A string of Texas disasters in the past few years, from Hurricane Harvey, chemical fires in Corpus Christi, Houston and Deer Park, to the recent freak winter storm, are prompting state Democratic lawmakers to press for more stringent standards for above-ground chemical storage.
The legislation tasks the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) with providing stricter standards for chemical storage in areas that are prone to natural disasters such as flooding, storm surge and hurricanes. By allowing the industry-friendly TCEQ to self-regulate, legislators hope that the bills will have a fighting chance, and maybe garner enough Republican support for passage.
Right now, Texas has specific rules for the storage of underground tanks, but the TCEQ has no rules regarding process safety regulation, spill preparation or prevention measures for above-ground chemical storage tanks. In fact, construction standards for above-ground tanks are set by the industry, in particular the American Petroleum Institute, which do not account for extreme weather events and do not even impose penalties for safety violations of these construction standards.
Prevention of chemical disasters from spillage of above-ground tanks is mainly overseen by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s workplace safety standards and Clean Air Act provisions.
Proving toxic torts in civil suits
A toxic tort is a civil wrong or injury caused by another’s negligence or carelessness, which results in injury to someone who is exposed to a toxic substance. Proving a toxic tort case may depend on relevant state laws, but in general the necessary elements to establish are that:
- the substance was dangerous
- the plaintiff was exposed to the toxic substance
- the substance caused harm to the plaintiff
Of these elements, the last two receive the most attention, especially when the toxic exposure occurred years in the past. The testimony of experts in the field in these cases is crucial. Depending on the specific circumstances in which exposure to toxic chemicals occurred, there may be other toxic tort claims available based on premises or product liability. Also, depending on the circumstances of the case, the statutes of limitation may limit options.
If you or a loved one has been injured from personal or corporate negligence, the laws in a toxic tort case can be complex. It is important to have a legal resource that not only has vast experience in handling large personal injury litigation matters, but also the resources to network with skilled experts whose opinions can be leveraged in court.