Rand Paul Suggests Polluters Like The Koch Brothers Should Go To Jail

The Collaborative on Health and the Environment profiled Horace Smith, a resident near Koch's Corpus Christi refinery. Photo: Steve Lerner

Typically a reliable voice in support of corporate greed, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) suggested this week that petrochemical polluters like David and Charles Koch should go to jail.

Mallory Factor of The Street interviewed Paul a few days ago. During the conversation, Paul blasted efforts by environmentalists to rein in unregulated hydrofracking. But at one point, the junior senator from Kentucky pivoted and made a caveat. Paul said people who pollute with benzene, a carcinogenic chemical, should “go to jail”:

PAUL: I don’t want to pollute the water. I don’t want to pollute streams. If you dump benzene in the stream, I want you to go to jail.

Watch it:

As it turns out, Koch Industries, the petrochemical conglomerate owned by David and Charles Koch, has dumped benzene into streams.

In 2000, the Department of Justice served the company with an indictment for allowing “at least 91 metric tons of uncontrolled benzene in its liquid waste streams” during a period in 1995 at its Corpus Christi refinery. Prosecutors alleged that the company was well aware of its pollution, and that Koch’s employees conspired to deceive regulators.

Shortly after President Bush took office in 2001, his Attorney General John Ashcroft dropped 88 counts against Koch for the benzene spill and cover-up. Koch pleaded guilty to falsifying documents, all major charges were dropped and the company settled the lawsuit for $20 million, a small part of the possible $350 million in fines. The Bush administration, the beneficiary of large Koch campaign checks, essentially slapped the company on the wrist for leaking a chemical known to cause leukemia.

Since the indictment, Koch has invested in modifying its Texas refinery. Over the years, however, there were other incidents benzene releases from Koch’s Corpus Christi plant.

Koch’s refineries are located in an area called Refinery Row. According to the Collaborative on Health and the Environment, residents face a high cancer rate and birth defects, while many report chronic sickness.

The billionaire brothers who own Koch Industries, worth $25 billion each, never went to jail.

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