By Ian McGibboney
An activist group plans a protest downtown this morning against what they deem to be an unacceptable safety record at the ExxonMobil Baton Rouge refinery.
Members of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, along with representatives of United Steelworkers, were scheduled to converge at the Louisiana Mid Continent Oil and Gas Association office, 730 North Blvd., at 10 a.m.
The group intends to wrap copies of 1,363 letters around the sidewalk surrounding the office, before proceeding to the refinery to deliver the letters to manager Steven Blume.
ExxonMobil spokeswoman Lana Venable says the refinery cannot accept drop-offs due to security protocol, and that Blume would not be in the office today.
"Last week, we communicated that Mr. Blume would not be on-site this week to receive these letters," Venable says. "We suggested that the letters be mailed to his attention so that they can be screened on-site in accordance with our security procedures."
The Bucket Brigade says the letters are from south Louisiana residents urging the plant to upgrade equipment, adopt more stringent safety procedures and hire more full-time workers.
Bucket Brigade founding director Anne Rolfes says today's event is a culmination of two years of attempted dialogue with ExxonMobil.
"The heart of the matter is their refusal to really talk about accidents. This is not about Blume. That is not the crescendo today. … We want them to stop having accidents," she says.
Venable says the company "looks forward to reviewing the letters and will respond, as appropriate."
In November, the Bucket Brigade issued a report stating ExxonMobil Baton Rouge was responsible for the highest plant accident rate in the state. ExxonMobil officials accused the group of double-counting incidents, a charge the group denies. Read more about that dispute here.