AGREEMENT REACHED WITH SHELL ON PORT ARTHUR REFINERY EXPANSION BY ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE GROUP
Community In-power and Development Association - CIDA National Refinery Reform Campaign
Photo Gallery: CIDA Meeting in Port Arthur,TX
Refinery Reform: Motiva Shell News Coverage - August 2006
AGREEMENT REACHED WITH SHELL ON PORT ARTHUR REFINERY EXPANSION BY ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE GROUP
In 2006, Motiva (a Shell Oil subsidiary) applied for a permit from the state of Texas to expand their existing Port Arthur refinery to more than double its current production – which would make it the largest refinery in the nation.
Global Community Monitor (GCM) and CIDA Inc assembled a national team to work with the local Environmental Justice group, Community In Power and Development Association (CIDA) to block the permit and won major pollution reductions, a multi-million dollar community development foundation and community safety measures. This model will be made available for dozens of similar refinery expansions that GCM will work with.
How could a community based Environmental Justice group block a refinery permit in a state like Texas and force a major multi-billion dollar oil giant to negotiate? How could that group win major environmental improvements from the refinery (many of which were not required by law) and force Shell to set up a community-controlled foundation to improve the low-income fenceline neighborhoods?
The story started 6 years ago when the founder of CIDA Inc, Hilton Kelley, had a desire to take a stand for his communities’ Environmental Justice rights, Hilton Kelley attended training on ‘bucket brigade’ air monitoring given by GCM in Port Arthur, Texas. Kelley learned that he didn’t have to rely on Texas and refinery air monitors that kept showing that the air in his foul smelling community was “clean”. Kelley suspected that the air was full of refinery chemicals that were making his community sick and he wanted to prove it so he could get the refinery to clean up its act. GCM provided training, funding and on-going support to Kelley and his CIDA group over the next 3 years as they build their capacity to tackle the oil giants and their defenders in the Texas agencies.
Slowly, but surely, Kelley and CIDA used their air samples and other evidence gathering strategies to make an undeniable case about excess pollution from the refineries. GCM helped the group develop effective organizing campaigns to get more people involved. GCM worked with the group to implement effective strategies and tactics to win better enforcement and increased penalties against refinery pollution. GCM also got other national groups to invest time and resources in the Port Arthur campaigns. GCM helped CIDA develop an effective media strategy that got feature coverage of their issues in high profile media, including Mother Jones magazine, Houston Chronicle and Texas Monthly.
By the end of the third year of assistance from GCM, CIDA had been incorporated and had its own 501(c) 3 tax status. GCM helped CIDA write grants, communicate effectively with funders and eventually get their own grants.
So when Shell/Motiva applied for a permit in February 2006 to make their existing Port Arthur refinery the largest in the nation, CIDA and GCM were ready to tackle the giant head-on. GCM helped CIDA recruit a team of national experts as well as experts in the Texas permit process. With their combined strategy, Shell’s permit was contested and effectively delayed for at least a year or more, costing the company millions of dollars.
So Shell was forced to come to the table and negotiate a series of improvements and community benefits that went well beyond what might be required under the letter of the law.
One major aspect of this agreement is that the “Port Arthur Communities Fund” will be created. That fund will be used to foster the economic and social revitalization of the communities in Port Arthur in the general vicinity of the Motiva Refinery, with special emphasis on the West Side of Port Arthur. Among the goals of the Fund are improvement of the quality of housing in the Adjacent Communities, fostering new commercial development in the adjacent communities, facilitate the establishment of community programs that provide recreational, social or economic opportunities for residents of the Adjacent Communities; and support the establishment of projects impacting the Adjacent Communities that Quality as Supplemental Environmental Projects by TCEQ.
Initial funding of $2 million is provided by Shell under the Agreement with another $1.5 million pledged to match grants from other sources. The goal is to use this initial funding as seed money to support a long-term effort to revitalize West Port Arthur. A Steering Committee will be selected from area residents and leaders from a variety of backgrounds. They will review proposals for projects and make funding recommendations.
The second part of the Community Enhancement Agreement involves specific air pollution control and abatement issues. Shell has agreed to:
(1) Install pollution controls for cancer causing benzene air emissions from its waste water system not required by law
(2) Fund a new ambient air quality monitor to measure air pollutants such as hydrogen sulfide that are not being measured at this time in Port Arthur;
(3) Deliver to CIDA Inc. two new hand-held air pollution monitors to enhance the community’s ability to identify pollution and odors;
(4) Enhance the community disaster warning system;
(5) Obtain an advanced hydrogen sulfide odor detection device to aid the community in identifying and eliminating noxious odor sources;
(6) Install air pollution controls more quickly than originally proposed;
(7) Provide funding to the community for better access to community health facilities and
(8) Provide for a better exchange of information with the neighbors, including an annual environmental report to the community
This is just one concrete example of what can be accomplished in the dozens of communities, GCM works to assist. GCM’s model is to share this success and build on it with every impacted community we are invited to work in. With the continued and increased support of foundations like Underdog, GCM can continue effective work and movement building that makes a lasting difference
“We are very grateful for all of the support and information that Global Community Monitor has provided to our organization and our community, this organization was vital to the success we have had over the years and we hope that they will continue this vital service so that other communities like West Port Arthur TX can gain freedom from big polluters toxic chemical emissions.” Hilton Kelley (CIDA Inc.)
