[StBernard] Murphy Oil looks to expand after Katrina spill

Westley Annis westley at da-parish.com
Tue Apr 1 20:49:51 EDT 2008

Murphy Oil looks to expand after Katrina spill

MERAUX - The Murphy Oil refinery here wants to expand its operations by
building a laboratory on land it bought as part of a $343 million legal
settlement stemming from a massive oil spill during Hurricane Katrina.

The company is asking St. Bernard Parish's government to rezone three lots
from residential and commercial to heavy industrial so it can build a
laboratory to test its petroleum products.

But residents are upset at the plan because they say it goes against the
terms of the settlement.

Katrina's floodwaters lifted a refinery storage tank off its foundation and
moved it more than 30 feet, causing a million gallons of oil to leak into
surrounding neighborhoods.

Last year, U.S. District Judge Eldon Fallon wrote that buyouts were intended
to ''create a buffer zone between the Murphy Oil refinery and the community
and remove the most heavily contaminated properties from residential use.''
Fallon approved the settlement.

Many residents believed the buffer zone would be green space. But the
company has a different interpretation.

''There's a common misconception that a buffer zone means green space,''
said Daniel Dysart, a Murphy Oil attorney. ''What it means is that there
must be something between the refinery operations and residential areas.''

He said that could include a lab, an office building, a parking lot or a

Dysart said Murphy Oil has pledged to not expand its refining or oil storage
operations beyond its pre-Katrina fence line.

At a recent hearing before the parish's planning commission, residents said
they were troubled by Murphy's actions.

''They destroyed our homes through their own negligence,'' said Chris
Holmes, who lives two blocks from the refinery. ''They should not be
rewarded by being allowed to expand into our neighborhood.''

Parish planners tabled a vote on whether to recommend that the Parish
Council approve or deny the rezoning request until April 22.

In January 2007, the refinery agreed to pay an estimated $330 million to
settle a federal class-action lawsuit involving about 6,500 property owners
and renters affected by the spill.

Carl Zornes, a Murphy spokesman, said the actual settlement costs have
reached $343 million and are still climbing.

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