A settlement against Murphy Oil USA over its St. Bernard Parish refinery was reached this week, forcing the company to pay millions in fines and new equipment to prevent pollution in the future. (You might remember Murphy Oil from this mess that happened right after Hurricane Katrina, affecting more than 1,700 homes already ruined by flooding.)
Here’s a rundown of the settlement from nola.com on Wednesday:
In part because of numerous Clean Air Act violations by its refinery in St. Bernard Parish, a federal judge this week signed off on a settlement that will require Murphy Oil USA to pay $1.25 million in civil penalties, invest more than $142 million in new equipment to reduce future pollution and spend at least $1.5 million on environmental projects statewide.
Sounds like a step in the right direction, but these things do take time. Murphy Oil is expected to install a flare recovery system by 2016, which would greatly reduce the amount of excess product emitted during accidents (saving the refinery money in the long run on top of not polluting neighborhoods). Murphy Oil had 122 such accidents between 2005-2009, according to our most recent Common Ground report.
As Suzanne Kneale of Concerned Citizens Around Murphy (who were involved in the settlement) told us: “Residents report having to cover their noses when driving on the roads that go through the facility. At times, residents report it is like all the oxygen has been sucked out of the air.”
Among the beneficial environmental projects costing the oil company $1.5 million? The refinery will set up community air monitors within 180 days, conduct noise pollution surveys and figure out ways to turn the volume down, put up a fence around the Villere Plantation ruins for preservation purposes and determine ways to “suppress dust.”
Some of that money will also go toward covering two wastewater treatment tanks, which will reduce benzene emissions by a ton each year. “These open tanks are located within very close proximity to school bus stops and residential homes,” Kneale said.
And the rest of the money will go toward monthly community meetings, oral reports to the public on the progress of updating the facility, and also more community meetings (light refreshments are expensive, I guess!).
We’re anxious to see how this all turns out and, of course, we’ll be keeping tabs on the progress.
One final note from Kneale: “We don’t know what to do about the residual risk of exposure to the chemicals from flaring between now and December 2016, but we do look forward to that flare gas recovery system and hope Murphy Oil takes this opportunity to be a good neighbor and restore the balance between heavy industry and residential. We also hope all refineries in Louisiana are similarly held to strict standards.”
Written by Benjamin Leger, media coordinator for LABB.