Formosa Plastics Group has agreed to pay $2.85 million in fines for violating federal air pollution laws after a series of fires and explosions at its petrochemical manufacturing plant in Point Comfort.

The company also agreed to improve its risk management program to resolve nearly two dozen alleged violations of the Chemical Accident Prevention Provisions of the Clean Air Act at the plant.

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Formosa Plastics Corp.'s plant is in Point Comfort, Texas.

The Environmental Protection Agency began an investigation into Formosa following a series of fires, explosions and accidental releases at the plant from May 2013 through October 2016.

Several workers during that time suffered second- and third-degree burns and chlorine inhalation that required hospitalization. The incidents also resulted in property damage and the release of extremely hazardous substances.

The Clean Air Act requires companies to identify potential hazards, maintain safe facilities and minimize the consequences of accidental releases. The measure was put into place by Congress following a 1984 release of methyl isocyanate in Bhopal, India, which left more than 3,400 people dead and another 200,000 people injured.

“Formosa repeatedly failed to comply with the chemical accident prevention provisions of the Clean Air Act at the Point Comfort plant, repeatedly placing their workers, neighbors and the environment in danger,” said Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “This settlement will ensure Formosa’s compliance with essential regulations intended to protect workers and the community as well as help prevent dangerous chemical releases from occurring in the future.”

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Diane Wilson, a plaintiff in the case against Formosa Plastics, holds some plastic pellets she scooped out of Cox Creek, which is next to Formosa's plant in Point Comfort. 

 Emree Weaver / The Texas Tribune

Headquartered in Livingston, New Jersey, Formosa operates a 2,500-acre petrochemical plant in Point Comfort that consists of 16 units, including those used to produce polypropylene and ethylene dichloride.

Construction of its Polypropylene III Unit, or PP III, would add a third olefins unit, a propane dehydrogenation unit, a low density polyethylene resin plant, another high density poly ethylene resin plant and an additional polypropylene line.

The expansion work is expected to last two years.

Groups and activists in recent years have fought to prevent Formosa Plastics from building one of the world’s largest plastics plants in St. James Parish, Louisiana. They described the latest settlement as a letdown.

“This settlement is a joke. Pocket money for Formosa Plastics, who has made billions of dollars off the resources of Calhoun County, Texas, and the backs of the workers,” said Diane Wilson, the lead plaintiff in the successful water pollution lawsuit against Formosa Plastics. “How many worker deaths, worker injuries and communities destroyed do we have to witness at Formosa?”

Chris Ramirez writes about energy, commerce and all things business. Support local coverage like this by checking out our subscription options and special offers at  

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