By RJ Bowman, LABB Environmental Justice Corps Fellow
Saturday July 28th was a remarkable day. LABB Program Manager, Anna Hrybyk, and Ronesha and myself (both of us Environmental Justice Corps Fellows) had a chance to meet face-to-face with the acting administrator of EPA’s Region 6, Sam Coleman. This was very significant because Sam is from the very same town as Ronesha and I, and grew up in a neighborhood like I have. His family is still in Shreveport and he himself knows first hand of the injustice of Calumet Lubricants.
For a long time, the grassroots organization in Shreveport, Residents for Air Neutralization (RAN), and the community have complained about problems with the refinery. To many government officials, it probably was just hearsay. After a surprise inspection in August 2011, there seems to be little that has changed. RAN and the community are now left with questions that have still not been answered, and are looking for the next step. Thanks to Sam, some questions may finally be answered.
First, Sam was very helpful and cooperative. I have not sensed that with an official in a long time. We gave him a copy of the inspection report and a letter from Velma White, President of RAN, with a petition signed by concerned members of the community that expressed the demand for immediate action to the ongoing problems, such as the hydrogen sulfide leaks and the use of workers as human monitors. As we talked with Sam, we discussed with him about possible options to explore next and what he thinks the best plan of action should be since he is head of the regional bureaucracy. To my surprise, he told the pros and cons of certain actions and gave some recommendations on what he feels the appropriate solutions are. He could not discuss some things because of confidentiality, but we are very grateful of the things that he could help with.
He plans to have a meeting with Calumet and the community in the next two months to discuss the concerns of the residents and what plans Calumet has in place to correct their problems. Being from Shreveport, I feel that Calumet has affected him just as much as it has affected the community and he plans to do what others haven’t – address the problem and find solutions.