Yesterday we reported that Hurricane Ida raises the risk of a chemical leak, and damage reports from "Cancer Alley" confirmed what we thought might be true. Multiple refineries in the area reported significant damage that could spell trouble for air quality and long-term health in the area. And that's if a plant doesn't explode, which is what happened at the Arkema plant in the days following Hurricane Harvey in 2017.
The scale of the problem is clearer when you understand that Louisiana is responsible for a fifth of US refining capacity. More than half of the country's liquid natural gas exports are shipped out of Louisiana terminals. The nickname 'Cancer Alley' comes from the fact that Louisiana is first in the nation when it comes to toxic air release per square mile, with 30% more weight in pollutants than the second-place state. All of that toxic release and activity occurs in a relatively small area that was hit hard by Hurricane Ida.
Industrial Hurricane Procedures Endanger Lives
Even in the best of circumstances, a hurricane can trigger a massive release of toxic pollutants. Emergency plant shutdowns release thousands of pounds of chemicals into the air, so even when companies abide by 'correct' procedure, other people pay the price. In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey four years ago, the plants and refineries around Houston released millions of pounds of pollutants into the air.
Offshore, oil companies have been getting away with abandoning oil pipelines, which presents a serious danger when a hurricane comes through. Official data has found that oil and gas producers have abandoned 97% of offshore pipelines with no consequences. Hurricanes then move these abandoned pipelines where they can cause serious harm to vessels, crews, and marine life. It also means that hurricanes will pose a greater oil spill risk over time.
And this is if companies do the 'right' thing. Yesterday, we reported that the Globetrotter II, owned by Noble Corp. and leased by Shell, had suffered damage to the LMRP (a kind of blowout preventer), lost its lifeboats, and suffered damage to its cranes. None of that would have happened if the rig had been evacuated ahead of time. Instead, the crew was on the rig until the last minute, forcing them to ride out the storm.
If Noble Corp. or Shell had any influence in that decision, if they forced the crew to work one minute longer than was safe or necessary, if they inadvertently endangered the crew in order to continue producing, then they would be liable for everything that resulted. Our firm has no idea what happened on that rig, but we know from experience that crews rarely volunteer to keep working while the biggest hurricanes in history are hours away.
Investigating Injury & Harm to Uncover the Truth
Whatever harm Hurricane Ida triggered as a result of corporate negligence and cost-cutting measures, Arnold & Itkin LLP will be looking into it. We can't know for certain what the long- or short-term ramifications of Hurricane Ida will be, but we do know this: companies that cause harm are morally and legally obligated to make it right. They must be made accountable for any medical costs, lost wages, and physical harm they caused. We'll fight to make it happen. No matter what.