On November 16, after two oil refineries in Corpus Christi owned by Koch Industries received a commendation from the Occupational Health and Safety Administration for their operational records and safety programs, the company decided to throw a party at the refining complex’s West Plant. Local dignitaries were in attendance. The nearby Tuloso-Midway High School band played “Celebration,” its cheerleaders did a few routines, and members of its ROTC presented the colors. Afterward everyone lined up for a plate of barbecue and a glass of lemonade.
“This is a great day for Koch Industries,” company president Joe Moeller declared, standing on a platform surrounded by red-white-and-blue banners and red and blue OSHA balloons.
The day may have been great, but for Koch the preceding year had been miserable. And just a month and a half before, on September 28, the U.S. Department of Justice hit the company with a whopping 97-count criminal indictment. It charged that Koch (pronounced “Coke”) and four of its managers at the West Plant knowingly emitted harmful amounts of cancer-causing benzene into the air and water and then tried to cover it