Texas prosecutors drop assault claim against Arkema, chemical executive

FILE PHOTO: The flooded plant of French chemical maker Arkema SA, which produces organic peroxides, is seen after fires were reported at the facilty after Tropical Storm Harvey passed in Crosby, Texas, U.S. August 31, 2017. REUTERS/Adrees Latif

HOUSTON (Reuters) - Texas prosecutors agreed to drop assault charges against chemical maker Arkema SA AKE.PA and one of its executives over injuries suffered by workers during a fire triggered by a 2017 hurricane.

Assault charges against the French chemical company and logistics executive Michael Keough “cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt,” prosecutors wrote in a motion filed in a Harris County District Court on Friday.

Arkema’s Crosby, Texas, plant became waterlogged and lost power needed to keep stored organic peroxide chemicals cooled after Hurricane Harvey dumped more than 50 inches of rain on the area.

The judge in the case has not yet ruled on the motion.

“A prosecutor felt that there was enough evidence for a criminal charge, but he could not prove that charge beyond a reasonable doubt,” said Dane Schiller, a spokesman for the Harris County District Attorney’s office, explaining the motion.

A grand jury had charged the two with assault against a public service over injuries to sheriff’s deputies guarding the plant.

Arkema Chief Executive Richard Rowe and the former manager of the company’s Crosby, Texas, plant, Leslie Comardelle, continue to face criminal charges for recklessly releasing toxic emissions from a chemical fire. The trial was suspended in the spring due to the pandemic.

Rusty Hardin, defense attorney for Arkema, declined to comment through a spokeswoman.

Reporting by Gary McWilliams; Editing by Cynthia Osterman