Formosa Plastics Corp. has agreed to pay $2.85 million in civil penalties to settle alleged violations of chemical accident procedures at its Point Comfort, Texas, plant, federal prosecutors announced Sept. 13.
The agreement also calls for Formosa to improve its procedures for controlling the accidental release of hazardous substances under the Clean Air Act.
The U.S. Department of Justice said it found 20 violations of the CAA for instances in which workers suffered second- and third-degree burns and required hospitalization from inhaling chlorine.
DOJ said the complaint grew from an Environmental Protection Agency investigation of a series of fires, explosions and accidental releases at Formosa's Point Comfort plant between May 2013 and October 2016.
"Formosa repeatedly failed to comply with the chemical accident prevention provisions of the CAA at the Point Comfort plant, repeatedly placing their workers, neighbors and the environment in serious danger," said Todd Kim, assistant attorney general in DOJ's environment and natural resources division.
Formosa officials did not respond to an email request for comment.
The DOJ announcement said that Formosa has agreed to pay the fine, and it posted a proposed consent decree on its website. The decree is open for 30 days of public comment and must be approved by a federal judge.
DOJ said Formosa will also spend an estimated $1.4 million to improve how it manages hazardous substances at the plant, including updating its response and personal protection plans and conducting a third-party audit of its risk management practices.
As well, it said the company would evaluate its equipment and make changes based on the third-party audit.
"Formosa's failure to implement safe work practices and failure to design and maintain a safe facility put public health and the environment at risk," said Larry Starfield, an acting assistant EPA administrator for enforcement and compliance assurance. "Today's settlement requires Formosa to achieve compliance with its environmental obligations now and in the future, protecting air quality and the community of Point Comfort."
A coalition of environmental groups that won a $50 million judgment against Formosa in 2019 for pellet pollution from the Point Comfort plant, and those who are fighting the resin maker's plans to build a large new manufacturing complex in Louisiana, issued a joint statement calling the $2.85 million settlement inadequate.
"This dangerous pattern of behavior by Formosa Plastics is exactly why we don't want this in our community," said Sharon Lavigne, executive director of RISE St. James, a community organization in St. James Parish in Louisiana.
"These same things happening in Texas are going to happen here in Louisiana," she said. "But this penalty is just a drop in the bucket for Formosa. We need to stop Formosa Plastics from building big new polluting plants."
The Biden administration announced in August it was requiring a much more detailed environmental review of the proposed Formosa complex in Louisiana.