ship Channel Disaster
HOUSTON, TX – The Healthy Port Communities Coalition (HPCC) calls on Houston’s petrochemical giants to act now to protect their neighbors after a collision in the Houston Ship Channel today led to a shelter-in-place order for several ship channel communities. “Houston’s petrochemical industry is often called the ‘economic engine’ in the region,” said Adrian Shelley, Director of Air Alliance Houston, “For many residents of ship channel communities, though, the industry is an engine of uncertainty and fear.
It is disproportionately low-income and minority communities that suffer these negative impacts.” The people and environment of the Houston ship channel need better protection from the deadly risks associated with this industry. Today’s spill of MTBE in the ship channel is only the most recent disaster. “Dangerous and deadly chemicals are also transported daily through our communities by trains,” said Juan Parras, Director of Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services.
“Residents do not know what is in the trains passing through their communities, what safeguards are in place to protect them, and what potential disasters could mean for them and their neighbors.” Many remember the deadly explosion at a fertilizer plant in West, TX last year. But the agricultural chemicals that caused that tragedy are only one class among many that present serious health and safety risks for many Houston area communities. Community members are unaware of and unprepared for the catastrophic risks that these chemicals present.
“The legislature needs to take advantage of modern cellular technology and provide citizens with real time notices of the how to protect themselves from toxic exposure,” said Tom “Smitty” Smith, Director of Public Citizen’s Texas office, “We can alert people via reverse 911 calls or texts, emails, tweets and other social media, and live links to maps showing where the toxins are and where they are going.” For more than one hundred years, Houston has been the source of massive economic activity and profits for the petrochemical industry.
Today we call on these petrochemical giants to reinvest in their communities and protect the most vulnerable of their neighbors. People have the right to know the risks they face and that the companies creating those risks are doing everything in their power to minimize them.