It’s been a great year at the Louisiana Bucket Brigade (LABB). We have been relentless and creative to protect the health and environment in Louisiana, and our hard work has paid off. Read on to learn what your support has made possible. THANK YOU, and please consider a year end donation.
Residents for Air Neutralization: We are supporting this Shreveport based group in their goal to pressure Calumet Refining to buy their contaminated properties. In August, an unannounced EPA inspection corroborated residents’ concerns about the refinery. EPA confirmed that Calumet has a problem with releases of hydrogen sulfide, a neurotoxin and a respiratory irritant that endangers residents and workers alike. (http://www.labucketbrigade.org/article.php?id=949)
Environmental Justice Corps: This program develops a new generation of African American leaders in the Environmental Health and Justice Movement. We graduated two Fellows in August of 2011 who worked in the areas of fundraising and public health.
Istrouma Health Partnership: Our program goal isto prevent exposure to emissions in the Istrouma neighborhood of Baton Rouge. There are 15 petrochemical plants surrounding over 55,000 people, including 30 schools and 38 daycares. This petrochemical complex includes ExxonMobil refinery, the second largest refinery in the country.
Social Enterprise: Lenora Gobert, our first ever Social Entrepreneur, has developed two income generating plans, including one entitled Mardi Gras: Made in Louisiana. The goals of this project are to raise money for the LABB, reduce Mardi Gras’ demand for petrochemicals and spur the local economy. Details coming soon…
Money raised: 34,779
New members ($15 or more): 1,037
Doors knocked on: 21,641
Conversations held: 6,565
Oil Spill Response: To increase the accountability of the oil industry following the BP disaster. Our post spill survey of 954 households found nearly half have unusual health problems. This remains the largest face to face survey since the disaster.
Refinery Efficiency Initiative: The goal of this program is to reduce accidents at the 17 refineries around the state. We created this program in late 2007 to take advantage of a national political climate more conducive to protecting the environment. Our strategy is paying off.
Just as federal intervention has been crucial for oversight of public housing, civil rights, education and the police department, so it is that we need intervention in the realm of the environment. As the Times Picayune headline noted in an article on December 13, 2011, “Louisiana flunks at enforcing air, water laws.” (http://www.nola.com/environment/index.ssf/2011/12/louisiana_flunks_at_enforcing.html)
January 2011 – Monthly conference calls with EPA begin. Community members from Shreveport (Residents for Air Neutralization – RAN) and Baton Rouge (Community Empowerment for Change – CEC) join the calls to provide updates about local refinery problems.
March 2011 – EPA announces that they have created a temporary staff position to engage with LABB on our Refinery Efficiency Initiative.
May 2011 – As the Army Corps of Engineers prepares for the Mississippi floods, our research discovers that the state is not preparing for the inundation of thousands of waste pits with oil and toxic chemicals. (http://www.labucketbrigade.org/article.php?id=737)
June 2011 – Program Manager Anna Hrybyk provides the enforcement division with a review of the beleaguered ExxonMobil’s Chalmette Refining consent decree (thank you Tulane Environmental Law Clinic), pointing out deficiencies and missed deadlines.
July 2011 – Anna testifies before the legislative environmental committee regarding the Pearl River fish kill. She puts the accident in context: chronic failure of state oversight facilitates sloppy operations and causes accidents, not only at refineries, but at industry throughout the state.
August 2011 – Due to ongoing pressure from RAN, the EPA conducts a surprise inspection at Calumet Refinery. The findings are so devastating that the refinery manager admits non-compliance and sheepishly tells the EPA that “he knows what good looks like and recognizes that Calumet is not there.” http://www.labucketbrigade.org/downloads/Inspection%20of%20Calumet%20Specialty%20Products,%20LP%208.2011_1.pdf (p.21 )
September 2011 – Seven refineries report accidents during Tropical Storm Lee, with four of those accidents attributed to the storm. LABB renews calls for improved storm preparedness. Refineries know heavy rains happen here and should be better prepared. (http://www.labucketbrigade.org/article.php?id=753)
October 2011 – Staff and volunteers of LABB travel to EPA headquarters in Dallas with members of Residents for Air Neutralization. Review of refinery emergency preparedness plans finds woeful documentation.
November 2011 – The annual release of our research into refinery accidents exposes that refineries had nearly an accident a day in 2010. Thank you to the United Steelworkers who released this report with CEC, RAN and LABB. (http://www.labucketbrigade.org/downloads/CGIII%20-%20Long%20Version.pdf)
The result of all of this work is to engage the EPA, especially their enforcement division. The goal is to let industry, especially the oil industry, know that we are serious in this state about upholding the law.
Thank you for making this possible.