Friday, February 26, 2016

soil borings

Valero zoning on Jacob Drive

Soil boring work began along the Jacob Canal, presumably for the construction of multiple parking lots and an Admin Building.  Although the Public Hearing to Amend our Land Use Map and Comprehensive Plan was cancelled due to weather, it seems soil boring work has begun, indicating Valero likely will continue efforts to change the zoning from Residential to Commercial. 

St Bernard Parish Government reviews its land use plan for Major Changes every five years. However, anyone can submit a Minor change  proposal in January of any year. The February meeting to decide whether or not to adopt such Minor amendments was cancelled due to weather. It is unclear if Valero's proposal to expand into our neighborhood was classified as a Minor amendment or not. That vote on the amendment seems to be re-scheduled for March 22 2016.

Even without the Amendment to Commercial Land Use, Valero can apply for a Zoning change from Residential to Commercial.  A reasonable constituency would expect such an application to be denied on all accounts as not being consistent with the land use plan----  but then again, maybe local officials have an understanding with Valero that has yet to be revealed to the residents.

Even though Valero repeated assured residents there were no plans for the neighborhood properties, other than the existing empty lots which serve as the intended greenspace, and despite multiple public records requests of local government for any agreement with St Bernard Parish Government  and Valero Energy for development of the greenspace, including use of Road Home LLT lots, it seems Valero expects the residents to “accommodate adjacent Valero refining expansion.”   
Valero could be a good neighbor, and honor its agreements with the residents, and stay on their side of the fence.  Not the first time Valero has been disingenuous.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

oil in AT&T box along St Bernard Highway

Historical groundwater contamination may be cause of seepage of oil into AT&T utility box.

March 25, 2015, January 13, 2016, and January 27, 2016 incidents under investigation, due to potential impact to groundwater.  No indications it is associated with current or historic refining operations.

Earlier observations were believed to be residual surface runoff from an October 2013 crude oil release.  

It was only on January 27 2016 when seepage was described by AT&T personnel inside the box, that Valero determined that this may, instead, be the result of historic groundwater contamination.

On January 27 2016, AT&T personnel arrived outside the Valero fence-line to conduct maintenance activities inside a concrete service box located along St. Bernard Highway.  After noticing an oily sheen and standing water in the box, AT&T personnel coordinated with Valero to pump down and enter the box.      Incidents remain under investigation.

puzzling developments

Recent unsolicited offers by Valero Energy to purchase residential homes in Chalmette include stipulations that the homeowners may not remove any existing home security cameras, plants, vegetables, fruit trees, and other personal items, such as bathroom mirrors and ceiling fans     ……………  Is this an indication Valero seeks to house workers in our neighborhood?
or do Valero's demolition crews need to supplement their pay …………..  

last Tuesday's public hearing was canceled due to weather and the cancellation sign indicated the meeting was re-scheduled to March 22 2016

Sunday, February 21, 2016

which direction are we going in St Bernard ?

PUBLIC HEARING TUESDAY 4pm Proposal to change land use to Commercial
Friday a sign was placed near Ohio Street

 "The land use designation [change to commercial] is to accommodate adjacent Valero Refining expansion."

Thomas Friedman The first law of Petropolitics


The first law of Petropolitics :  the price of oil and the pace of freedom always move in opposite directions

“. …the higher the oil prices rise, the more free speech, free press, free and fair elections, an independent judiciary, the rule of law, and independent political parties are eroded… the higher the price goes, the less petrolist leaders are sensitive to what the world thinks or says about them …the lower the price of oil the more petrolist countries are forced to more toward a political system and society that is more transparent, more sensitive to opposition voices, and more focused on building the legal and educational structures that will maximize their people’s ability…. “

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Valero Energy Meraux refinery expansion plans

Valero Energy Meraux refinery expansion plans includes administration building in adjacent neighborhood.

 "The land use designation is to accommodate adjacent Valero Refining expansion."

The Public Hearing is Tuesday February 23rd at 4pm in the SBPG Council Chambers. 

Below is from a 2/16 meeting of the planning executive committee, which meets to receive such proposals, but does not have public hearings. 

Hopefully Valero sends the appropriate representatives Tuesday so it can be a public meeting with resident input and not a PR meeting .... residents in this neighborhood have gone that route, more than once, for many years. Let's keep all discussions in public so we all know what's being negotiated. 

The homes on Despaux Drive are noted Residential properties currently being sought out by Valero? (Not on critical path for admin bldg completion if buffer zone can fall on side of block already owned by Valero).  There are also two houses on the river end of Despaux and one house on the river end of Lena that Valero indicates in commercial use.

It is unclear what this proposed land use map change really is; it doesn't seem this could be the entire plan, because there were several references about other inherent parts of the plan that are not in this proposal. 

Thursday, February 18, 2016

neighborhood wants what every other neighborhood wants

previous post from 2013,  Murphy is now owned by Valero Energy, and Valero has made a land use change proposal "to accommodate adjacent Valero Refining expansion."

Let's not make the same mistake again with warehouses, administration buildings, parking etc. on Jacob Drive; that land was purchased with the pretense of a green zone buffer and a good neighbor would honor that agreement.  Any other use makes the Parish further liable. 

Turner v Murphy - voluntary buyup
""It included a buyout program for the establishment of a green belt around the refinery.""  LDEQ EDMS 6503178.  A Fairness Hearing was held on January 4 2007 and the Judge indicated that he found the settlement to be fair. This fairness decision was based on the buyout properties use as a green zone buffer. The existing empty lots in the neighborhood are just that; a green belt. This was a voluntary buyup and residents who chose to revitalize have every right to remain and to remain unharrassed or pushed to sell. The neighborhood lots are not an area available to the oil company for expansion nor for relocation of office buildings, maintenance and machine shops, or any other use.

