Can't Breathe in System of Racism/White Supremacy [Pollution so pervasive that residents had to wipe residue off their cars in the morning]. The world's seventh largest company by revenue, ExxonMobil is also the seventh largest publicly traded company by market capitalization. The company was ranked ninth globally in the Forbes Global 2000 list in 2016. ExxonMobil was the second most profitable company in the Fortune 500 in 2014. Last year it earned an estimated $1 Billion per day and $18 Billion in profit. [MORE]
Fuck a Fine. From [Jurist] The US Department of Justice, the Environmental Protection Agency and Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ) [official websites] reached a settlement agreement [text, PDF] with ExxonMobil [corporate website] Tuesday over violations of the Clean Air Act from their chemical, olefins, polymer and plastics manufacturing facilities located in or near Baytown, Texas, Beaumont, Texas, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Mont Belvieu, Texas.
ExxonMobil will be required to pay a civil penalty of $2.5 million, $470,00 of which will go to the LDEQ and the remainder to the US and to pay for air pollution reduction measures. ExxonMobil will also be required to invest in the installation and operation of air pollution control and monitoring devices at 26 industrial flares located at five facilities in Texas and three facilities in Louisiana, which is expected to cost about $300 million.
ExxonMobil will also be required to spend at least $2,572,000 various Federal Supplemental Environmental Projects and State Beneficial Environmental Projects. This includes planting 1,458 trees in the city of Baytown, Texas, providing upgrades to LDEQ stationary ambient monitoring stations, and providing the LDEQ with a $1.5 million mobile air monitoring laboratory.
The settlement will be subject to a 30-day public comment period and will then need final court approval before being enacted.
New World Odor. ExxonMobil refineries emit deadly levels of carcinogens and several contaminants, including sulfur dioxide, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and hydrogen sulfide. Deadly pollutants that can cause both short-term respiratory and memory problems, as well as permanent damage to the heart, brain, lungs or cause cancer and damage to the liver, kidney, and central nervous system. The affected areas in Texas range from 87 - 95% African American. [MORE] For better understanding, an excellent article in the Intercept explains:
Although Exxon Mobil announced it would expand its operations before the election, in March, Trump tried to take credit for the move. In a video posted on the White House website, Trump announced the expansion as if it were new: “This was something that was done to a large extent because of our policies and the policies of this new administration.”
In the video, Trump pointed to Exxon Mobil’s growth as evidence that “we’re really doing well.” From the perspective of the energy company, that’s an accurate statement. Already the largest oil and gas company in the world, Exxon Mobil’s earnings have surged 122 percent since Trump took office.
It’s hard to argue that the people in Charlton-Pollard are doing really well. Almost everyone I spoke with there had ailments they attributed to the refinery, though it’s all but impossible to prove that the poor air quality caused all these individual illnesses. For Malveaux, who has spent the past two decades working to curb the refinery’s pollution, the prevalence of health problems linked to high levels of air pollution in his community requires no further explanation.
When the children Malveaux teaches in Sunday school have memory problems, which, along with IQ deficits, have been tied to air pollution (especially hydrogen sulfide), he assumes that is the likely cause. “My kids at the church, you can tell them something and, five or six minutes later, they done forgot it,” said Malveaux. “It used to irritate me because I thought they were messing with me, but I’ve come to understand that they really don’t remember.”
Many Charlton-Pollard residents who have seen the lives of friends and family members cut short by cancer, heart disease, and respiratory ailments can’t know for sure what role air pollution played, but they live with the obvious possibility that it was a factor. Charles Trahn, who is 67 and lives down the street from Joseph Gaines, said the air he breathes sometimes has an immediate effect. When there are major emissions events, “it feels like you’re swimming in your own head,” Trahn said. He recently lost his wife to lung cancer.
E.J. Johnson, a good friend of Gaines, is unable to say for sure why health problems have plagued his family. Johnson lost his mother to cancer in her 30s and his grandfather to heart disease in his early 50s. His sister-in-law, who is in her early 40s, recently developed kidney cancer. And Johnson himself, who is 51 and has lived in the neighborhood since he was 10, had a stroke when he was in his 30s and had to use a wheelchair for several years. These days, he can walk unsteadily, but his brain hasn’t fully recovered. “I lost words I would normally know,” Johnson told me. “I lost my education.”
But Johnson said he was fairly sure that his respiratory troubles are a result of the local air quality. “Within a day of leaving here, I breathe and cough up and my sinuses clear out,” he said. “By the time we get back to Beaumont, I can feel my head tightening up.”
According to the EPA’s data, people in the neighborhood have a risk of cancer from air pollution of 54 in a million, which is significantly higher than the national average of between zero and one in a million. But even that considerable number is based on Exxon Mobil’s own estimate of its emissions. Jefferson County, where the refinery is located, has a cancer death rate for African-Americans that is significantly higher than both the state and national rates. But it’s impossible to know Charlton-Pollard’s exact cancer rates, since the neighborhood accounts for less than 1 percent of the county, and the state doesn’t make available cancer statistics for that smaller area.
What’s clear, however, is that air pollution kills. One recent study showed that people who die prematurely from air pollution lose about a decade from their lives, on average. Another study, led by a Harvard professor of biostatistics and published in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that increases in levels of particulate matter and ozone, both of which are elevated in Charlton-Pollard, were associated with increases in all causes of death. The study found that African-Americans are about three times more likely to die from tiny particles in air pollution.
Even small improvements in air quality can make a huge difference; tightening the current limits for particulate emissions by just a single microgram per cubic meter of air (one-twelfth of the current limit) would prevent some 12,000 premature deaths, according to the authors of the Harvard study. Conversely, small increases can cost thousands of lives. By freezing and delaying rules limiting pollution, the Trump administration is quite literally killing thousands of people. [MORE]