Arkema plant executives appear in court to face criminal charges over fire, chemical release following Harvey

HOUSTON — Executives from Arkema North America appeared in court Monday to face criminal charges for the plant fire and chemical release in Crosby that followed after Hurricane Harvey hit last year.

Basically, prosecutors allege the chemical plant was not prepared for catastrophic flooding.

"The facts of this case indicate that Arkema did not have a flood plan; what they had was a plan that recklessly assumed that they would never experience more flooding than they had in the past in the face of facts that would indicate otherwise," Harris County DA's Office Chief of Environmental Crimes Alexander Forrest said.

Legendary Houston defense attorney Rusty Hardin tried to paint his clients as victims rather than criminals.

"I've never seen a victim of a national catastrophe charged with a crime," Hardin told reporters in the court house. "There was a safety plan. Nobody anywhere in Houston, that I know of, anticipated a storm like this."

The company's CEO Richard Rowe and the Crosby plant manager, Leslie Comardelle, each face up to five years behind bars if convicted.

In addition, the company itself was also indicted. If convicted, the company faces a $1 million fine.

Arkema is already facing multiple civil lawsuits in U.S. District Court and Liberty County.

Attorneys say the criminal case will likely go to trial early next year.