NGO Statement on Fossil Fuels, Petrochemicals,

and a Just Recovery from Hurricane Harvey

September 21, 2017

We, the undersigned organizations stand in support and solidarity with the thousands of

Texans affected by Hurricane Harvey and the hazardous chemical releases that followed.

While the full extent of the damage to these communities will not be known for weeks or

months, one troubling trend is clear: the dense concentration of oil, gas, and

petrochemicals facilities in the region has dramatically compounded the already

severe impacts of climate change on Gulf communities. As Harvey’s floodwaters shut

down power grids and plants across Houston and the surrounding counties, we witnessed

one petrochemical facility after another exposing communities and first responders to

harmful levels of toxic pollutants.

In addition to damaging approximately 100,000 homes in the Houston area, Harvey

caused the uncontrolled release of 4.6 million pounds of air pollution from refineries and

chemical plants across 13 counties, including known carcinogens.1 Testing by the New

York Times has confirmed the extensive presence of toxic chemicals in floodwaters

across the region.

In nearby Crosby, explosions at an Arkema chemical plant that makes feedstocks for

plastics forced residents within 1.5 miles of the site to evacuate their homes.2 Neither the

government nor plant officials provided residents with meaningful information about the

explosions, the safety risks, or how long homes would need to be evacuated, even though

the organic peroxides released by the explosions posed known contact and inhalation

risks to those exposed. Misrepresentations of those risks caused multiple first responders

to be exposed to hazardous chemicals without adequate safety measures.3 Like many

other Houston communities, the people of Crosby have been left with the uncertainty of

what was released in the air they breathe and the water they drink.

Similar impacts were witnessed across the Gulf region. In Point Comfort, for example,

the Formosa Plastics facility released 1.3 million pounds of excess pollutants, including

benzene and other toxic gases.

The intense concentration of petrochemicals plants in a low-lying, hurricane-prone region

made these impacts a foreseeable, if regrettable, consequence of climate change.4 This is

an urgent social and environmental justice issue that should have been planned for and

must be addressed now. Communities that have suffered ongoing exposure to chemical

hazards for decades are now bearing the brunt of both climate change impacts and

increased toxic risks, problems largely attributable to the same handful of companies

in the fossil fuel and petrochemical industries.

Even before Hurricane Harvey, massive expansions in the petrochemical and plastics

facilities in the Gulf region threatened to exacerbate this situation and further increase the

risks to frontline communities. In fact, a new analysis released September 20th by the

Center for International Environmental Law documents industry plans to invest up to

$164 billion in new plastics infrastructure by 2023, primarily directed to new

plastics production in the Gulf region.5 The continued rapid expansion of plastics

production and related natural gas production not only creates more toxic hazards,

plastic-related pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions, but also ensures that continued

climate change will make extreme weather events more likely and even more dangerous.

Billions of dollars in aid are urgently needed to help affected families and communities

recover, rebuild, and redevelop in Harvey’s aftermath. This creates an opportunity, an

urgent need, and a solemn responsibility to ensure these funds remedy the systemic

failures that led to this disaster and prevent similar disasters in the future. Recovery

efforts cannot and must not become a mere excuse to accelerate fossil fuel and

plastics infrastructure in the Gulf. Funds that are critically needed for families

harmed by this crisis must not be directed to the companies that caused the crisis.

These are not idle concerns. Following Hurricane Katrina, billions of dollars that were

desperately needed to rebuild and revitalize communities were instead diverted to oil,

gas, and petrochemicals companies. These companies received up to 65% of all Gulf

Opportunity Zone bonds issued by the State of Louisiana in the six years following


The announcement that former Shell CEO Marvin Odum has been tasked to lead the

recovery efforts raises serious risks that these mistakes will be repeated in the wake of

Hurricane Harvey.7 Avoiding these mistakes demands an immediate commitment to a

better path by leaders at all levels. Taxpayer money should not be used to bail out the

same corporate actors that caused or contributed to many of these problems in the

first place.

It is imperative that efforts to recover and rebuild in the months and years ahead address

the risks facing vulnerable frontline communities, rather than compound them, including

the risks of pollution to their air, water, and soils, and the threat of catastrophic climate


We call on local leaders in Texas and Louisiana and elected leaders at every level of

government, to support immediate, inclusive, and community-led dialogue on the

recovery and development of Houston and similarly affected cities and counties across

the Gulf region, and to use those dialogues to deliver a better, more sustainable future for

themselves and for people everywhere. In order for these dialogues to begin in earnest

and begin to yield results, federal and state recovery dollars must be directed to affected

families and communities, not to oil, gas, and petrochemical companies.


