New Orleans City Business: Environmental coalition pressures ExxonMobil for reform

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Megan Kamerick Senior Associate Editor

CHALMETTE — A coalition of environmental groups and community organizations wants ExxonMobil to discontinue using hydrofluoric acid at its Chalmette refinery.

Chalmette Refining uses 2.4 million pounds of hydrofluoric acid in a single process, according to the Working Group on Community Right to Know in Washington D.C. That’s more than any refinery in the country.

The group includes the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, Greenpeace, Holy Cross Neighborhood Association, National Refinery Reform Campaign, New Orleans Group Sierra Club, St. Bernard Citizens for Environmental Quality and U.S. PIRG. The coalition is asking ExxonMobil to switch to a safer alternative.

Short-term inhalation exposure to gaseous hydrogen fluoride can cause severe respiratory damage in humans, including irritation and pulmonary edema, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. One alternative could be modified hydrofluoric acid, which ExxonMobil patented and uses at its Torrance, Calif. refinery, said Anne Rolfes, director of the Bucket Brigade.

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