This aerial photo shows firefighters spraying water on a fire at the KMCO chemical plant on Tuesday, April 2, 2019 in Crosby, Texas. Authorities say the fire has been contained at the plant near Houston and they have lifted an order that instructed residents within a 1-mile (1.6 kilometers) radius of the facility to stay indoors. (Elizabeth Conley/Houston Chronicle via AP)

Houston fires renew safety debate in oil-friendly Texas

April 05, 2019 - 12:37 pm

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Two major chemical plant fires near Houston just 17 days apart closed schools, leaked toxic chemicals into coastal waters and killed a worker, but there's a good chance they won't lead to big industry crackdowns in oil-friendly Texas.

Just days after the first blaze broke out last month, Republican lawmakers suggested siphoning off money from clean-air programs during budget discussions. And industry-backed bills that would weaken enforcement ease the permitting process are making their way toward Republican Gov. Greg Abbott's desk.

Local officials are calling on the state to beef up safeguards, saying the current ones are insufficient.

Federal investigators have yet to announce what caused either accident.