As if I don’t have enough environmental trouble to worry about here in ToxicTown, Torrance, California, my home for the past 16+ years, what with the evil Exxon Mobil Refinery using 750 prime acres of our real estate to spew greenhouse gases and other climate changing emissions day and night with the blessing and endorsement of our City Council, Mayor and easy to please Environmental Commission.
But today my friends at Greenpeace released a new reason to worry about the environment here in Torrance. They put the bulls-eye on JCI Jones Chemical as the posterboys for needlessly dangerous chemical plants that put 4.5 million women, children and men at risk. I’m one of those men and I take it personally …
A new analysis by the pros at Greenpeace of government data reveals over 157 schools and hospitals are located within a five mile radius (see map above) of the JCI Jones “high risk” chemical plant here in Torrance.
The entire risk zone around this plant extends more than 10 miles putting 4,500,000 area people at risk of sudden injury or death in the event of an accident or terrorist attack.
But at least ToxicTown Torrance isn’t alone. Here in California there are 44 other plants that each pose a disaster risk to 10,000 or more local residents.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. These risks are completely unnecessary. At least 287 chemical facilities nation-wide have eliminated these very same risks to 38.5 million Americans since 1999 by converting to safer chemicals, 28 of those now safer plants are located here in California.
What the Greenius wants to know is why the JCI Jones Chemical Plant in Torrance isn’t one of those safer plants? Why isn’t someone looking out for my safety and the safety of my family and my 4.5 million friends in the area? Isn’t there a single reliable elected official in this city we can count on to put the environment and our health first?
The Greenpeace analysis combined chemical facility reports filed with the Environmental Protection Agency with data from the Environmental Systems Research Institute, the US Geological Survey and reports by the Congressional Research Service and the Center for American Progress.
You don’t have to trust Greenpeace if you don’t want to – the Department of Homeland Security has identified 6,300 “high risk” chemical facilities in the U.S. That’s why Congress is now considering legislation that could reduce or eliminate these risks in the event of a terrorist attack or accident. The Greenius says they need to do a lot more than just”consider” it.
More than 100 million Americans live in what safety experts like to calmly call “vulnerability zones” surrounding just 300 chemical plants. A catastrophic release of a gas chlorine would form a toxic cloud that would be hazardous for up to 20 miles downwind.
According to a U.S. Naval Research Lab report, an attack – you know, like the ones foreign terrorists or nutcase American whackjobs like Timothy McVie like to carry out – at just one of these plants could put 100,000 people at risk of death or injury within the first 30 minutes of the incident.
“Given the magnitude of these risks to local residents of the South Bay, it’s time for Congress to support legislation that truly protects communities living in the shadow of high-risk chemical plants,” said Greenpeace organizer Jenny Binstock.
“California is fortunate to have eight members of Congress, Eshoo (D), Capps (D), Harman (D), Matsui (D), McNerney (D), Radanovich (R) and Mack (R), on the Energy and Commerce Committee which is poised to vote on this legislation in September. We urge them to follow Chairman Waxman’s lead in voting for legislation that requires high-risk plants to use the safest available chemical processes to eliminate the consequences of an attack or accident. Risk prevention is the most common sense solution.”
Chemical plants that store and use large quantities of poison gases in populated areas pose particularly significant risks to the public and first responders. But there’s no acceptable reason why they should be allowed to. You’ve got to wonder who put the current rules in place.
Simple, cost-effective and common sense changes, like substituting safer chemical or processes for lethal gases stored on-site should be protecting millions of people from harm right now. The bills that would do that protecting are the ones the Energy and Commerce Committee plan to take up next month. They’re H.R. 2868 and HR 3258, authored by Representative Waxman (D-CA).
It was no surprise to the Greenius when a recent Greenpeace report identified 169 chemical industry lobbyists who killed this same legislation in 2008. When it comes to how low lobbyists for the toxic industries will sink there is no depth of hell deep enough.
Whether it’s protection from toxic chemicals, protection from the greenhouse gas emitters who are killing our climate, or protection from price-gouging, profiteering health insurance racketeers – today’s do-anything-for-a buck lobbyists are nothing less than highly paid mercenaries who fight against you and I on behalf of their corporate bosses lustful greed.
“We cannot allow chemical industry lobbyists to dictate the terms of this debate,” said President Obama when he served in the Senate.
Rick Hind, Legislative Director at Greenpeace, declared “It’s now up to the new Congress to protect the millions of Americans still at risk once and for all.”
The Greenius says based on the way Congress is wimping out on all the other change the majority of Americans voted for a few months ago, maybe the only chance we’ll really have is if we can all hold our breath for the next 100 years. Or maybe we best make some real noise while we still can.