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The Houston Area Has Had Two Chemical Plant Fires in Two Weeks. Why Do They Keep Happening?

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Traffic continues on Interstate 35 as Waxahachie firefighters battle a massive fire at the Magnablend chemical processing plant on October 3rd, 2011, in Waxahachie, Texas.

On Tuesday, a fire erupted at a KMCO chemical plant in Crosby, Texas, killing one worker and leaving two others injured. This was the second Texas chemical fire in two weeks, following a blaze that began at a petrochemical storage facility in Deer Park on March 17th. While no injuries were reported, the Deer Park fire triggered widespread concerns about air quality in the area.

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo told the Associated Press that “it is disturbing and it is problematic that we’re seeing this incident in a facility, especially on the heels of” the fire in Deer Park.

Here’s what we know about the regulation of this industry.

Do Chemical Fires Happen Frequently?

In an op-ed published by the Houston Chronicle after the Deer Park fire, Elena Craft, the senior director for health and climate at the Environmental Defense Fund, criticized the lack of oversight by state agencies, writing that “the state agency responsible for ensuring chemical plant safety is missing in action—unable or unwilling to protect the health and well-being of Texas families.” Craft argues that the Texas Commission on Environmental Air Quality, a state agency tasked with protecting the state’s natural resources has essentially let companies “self-regulate.” 

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