New Sarpy citizens blast DEQ: Submit petition to EPA to revoke state authority

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(New Orleans, March 13, 2002) Angry New Sarpy citizens today blasted the DEQ for abuse and neglect of their community and demanded that the EPA take over administration of the troubled state agency. The citizens' complaints - extending since Orion began operations in May 2000 - have been vindicated since the Louisiana auditors' report confirmed the DEQ's mismanagement, abuse and "failure to adequately protect the environment."

"Orion and DEQ endanger our lives every day," said Dorothy Jenkins, President of New Sarpy Concerned Citizens. "Let's give EPA a chance to protect us."  The petition follows rampant abuse of the community, including the largest tank fire in US history in June of 2001, in which Orion Refining did not evacuate the community or even communicate with them. "How much more evidence does DEQ need?" asked Anne Rolfes, director of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade. "Orion averages two accidents a week, with the largest tank fire in US history, and DEQ does nothing. It's time to send the DEQ packing. This petition calls for swift action by the EPA."

The petition, accompanied by a request for investigation by the U.S.  Inspector General, details abuse by Orion Refining and the health effects that the people of New Sarpy suffer. The citizens are also releasing an inspection report that details Orion Refining gross violation of the Clean Air Act. Among the abuses listed:

•    Orion Refining has averaged two accidents per week since beginning operations in May of 2000. The same piece of broken down equipment has been responsible for 30% of the sulfur dioxide flaring.

•    Orion Refining violated permits by adding on to their facility. Despite an investigation by the DEQ, no enforcement action has been taken.

The abuses inflicted upon the citizens of New Sarpy are reflected in the systemic problems at DEQ, according to the auditor's report.

•    LDEQ did not escalate enforcement actions in many cases where repeat violations occurred. For example, 76% of air enforcement actions and 57% of water enforcement actions were not escalated.

•    LDEQ enforcement may not ensure that environmental resources are adequately protected through the appropriate identification of violations, the issuance of timely actions, the escalation of actions when facilities have repeat violations and the ability to assess and collect penalties.

The Refinery Reform coalition, a national campaign to clean up the nation's dirty refineries, is supporting the New Sarpy citizens in their request for revocation.  "The Louisiana Auditor's report provides the refinery communities with a smoking gun about DEQ's mismanagement, but sadly that is just the tip of the toxic iceberg threatening fenceline neighbor's health and safety," said Denny Larson, Refinery Reform Coordinator of the Texas SEED Coalition.

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