August 27, 2012 For Immediate Release
Contact: Anne Rolfes, Founding Director, Louisiana Bucket Brigade, (504) 452-4909
(New Orleans) As Gulf Coast residents prepare for the arrival of Hurricane Isaac, oil industry operators – including managers of refineries, wells and pipelines - are being exhorted to get ready as well. “We’ve had terrible tragedies in this state because of the oil industry’s failure to prepare for storms that we know are coming,” said Anne Rolfes, Director of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade. “There’s no excuse this time.” A map released today details the oil industry infrastructure in Hurricane Isaac’s path.
The two refineries in St. Bernard Parish are in the path of the Hurricane, as are the Motiva and Valero refineries in St. Charles Parish and the ConocoPhillips refinery in Plaquemines Parish, where mandatory evacuations have already been called. All of Louisiana’s seventeen refineries, over 100 chemical plants, nearly 50,000 wells, 232 non-retired oil rigs and almost 50,000 miles of pipeline are in the path of the storm. Of concern are the 27,000 abandoned wells in the Gulf of Mexico, many of which are not plugged at the source.
At issue is the industry’s ongoing failure to prepare for storms despite the fact that the storm’s arrival is predicted. According to refinery reports, rain and storms are responsible for 25% of air pollution and 65% of all water pollution from accidents. The issue is often simply one of preparedness.
“I have been employed at the Convent Refinery for 12 years as an operator in the Utilities portion of the refinery. I have been forced to ride out (hurricanes and storms). I can tell you that in my experience there has always been a plan that has been written out. The problem is that the plan is rarely followed and the changes are made on the fly to fit the situation that the company believes we are in at the moment.” – Darrell Heltz, USW Chair, Convent Refinery
“At Alliance, we have a hurricane policy in place, but it is only followed when it is convenient for ConocoPhillips.” – Anthony Corso, USW ConocoPhillips Alliance Refinery, Belle Chasse
In the oil drilling and production sector, much of the oil spill response equipment is based in Houston, where it cannot be immediately deployed for an accident.
The oil industry is called on to:
· Move oil spill response equipment to a closer location where it can be deployed more rapidly
· Shut down refineries as soon as possible to protect workers and minimize pollution on neighbors
During Hurricane Gustav, ExxonMobil in Baton Rouge failed to shut down its operations even as the eye of the hurricane passed over the city. The result was that the refinery released 1.25 million pounds of toxic air emissions during a 12-day span. This accident and the resulting pollution would have been avoided with a timed and sequenced shutdown.
ExxonMobil plant manager Steve Blume has been the object of over 5,000 letters from Louisiana residents urging him to take proper precautions in advance of hurricanes. Though Mr. Blume has thus far refused to accept the letters, the public’s stance on this issue is loud and clear. “We know Hurricane Isaac is coming,” said Ms. Rolfes. “The oil industry has been warned. They have no excuse for spilling oil all over us and dumping chemicals down our throats.”
The Louisiana Bucket Brigade is an environmental health and justice organization supporting neighborhoods’ use of grassroots action to create informed, sustainable communities free from industrial pollution.