5 Gyres Institute

Air Alliance Houston

Alaska Climate Action Network (AK


Alaska Community Action on Toxics

Alliance for Appalachia

Another Gulf Is Possible

Asian Pacific Environmental


Athens County (OH) Fracking

Action Network


Ballona Creek Renaissance

Bangladesh Krishok Federation

Bayou City Waterkeeper

Be Zero

Blue Mind Life

Breathe Easy Susquehanna County

California Communities Against



Center for Biological Diversity

Center for Environmental Health

Center for International

Environmental Law

Charlotte's Web Foundation

Citizens Coalition for a Safe


Clean Air Council

Clean Water Action

Clean Water for North Carolina

Cleaner Earth Project

Climate Hawks Vote

Climate Justice Program, Institute

for Policy Studies

Climate Law & Policy Project

Coalition for Clean Air

Collectif Causse Méjean - Gaz de

Schiste NON !

Coming Clean

Committee for Constitutional and

Environmental Justice

Corporate Accountability


Crude Accountability

Culver City Citizen Activists

Don't Waste Arizona

Downwinders at Risk

Earth Action, Inc.

Earth Dancer School: Dance And

Nature Centered Education



ECHO Action NH: #FossilFree603

Ecology Center

Environics Trust

Environment and Human Rights


Environment and Social

Development Organization-ESDO

Environmental Integrity Project

EPCF - Global Climate Disruption

Fairmont, Minnesota Peace Group

Food & Water Europe

Food & Water Watch

Food Empowerment Project

Foundation for Environment and


Frac Sand Sentinel

Franciscan Action Network

Franklin County Continuing the

Political Revolution, Climate Change

Task Force

FreshWater Accountability Project

Friends Committee on Legislation of


Friends of the Earth - US

Global Alliance for Incinerator

Alternatives (GAIA)

Global Witness

Grassroots Global Justice

Green Retirement, Inc.

Green Sangha

Greeners Action

Greenpeace USA

Guernsey County Citizens Support

on Drilling Issues

Indivisible Denton

Inland Ocean Coalition

Irving Impact

ISF (Integrative Strategies Forum)

Life Without Plastic

Liveable Arlington

Livelihoods Knowledge Exchange

Network (LiKEN)

Louisiana Bucket Brigade

Maryknoll Sisters Eastern Region

Mill Valley Community Action

Network (

Montana Environmental Information


National Toxics Network Australia

National Toxics Network Inc.

Nature Abounds

NC Climate Justice Summit

NC Environmental Justice Network

Neighbors for Clean Air

Nepal Friendship Society

Network in Solidarity with the

People of Guatemala (NISGUA)

NH Energy Impacts on Health Study


NH Pipeline Resistance

No Fracked Gas in Mass

No Waste NOLA

Non Toxic Revolution

Norges Naturvernforbund - Friends

of the Earth Norway

North American Climate,

Conservation and Environment

NYC Environmental Justice Alliance

Ocean Blue Project, Inc.

Ocean Voyages Institute

Oil Change International

OVEC-Ohio Valley Environmental


Pacific Environment

Peaceful Parlour

Pennsylvania Alliance for Clean

Water and Air

Piedmont Plateau Group of Sierra


Pipeline Safety Coalition

Plastic Free Curriculum

Ponca Tribe of Oklahoma

Plastic Pollution Coalition

Public Citizen's Texas office

Rachel Carson Council

Radical Independence Campaign

East Kilbride

Rainforest Action Network



Sanford-Oquaga Area Concerned

Citizens (S-OACC)

SCAN-Susquehanna Clean Air


Science and Environmental Health


SeaTime Inc.

SEE Turtles

Sierra Club


Sound Resource Management Group

Stop the Denton Gas Plants

Story of Stuff Project

Sunflower Alliance

Sustainable Medina County

Texans Against Pollution

Texas Campaign for the


Texas Environmental Justice

Advocacy Services (T.E.J.A.S.)

Turtle Island Restoration Network

Union of Concerned Scientists


Upstream Policy

UU Climate Action Team, Devon,


Voces Verdes

Waterkeeper Alliance

Women Initiative for Sustainable

Environment (WISE)

Zewalab Associação Lix0