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News and Media

Chemical Disaster in Baton Rouge? President Obama Executive Order “Listening Sessions”

Contact: Stephenie Hendricks, (415) 258-9151, shendricks@comingcleaninc.org

February 19, 2014 Listening Session held in Baton Rouge, LA 

(In-Person and Teleconference)

Registration: 12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m.    

Sessions: 1:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. (Afternoon and Evening)*     

Location: Louisiana State Police Training Academy, 7901 Independence Blvd., Baton Rouge, LA 70806

In-Person Registration Link: http://www.govevents.com/word-redir.php?id=12100

Teleconference Registration Link: http://www.govevents.com/word-redir.php?id=12101

(New Orleans, LA) Hidden toxic chemicals that are manufactured, stored, and transported throughout Louisiana are the focus of the “Listening Session” in Baton Rouge, as directed by an Executive Order (EO) from President Obama called Executive Order 13650 - Improving Chemical Safety and Security. “Listening Sessions” are being held at various locations across the country. 

The EO was created in response to the West, Texas explosion that killed 15 people in April, 2013. Since then, there have been a multitude of plant explosions and train derailments. On January 9th, a West Virginia chemical spill devastated the watershed of 9 counties leaving 300,000 people without drinking water. 

In 2012, the Chevron refinery in Richmond, California, exploded, sending over 15,000 people to the hospital.

In June, a chemical explosion in Geismar, Louisiana, killed one and injured scores.

Just before Christmas, an explosion at the Axiall plant near Mossville, Louisiana sickened motorists driving by the plant, sending them to the hospital. 

Dorothy Felix, President of Mossville Environmental Action Now (MEAN), wants the residents of her Louisiana town moved out of harms’ way. “On Dec. 20, a fire occurred in the vinyl chloride manufacturing area at the Axiall compound in nearby Lake Charles,”  says Ms. Felix. “Mossville residents were ordered to ‘shelter in place,’ but  we were not informed of what toxins were released into the air. We here in Louisiana are harmed the most by the chemical manufacturing industry; we are considered disposable human beings as far as they are concerned, and they treat chemical explosions as if they are just the ‘price of doing business.’”

“Toxic chemicals such as benzene, chloride and others linked to cancer and respiratory injury contaminate communities during train derailments, truck crashes, plant explosions and other incidents,” says Dr. Wilma Subra, a toxicologist  based in New Iberia, Louisiana,  who works with impacted communities. “Those who are suffering from asthma and other illnesses - especially children and the elderly -  suffer even more when there is a chemical disaster. The chemicals could remain in the soil, water and air for a long time of continued exposure, depending on the situation.” 

Juan Parras, Executive Director of Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services (t.e.j.a.s.)  is traveling to Baton Rouge with residents of the Manchester neighborhood of Houston, Texas,  where there are 27 schools, to emphasize the level of danger there.“If  the explosions in  Mossville or West Texas occurred  in the community of Manchester, the results could be catastrophic. With over one dozen facilities in Manchester, and hundreds throughout Houston, millions of people are in harm’s way from these chemical facilities,” explained Mr.Parras.  “People don’t have any idea that the government is failing to protect us from the dangers posed by huge amounts of dangerous toxic chemicals that surround us. People of color are disproportionately impacted because the storage facilities, refineries, and train tracks tend to be built in and around communities of color.”

Michele Roberts, Co-Coordinator of the Environmental Justice and Health Alliance comments, “Whether it’s Houston, Texas; Mossville, Louisiana; West Texas; West Virginia or hundreds of other communities where chemical plants have been allowed to be built - millions of people, disproportionately people of color and low-income communities, are living in harm’s way with chemical threats. There is an urgent need to set up strong protections from the toxic and petrochemical industry contamination in our communities, now.”

Richard Moore, Co-Coordinator of Environmental Justice and Health Alliance, and former chair of the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency explains, “People are still exposed and being hurt by lack of government oversight and corporate accountability. Federal and state governments must come forward now to protect communities and workers from toxic chemical disasters.The Department of Homeland Security, Department of Labor (OSHA), and the U.S. EPA, as well as state agencies, need to take responsibility to protect communities and workers from chemical disasters.”

Background

On January 3, the Federal Interagency Working Group overseeing the implementation of President Obama’s Executive Order 13650 - Improving Chemical Safety and Security released a preliminary list of options for policies, regulations, and standards to improve chemical facility safety and security. Existing federal and state programs are failing to protect workers and residents because none of the existing rules or safety standards require truly preventive measures. The new Working Group policy options list shows that both EPA and OSHA are considering new prevention requirements that include currently available and affordable safer chemicals and safer processes, which could be implemented using existing authorities. Community and labor representatives are continuing to call on the Administration to resist chemical and oil industry opposition to common-sense changes and adopt new policies that will prevent more disasters, ending over ten years of delay.

More listening sessions for President Obama’s Executive Order 13650

February 27, 2014: Newark, NJ

January 23, 2014: Houston, TX

January 6, 2014: Sacramento, CA

November 13, 2013: Washington, DC

November 1, 2013: Houston, TX

Available for Comment

Delma & Christine Bennett; Mossville Environmental Action Now; (337) 882-1439.

Dorothy Felix; Mossville Environmental Action Now; (337) 882-8078, mossville4ej@yahoo.com. Dorothy can tell about how Senator Vitter’s own state of Louisiana has among the highest cancer rates in the nation from chemical exposures and unprotected communities.  

Monique Harden, Esq.; Co-Director and Attorney, Advocates for Environmental Human Rights; (504) 799-3060, mharden@ehumanrights.org. Monique is an attorney with expertise on human rights and environmental legislation and judicial decisions in the U.S. and abroad. Her organization’s litigation on behalf of African American residents of Mossville, LA has led to a precedent by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States, which decided for the first time to take jurisdiction over a case of environmental racism in the United States.

Wilma Subra, PhD; Chemist, President, Subra Company; (337) 367-2216, subracom@aol.com.

Juan Parras; Executive Director, Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services; (281) 513-7799, parras.juan@gmail.com.

Michele Roberts; Co-Coordinator, Environmental Justice Health Alliance for Chemical Policy Reform; (202) 704-7593, mroberts@comingcleaninc.org. Michele can discuss the disproportionate impacts from toxic chemicals on communities of color.

Richard Moore; Los Jardines Institute; Co-Chair, Environmental Justice and Health Alliance for Chemical Policy Reform; (505) 301-0276, ljinewmexico@gmail.com. Richard can talk about environmental justice issues and organizing in the Southwest, and TSCA reform.  Habla Espanol.