Explosion Highlights Risks of Wall Street Chemical Plant Ownership: 2019
Image of the November 27, 2019 explosion and fire at the TPC Group chemical plant in Port Neches, Texas.
The day before Thanksgiving 2019, a chemical plant operated by the TPC Group and owned by the private equity firm SK Capital exploded in Port Neches, Texas.
The explosion spewed contaminants that forced over 50,000 people to evacuate, leaving the community with the lingering aftereffects of an industrial disaster.
By approximately what percentage do you think SK Capital-owned chemical plants in the Houston area increased greenhouse gas emissions between 2015 and 2019?
The chemical plants SK Capital owns in Texas have a long record of environmental violations, not just at their TPC Group factories, but also with other SK Capital portfolio firms.
According to EPA data, SK Capital-owned chemical plants in the Houston area increased greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 20 percent between 2014 and 2019.
The pollution from these plants disproportionately burdens communities of color and lower-income areas. This toxic footprint of private equity aligns with the longstanding environmental injustice of siting chemical and petrochemical plants in these neighborhoods, especially along the Gulf Coast. At least 225,000 people live within three miles of SK-owned plants in the Houston area, where 70 percent of the population is Latinx or Black and nearly half (49 percent) lives below the poverty line.
How many chemical companies in the U.S. do you think the private equity industry currently owns or has stakes in?
The private equity industry currently owns or has stakes in approximately 175 chemical companies across the United States. The Port Neches explosion was the second private equity-owned petrochemical plant disaster in less than six months.
In June 2019, the Carlyle Group-owned Philadelphia Energy Solutions refinery exploded in South Philadelphia, injuring five workers. Because the private equity owner is largely shielded from downside risks of bankruptcy or environmental disaster, it can extract value from the target firm, even at the cost of its long-term productivity or sustainability. [#50]