[StBernard] Environmental groups want changes at Chalmette refinery

Westley Annis westley at da-parish.com
Thu Aug 10 22:28:15 EDT 2006

Environmental groups want changes at Chalmette refinery
Among them: Buy up homes for buffer
Thursday, August 10, 2006
By Bob Warren

An environmental group on Wednesday asked a Chalmette refinery to adopt the
group's four-point plan that includes buying homes around the plant to
create a buffer and phasing out use of hydrofluoric acid.

During a news conference in Chalmette, the Louisiana Bucket Brigade,
together with the St. Bernard Citizens for Environmental Quality, also asked
Chalmette Refining to install "high-tech" air monitoring equipment and a
siren warning system.

Chalmette Refining is a joint venture of ExxonMobil Corp. and Petroleos de

In pitching what it calls its first post-Hurricane Katrina
"Community/Refinery Collaborative Plan," the group said it is not asking the
Chalmette refinery to do anything that refineries in other communities have
not already done.

Anne Rolfes, director of the Bucket Brigade, said the group has not spoken
to anyone at the refinery about the plan, but hopes company officials take
it seriously.

"It's a positive situation, a real opportunity," she said.

The four-point proposal announced Wednesday is the latest push by the St.
Bernard Citizens for Environmental Quality and the Bucket Brigade, which in
recent years have stepped up their criticism of the refinery on St. Bernard

Refinery officials, meanwhile, contend that the company, one of the parish's
largest employers, is investing some $200 million on environmental projects
that will reduce plant emissions.

Carolina Asirifi, the plant's public affairs adviser, said the company had
not seen the four-point plan but that it has worked hard to be a good
neighbor, donating time, money and company resources to help the parish's
recovery from Hurricane Katrina.

"We have taken actions to address the concerns of the Louisiana Bucket
Brigade and have worked with federal and state agencies to ensure compliance
with environmental laws and regulations," she wrote in an e-mail.

She said the company already has installed three air monitors in the

The environmental groups want the refinery to enact a voluntary program in
which it would give neighbors the option of selling their homes and property
to the company, at pre-Katrina prices.

For decades, environmental groups have pushed refineries using hydrofluoric
acid to switch to safer alternatives. Hydrofluoric acid, a corrosive
chemical used to make an octane-boosting additive in gasoline, can cause
injuries if released into the air.

Murphy Oil USA's refinery in Meraux, the ConocoPhillips Alliance Refinery in
Belle Chasse, and Marathon Ashland Petroleum in Garyville also use
hydrofluoric acid, according a recent report by U.S. Public Interest
Research Group.

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