Sunday, May 18, 2008

Expanding Tank Farm in Flood Plain

Its time the US EPA change the regulations and requirements for refinery and chemical storage tanks that are allowed in flood plains. Our own experience with the crude oil spill in Chalmette, Louisiana and the crude oil spill in Coffeyville, Kansas bring several issues to light.

Murphy Oil Meraux Refinery and the Coffeyville Resources Refinery are both in a 100 year flood plain. Even if the Murphy Meraux Refinery was in compliance with federal regulations, they did NOT implement their hurricane preparedness plans. The Federal Regulations are not adequate. The tanks have been allowed too close to residential neighborhoods. Flood plains will flood and at times it will be catastrophic; and this flooding will happen whether the EPA anti-spill plan requires facilities to prevent inundation from catastrophic flooding or not.

Murphy's expansion plans include extending the tank farm north towards the flood plain that was effected most by the MRGO Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet Canal . It is most irresponsible for EPA, LDEQ and the refinery to expand the tank farm in this flood zone. The results are a given. It is reckless of the refinery to expand the tank farm, knowing the results. Yet, it is not a surprise that they justify their irresponsibility by claiming they are at least in compliance.

Note: The spill prevention, control, and countermeasure (SPCC) regulations compliance deadline has been extended again to July 1, 2009. Thats two more hurricane seasons.


Friday, May 16, 2008

Commitment to Greenspace or Political Gift to Murphy Oil

In keeping with the mission of the Louisiana Recovery Authority, we look for the LRA's support of "community recovery and resurgence, ensuring integrity and effectiveness, and planning for the recovery and rebuilding of Louisiana."

The Louisiana Recovery Authority should designate certain LRA properties in St Bernard Parish as permanent greenspace and not transfer ownership to the Murphy Oil Meraux Refinery. We have valid concerns that any transfers of these LRA properties to the refinery would not only constitute a gift to the refinery but would also compromise the integrity of our residential neighborhood, the intent of the Citizen's Recovery Committee - St Bernard Parish Planning Commission's proposed greenspace around the refinery, and the federal court ordered "intended" buffer zone (from the crude oil spill class action law suit).

Our neighborhood in St Bernard Parish like so many others in our great State of Louisiana has a unique character and personality of its own; one which could be entirely and drastically changed with redevelopment decisions. Nestled between East St Bernard Highway and East Judge Perez Drive, Jacob, Despaux, Ventura and Lena Drives in Chalmette, LA comprise the James Place, Despaux and Ventura, Flora Estates and Sandra Park subdivisions. Here, like elsewhere in St Bernard Parish, residents rebuilt their homes and revitalized their community despite the devastating losses of 2005 : Hurricane Katrina and the Murphy Crude Oil Spill. Other homeowners participated in the voluntary buyout portion of the crude oil spill's class action lawsuit and a few have already sold their homesites through the LRA Grant program. These are the properties which should be designated greenspace, if they are not offered to adjoining homeowners first or to other future residential uses.

In June of 2007, we became aware of the refinery's plans to use these four streets for expansion; starting in particular with a land swap / sale of our Jacob Drive Firestation ( item #26 SBPC Agenda). From what little we know of the plans include moving facilities, such as a warehouse, maintenance building, laboratory and the like, into the subdivision to allow processing unit expansion on the refinery's current campus. Some of these facilities are currently out of compliance with the new OSHA explosion cone regulations. Some of the new processing expansions may include a coker unit.

"LRA properties" on these four streets, if not offered to adjoining residents first or to other future residential uses, should be permanently designated greenspace or conservation easements and not be gifted, transferred, sold nor made available in any manner to the refinery for expansion or for any other use. Effecting our community's resurgence and not thwarting our renaissance, the government should never push the homeowners towards the refinery expansion acquisitions and should instead preserve the integrity of the existing residential zoning. The government's active participation in the refinery's expansion acquisitions not only is unethical but would only permeate and pervade the decades long encroachment of this heavy industry into the neighborhood. That action would literally move the refinery fenceline west onto the next four streets of the subdivision leaving little or no greenspace protection.

We petition the Louisiana Recovery Authority and the St Bernard Parish Housing, Redevelopment and Quality of Life Commission to consider first offering the residential properties to adjoining residents or other perspective homeowners. If not, they should designate "LRA" properties in these four street areas as permanent greenspace and not to transfer ownership to the Murphy Refinery.

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