News Roundup: 37 Injured In Baytown Petrochemical Plant Fire

Our daily look at Texas headlines.

By Becky FogelAugust 1, 2019 4:44 pm

The Standard’s news roundup gives you a quick hit of interesting, sometimes irreverent, and breaking news stories from all over the state.

Dozens of people were slightly injured in an explosion and fire at an ExxonMobil petrochemical plant in the Houston area Wednesday. 

The oil giant says 37 people sustained minor injuries at the Baytown facility.  

In a statement released Thursday morning, the company said all employees who received medical evaluation or first aid have been cleared to return to work. 

Jason Duncan manages the plant where the explosion happened. He described the injuries to reporters Wednesday afternoon — hours after the fire began.  

“Minor burns, first degree, the reports I have, keep in mind it’s early at this point – but non-life-threatening, we can confirm that, minor burns.” Duncan says. 

Duncan says ExxonMobil was also conducting air quality monitoring. 

“We see no adverse impact to the environment based on the defense line monitoring and the monitoring in the community that we’ve done.” Duncan says.

The City of Baytown and Harris County were also monitoring air quality. 

Baytown did issue a shelter-in-place order in response to the incident but it was lifted yesterday after about three hours. 

The plant is a multi-billion-dollar facility that converts fossil fuels into materials used to make plastics. 

The Houston area has seen a string of industrial accidents this year that have prompted concerns about air pollution and the need for tougher oversight. 

A high-ranking official at the Texas Department of Public Safety has been fired after being arrested and booked into the Travis County jail Tuesday night on a charge of sexual assault. 

Trey Shaar with KUT News in Austin reports.

Until this week, 45-year-old John Jones, Junior was DPS Division Director of Intelligence and Counter Terrorism. He had been with DPS for almost 10 years. Before that, Jones was in the Navy for 27 years, retiring as a Commander after serving as Commanding Officer of U.S. Special Operations Command North. Now, Jones is charged with second-degree felony sexual assault, accused of raping a friend of his wife and leaving her injured. DPS says Texas Rangers are working with the Travis County District Attorney’s Office and the Sheriff’s Office, which is leading the investigation.

The Texas service sector enjoyed strong growth last month. Two signs of this are that the service sector saw faster employment growth and longer workweeks in July than it did in June. 

That’s according to a survey of over 200 Texas companies conducted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas

The types of businesses that replied to the survey include ones in warehousing and storage, car dealers, food services, and broadcasting. 

But one car dealer told the Dallas Fed that tariffs are “still a cloud on the horizon for the automobile business.”

There were also a number of comments about raising wages to attract and keep staff. One broadcasting employer said it raised wages by an average of 3% in July to hold onto employees. Someone in food services reported having trouble hiring employees, adding it’s now paying high school students $10 to $12 an hour. 

The labor market remains tight in Texas with unemployment at 3.4%.