Thy Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbors House.

The St. Bernard Parish Council by Resolution previously agreed not to even entertain a proposal to rezone anything in our neighborhood until Murphy Oil provided two things to the residents of St. Bernard: 1) its Master Plan for the current facility and 2) a written plan of their long-term intent for the former "buyout" "buyup" area. Only than could residents fully participate in an informed discussion to consider changes in their neighborhood which is around and within the existing greenspace or buffer. That is every citizens right to full and equal access to information before the decisions are made; its part of their right to secure tenure.  Let's hope the newly elected Council and Adminstration upholds the people's rights.

we are here and here to stay........

"important step in affording class members the means to rebuild their neighborhood" "creating a safe environment for residents" "Recognizing the desire of the St. Bernard community to return to their homes and businesses" "the impact of settlement will significantly aid their road to recovery and return to normality"

"The intent of the buyout program is thus to create a buffer zone between the Murphy Oil refinery and the community"   page 29

"So that buffer is being created. Then we can go ahead and remediate the most impacted properties and create some nice green space, which we think will benefit the community as a whole." page 28
Federal Court Fairness Hearing

Murphy Oil defense attorney:  ""the buyout price reflects "the absolute top end of the range of real estate sales in St. Bernard" since Hurricane Katrina. Murphy wants to use the purchased property to create a buffer zone of green space between its refinery and residents""   The Times-Picayune  (New Orleans) January 5, 2007 FridaySECTION: METRO; Pg. 1HEADLINE: Judge favors settlement in St. Bernard oil spill; Governor at hearing to back residents BYLINE: By Susan Finch, Staff writer

Buffer Zone Update
The Murphy Oil crude-oil-spill case, Turner v Murphy, ordered the Meraux Refinery ‘s voluntary buyup program, which is intended “to create a buffer.” The agreement did not allow Murphy Oil to re-sell the buffer zone properties for commercial or industrial uses; residents were told by Murphy Oil, and relied on this information to base their decisions, that the land would be used for a green zone buffer. Some were even told, the green space would become like a forest, and you won't want to live there. It would be better if you sold.

In federal court pleadings and hearings transcripts for the settlement agreement, and in various St Bernard Parish (SBP) Council and Committee meeting transcripts, Murphy's defense attorneys can be quoted from transcripts stating the area would be turned into a green zone, a grassy greenpace, a nonused buffer, an exclusion zone  between the refinery and the neighborhood. That is what buffer zones are industry wide. That is the whole intent and purpose of the federal judge's court order and reasons. There has never been a misconception regarding the settlement agreement. There have only been presentations and contradictions by the same oil company attorneys.

the empty lots are the intended buffer

Now, residents wonder what’s next on the menu. Murphy Oil has already purchased several Road Home or LLT Lots in the neighborhood despite a promise to residents from St. Bernard Parish Government that no LLT properties would be transferred to the Murphy Oil Meaux refinery without a landuse plan. The HRQL Chairman assured residents that no LLT properties would be transferred to the oil refinery without a landuse plan.  Unfortunately, many LLT properties were sold to Murphy Oil under the deed restricted Lot Next Door Program.  In fact, these real estate transactions occurred so far under the radar and out of public notice that even the HRQL Vice Chairman was not aware of the sales.  Now the new refiney owners are asking residents what would they think about industrial buildings along Jacob Drive and what's involved to get a zoning change.

Murphy Oil started using some of the homes purchased for the buffer as work bunk housing instead. Additionally, Murphy Oil officials have recently offered an explanation of their agreement with the local Court House, Clerk of Court not to release the buffer zone real estate transactions for publication, further keeping public information from residents. Neighbors think this is all too fishy.

In the Fall of 2005, these dedicated neighbors were some of the first residents to return after Hurricanes Rita and Katrina and the Murphy Oil spill, even celebrating Thanksgiving and Christmas 2005 in their restored homes. They have already presented their vision for the revitalized neighborhood’s future and they have an equal right to the long-term security of their community, as much as any other neighborhood in the Parish. Yet, they sadly suspect local government and the Meraux Refinery have other plans.


The refinery was originally located on the other side of the highway and the land behind the neighborhood was not zoned for industrial use.  Then over the years there were a series of "wise", decisions to allow more and more industrial zoning changes further and further away from the river and into the backyards of our community. The processing plant doubled in the 1970's and several large additions including a clean fuels process began in the late 1990's early 2000's. How did the Parish ever allow these units to be constructed so close to family dwellings??
Let's not make the same mistake again with warehouses, administration buildings, parking etc. on Jacob Drive; that land was purchased with the pretense of a green zone buffer and a good neighbor would honor that agreement.  Any other use makes the Parish further liable. 

Saturday, February 13, 2016

road work lessons

As major road and drainage work begins on Palmisano Blvd, let's hope lessons learned are implemented.

From sidewalks to road work, we've seen our fair share of traffic cones. In 2011, just when most residents finally moved out of their FEMA trailers, this is what we lived through, and so much was avoidable if basic business practices were used.

cement work

Above shows what happens when FEMA failed to use the cones!

Despite local objections, FEMA contractors used a one-size-fits-all approach and removed two to three feet of natural clay ridges in neighborhood street repairs and replaced the clay with sand and gravel.  We'll see how long before that subsides or collapses on the aging sewer and storm water infrastructure.

Storm water runoff and pollution plans need improvements including dust control and heavy equipment issues.  Unfortunately, in 2013 the trees took a hit as well from heavy equipment and disrespectful out of state workers.

Any governmental project should be the showcase example of performance standards yet to be seen here. Even in the photos below from 2014, local projects with Federal CBDG funding fail to protect trees, pollution runoff, and dust control.

Come on, St Bernard, we can do better than that.

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