CSB Urges FERC to Address Hurricanes and Other High-Wind Extreme Weather Events

U.S. Chemical Safety & Hazard Investigation Board (CSB), August 3, 2023

The U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) recently released a letter it sent to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) urging them to address hurricanes and other high-wind extreme weather events in future updates to the Transmission System Planning Performance Requirements for the nation’s bulk-power system.
While commending FERC’s effort to ensure the reliability of the bulk-power system during extreme weather events, the CSB noted that FERC’s final rule issued on June 15, 2023, does not address extreme weather events beyond heat and cold, such as high winds and hurricanes, although stakeholders had urged FERC to include such events in the rule. High wind events like hurricanes may occur independently of extreme heat and cold events and may significantly impact the reliability of the bulk-power system, which, in turn, can result in the release of hazardous chemicals from a facility due to loss of power and put workers and the surrounding community at serious risk.
CSB Chairperson Steve Owens said, “It is important for FERC to address hurricanes and other high-wind extreme weather events as soon as possible. The CSB has recently investigated two serious chemical releases that resulted from, or were made worse by, loss of power during hurricanes, and as extreme weather becomes increasingly more frequent, similar chemical accidents likely will occur in the future if the power system fails because of hurricanes or other high-wind events.
The CSB’s letter details the agency’s two recent investigations at the Arkema facility in Crosby, Texas and the Bio-Lab facility in Westlake, Louisiana:

  • On August 24, 2017, Hurricane Harvey, a Category 4 hurricane, made landfall in southeast Texas. The storm produced unprecedented amounts of rainfall over southeast Texas and southwest Louisiana, causing significant flooding. The extensive flooding caused the Arkema, Inc. chemical plant in Crosby, Texas, to lose power, backup power, and critical organic peroxide refrigeration systems. The organic peroxide products inside a refrigerated trailer decomposed, causing the peroxides and the trailer to burn. Twenty-one people sought medical attention from exposure to fumes generated by the decomposing products when the vapor traveled across a public highway adjacent to the plant. Ultimately, three fires burned at the plant over the next few days resulting in the combustion of 35,000 pounds of organic peroxide.
  • On August 27, 2020, extreme winds from Category 4 Hurricane Laura caused severe damage to buildings storing trichloroisocyanuric acid (TCCA) at the Bio-Lab, Inc. Lake Charles (Bio-Lab) facility in Westlake, Louisiana. After the buildings at the Bio-Lab facility were damaged by Hurricane Laura winds, water contacted the TCCA stored inside, initiating a chemical reaction and subsequent decomposition of the TCCA. The heat produced from the reaction and decomposition initiated a fire, and the decomposition released a large plume of hazardous gases, including toxic chlorine, into the air. Importantly, the hurricane also caused a power outage which resulted in the failure of the facility’s fire protection equipment. The company’s back-up generators also failed. The TCCA decomposition and fire destroyed a production building at the Bio-Lab facility and damaged additional structures. The cost to rebuild the facility was approximately $250 million. Also, a portion of nearby Interstate 10 was closed for over 28 hours, and a shelter-in-place order was issued.

About the CSB

The CSB is an independent, non-regulatory federal agency whose mission is to drive chemical safety change through independent investigations to protect people and the environment. The agency’s board members are appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. CSB investigations look into all aspects of chemical incidents, including physical causes such as equipment failure as well as inadequacies in regulations, industry standards, and safety management systems. The CSB does not issue citations or fines but makes safety recommendations to companies, industry organizations, labor groups, and regulatory agencies such as OSHA and EPA. For more information, please visit or contact Communications Manager Hillary Cohen at

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