Were one to want to work a job where your life and safety are consistently in danger and where you can live with the constant threat of pollution, one could do far worse than heading to Louisiana for a job in the state’s many oil refineries. Full report is here. Well worth your time.
Well, OK, Louisiana’s oil refineries don’t have accidents every single day. Just six days a week on average. Actually, to be specific, 6.3 days a week.
Last year, the 17 refineries and two associated chemical plants in the state experienced 327 accidents, releasing 2.4 million pounds of air pollution, including such poisons as benzene and sulfur, and 12.7 million gallons of water pollution. That’s according to a report published Tuesday [PDF] by the nonprofit Louisiana Bucket Brigade, which compiled the data from refineries’ individual accident reports.
One example involves a release of materials at ExxonMobil’s Baton Rouge facility where there was an initial report of at least 10 pounds of benzene as required by law within an hour of the release.
It turned out the release was more than 31,000 pounds.
The Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association responded by questioning the credibility of the report and saying the industry is “making strong environmental progress.”
10 pounds, 31,000 pounds, it’s just a few zeros, amiright?
Let’s be clear. While there will probably always be a certain amount of risk laboring in a refinery, these facilities could be far safer. But, beginning with the Reagan Administration, the United Sates made a decision to deemphasize workplace safety and health in favor of corporate prerogative and profit, using terms like “burdensome regulations” and “small government” as euphemisms for the ultimate goal of rolling back decades of gains by the labor and environmental movements that made Americans healthier and safer, both on and off the job.
And the collective cost of all these accidents and emissions? Well, they don’t call that area of Louisiana “Cancer Alley” for nothing.