(Port Arthur, TX-JUNE 2006) Local Environmental Justice organization, Community In-
power and Development Association (CIDA) has filed a legal challenge to
the giant Motiva/Shell expansion and labeled the proposal an "
environmental injustice" to largely African-American community living on
the fenceline. CIDA is supported in their challenge by a team of
national and regional leaders and experts and a growing number of angry
refinery neighbors in the west side neighborhoods near Motiva's refinery.
If approved, the Motiva expansion would make the facility the largest
refinery in the nation. Port Arthur has been a frequent site for Civil
Rights and Environmental Justice complaints regarding refinery/chemical
plant pollution and regulatory failures by the state and federal EPA.
"Port Arthur residents on the west side are tired of being dumped on and
left out of the benefits of these billion dollar projects," said Hilton
Kelley of CIDA. "If Motiva wants to build the biggest refinery in the
nation on top of us then they need to be ready to sign a Good Neighbor
Agreement that builds our community and protects our health."
The CIDA will seek full party status at a contested case hearing as part
of the TCEQ permit process on August 8, 2006, at 1 PM in Port Arthur at
the library. CIDA is represented by a legal led by Jim Blackburn, an
environmental attorney from Houston. The CIDA support team also includes
the Environmental Integrity Project of Washington, D.C., attorneys from
firm of Lowerre and Frederick, and Lone Star Sierra Club.
"Motiva, a part of Shell Oil, is guilty of using a double standard and
operating better in other locations than they do here in Port Arthur,"
said Denny Larson of the National Refinery Reform Campaign. "Motiva/
Shell has put in sophisticated community warning systems at their other
facilities and has also relocated an entire neighborhood in Louisiana,
but in Port Arthur they have taken advantage of a poor black community
with no political power and done of these things."
The Port Arthur area is a non-attainment status for air pollution and new
must meet the most stringent emission standards, and offset any emission
increases. Motiva's Port Arthur refinery seeks to expand and increase
emissions by 31% above 2003 levels of 7,350 tons to at least 9,632 tons
with major increases in sulfur dioxide and particulate matter pollution,
both contaminants that can harm the respiratory system and fine
particles are associated with increases in premature mortality. Motiva's
expansion means more harmful pollution in an overloaded airshed with
Port Arthur residents having to breathe more dirty air.
Motiva plans to more than double amounts of dangerous particles released
and to increase sulfur dioxide emissions dramatically - over 6 times
higher with the expansion -- compared to current emissions. Motiva
neglected to include any emission increases in its estimates from either
the new flares it is proposing to build or from existing flares at the
site. Motiva plans to increase odorous hydrogen sulfide emissions by at
least 1.75 times the current emissions.
Projected community sulfur dioxide pollution concentrations will barely
meet national health standards with less than a one percent margin once
the facility is built, according to Motiva's own air quality modeling
studies. EPA existing sulfur dioxide standards do not protect asthmatic
individuals from adverse health effects.
CIDA has stated the Motiva should be prepared to sign binding agreement,
known as a Good Neighbor Agreement, that would ensure community
empowerment, health and justice for the historically neglected west side
of Port Arthur. Among the areas such an agreement would guarantee include:
- An option to for residents to relocate through a fair buy out program
- A real and verifiable decrease in emissions and fewer upsets and flare offs
- A real time monitoring system on the fenceline that reports instantly
to the web
- An Integrated warning network - sirens, reverse 911, TV and radio
- A community controlled environmental education and health center run
- An evacuation plan for homeland security issues (natural and terrorist
- An independent program to monitor compliance and refinery performance
Community In-power and Development Association - CIDA is a six year old
community organization in Port Arthur, Texas, whose mission is to help
our young people a) understand the complexities of our government and how
they can stand together to make change in our community, b) obtain their
personal goals in business, homeownership, and politics, and c) address
health and environmental issues in our community. website: www.cidainc.org
National Refinery Reform Campaign is a national campaign seeking to clean
up America's oil refineries and reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.
The National Campaign is organizing refinery communities nation-wide to
demand reform of oil refinery operations and regulations, assisting
industrial neighbors establish "Bucket Brigades" to test the air they
breathe and providing tools and training for refinery neighbors to
document "toxic trespass" of chemicals into their bodies. website:
Lone Star Chapter Sierra Club website: http://texas.sierraclub.org/