On Tuesday night, March 12, something unusual happened. LDEQ held a public hearing for a permit about to be issued to Exxon to expand their chemical plant another eight acres. LDEQ was forced to hold that hearing because of the public outcry against the 8.3 acre expansion to become one of the largest petrochemical complexes in the world. The problem, of course, is the largest petrochemical complex in the world is in the middle of the metropolitan downtown of Baton Rouge; over 59,000 people live within two miles of that complex.
Permit hearings usually make me sick to my stomach, but Tuesday night for the first time I felt I had power. I had three weapons –
1) Our friend Sparsh Khandeshi of the Environmental Integrity Project’s analysis of the permit exposing an incomplete application and insufficient monitoring to assure compliance
2) A bucket sample an LABB community partner took in February 2012 across the street from the Exxon chemical plant showing high amounts of 1,3 butadiene in the neighborhood
3) Photos from inside the plant showing pervasive corrosion and how ill-prepared the plant is for an increase in production.
As nola.com reports, Exxon’s Derek Reese was visibly agitated after my presentation. It’s nice to make them mad sometimes, because I get mad every day I am in the neighborhoods next to the plant, huffing in their chemicals and hearing horrific stories of children being taken to the hospital in the middle of the night for breathing treatments.