(New Orleans) More than 90 incidents have exposed the oil industry’s negligence in preparing for Hurricane Isaac, and they demonstrate once again that the Gulf is America’s Energy Sacrifice Zone.
“Hurricanes and tropical storms like Isaac are common to the Gulf Coast, and just as residents prepared for the storm, industry should have been ramping up their efforts,” said Jill Mastrototaro, Sierra Club Gulf Coast Campaign Director. “Proper planning and equipment go a long way to prevent industrial accidents,but these disturbing reports of oil sheens, overturned tanks, and chemical releases following Isaac show that industry is ill-prepared and ill-equipped to handle these storms.”
Reports filed with the National Response Center (NRC), the federal point of contact for reporting oil spills, and air surveillance conducted by the Gulf Restoration Network have brought the incidents to light. An examination of NRC reports reveal that every facet of the oil sector – from exploration to transport to refining – had serious, likely preventable accidents during the storm. Some of these problems were confirmed by flyovers conducted by the Gulf Restoration Network. Photos are available at http://www.flickr.com/photos/healthygulf/sets/72157631438739482
“From oil spills to coal runoff, the mess we’ve seen from the air should have never occurred. Industry has got to be held accountable, and we need a Regional Citizens’ Advisory Council to allow the communities who suffer from spills like this to have a role in making sure they don’t happen again,” said Aaron Viles, Deputy Director of the Gulf Restoration Network.
The total reported amount of pollution from the accidents is 4.9 million pounds and 171,000 gallons. Both figures are, in reality, much higher given that the quantity of oil spilled is unknown for many of the reports and oil sightings. Accidents range from a sunken barge with petroleum coke dust to thousands of pounds dumped by Exxon’s Chalmette Refining. “The oil industry is ruining our economy, our environment, and our health,” said Anne Rolfes, Founding Director of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade. “They should hire more people to do the job of preparing for hurricanes.”
Also at issue during the hurricane were two coal terminals in Plaquemines Parish that flooded, pouring coal-polluted runoff into surrounding waters, wetlands, and farmland. “These accidents should clearly halt the current plans to expand the two flooded terminals and build a new RAM terminal in the region,” Viles said.
The groups are calling for the following:
Oil industry and other responsible parties:
1. Clean up the mess
2. Improve preparedness
3. Hire more workers to adequately maintain and operate your facilities
Relevant agencies (Department of Natural Resources, Coast Guard or Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Environmental Quality):
1. Make the offending companies pay the fines
2. Halt plans to build the RAM terminal in such a vulnerable zone; halt expansions at IMT and other terminals in the region
3. Creation of the Regional Citizens’ Advisory Council
The groups are highlighting the accidents during Hurricane Isaac to both make the industries accountable and to prevent future accidents.