Recent reports paint an ugly picture of irresponsible behavior by oil and chemical companies in Texas and across the country. In response to the BP Texas City tragedy, the federal agency responsible for policing workplace safety has started a review of the safety habits of U.S. refineries. The preliminary results paint a picture of carelessness, including 11 violations at a Port Arthur refinery. Meanwhile, the chemical industry continues to thumb its nose at Mayor Bill White’s call to reduce caustic benzene emissions in and around Houston.
The backdrop to all of this is Entergy v. Summers, a recent Texas Supreme Court decision allowing oil, chemical and manufacturing interests to escape accountability when they fail to ensure the safety of their work sites. When they cut corners on workplace safety, oil and chemical companies not only place their workers at risk, they also endanger the communities that surround the plants through increased chances of violent workplace and environmental disasters. The Texas Supreme Court has a chance to reconsider its position, and it should do so. In the meantime, big oil and chemical industries need to clean up their acts by putting public, workplace and environmental safety first.