FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
PORTLAND CITIZENS UNITED DECRIES SELECTION OF SITE FOR NEW EXXON/SABIC PETROCHEMICAL PLANT
On April 19, 2017, Gulf Coast Growth Ventures, ExxonMobil Corporation and Saudi Arabia Basic Industries Corporation announced the selection of their site for the largest steam cracker petrochemical plant in the world. In keeping with their long standing efforts to maintain secrecy, they did so to an invitation only crowd.
Portland Citizens United was organized only 7 months ago when news surfaced that the trio were asking for tax abatements from the local school district. It was later learned that the County Commissioners had stealthfully designated a two square mile area that borders homes of residents, that is close to schools and the cities of Gregory and Portland, as a reinvestment zone that created an entirely new area for industrial expansion for Exxon. Meanwhile, over several years, the Port of Corpus Christi had quietly purchased property that would create a new corridor from the west allowing for the transport of Exxon’s products to the Port’s La Quinta terminal and the deep waters of the La Quinta Channel.
“We are extremely disappointed that Exxon and its partners did not heed the requests of local residents to establish their complex in the areas to the east already designated for industrial development”, said Jason Mutschler, a PCU member. “Because they refused to re-locate and the County Commissioners had no backbone to deny them this new reinvestment zone, we now have this complex located close to schools”.
The PCU has consistently raised issues around the plant’s emissions, its use of 7.3 billion gallons of water each year, and the effect of its water releases into the bays and estuaries. Errol Summerlin is another active member of the PCU. “Before an industry such as this is granted a tax abatement, the Texas Comptroller must certify that the industry has the capacity to deliver on its economic impact within the taxing entity’s jurisdiction”, said Summerlin. “But, there is no requirement that the industry undergo a review of its environmental impact within that same jurisdiction. Exxon refused to disclose potential emissions and still doesn’t know how they will get the residual water to the bay. Taxing entities must insist on a more thorough examination of all elements of an industry’s operations before allowing them to move in, including an environmental impact statement that addresses all aspects of operational impacts, particularly the impact on the health of citizens and sensitive groups, including children and the elderly. Once they are here, it’s too late.”
Portland Citizens United’s advocacy has raised public awareness among citizens and local leaders. “Had we not begun raising issues back in September, Exxon would have just rolled in. As it stands, they have made some commitments to engage the community and employ some emission reducing technology and air monitoring at two local schools,” said Adair Apple, PCU founder and a steadfast advocate. “But, that is not enough. The plant’s presence will forever change our community and our health.”
The PCU has a new petition circulating against the issuance of the plant’s air quality and wastewater permits. The Clean Economy Coalition of Corpus Christi and the local chapter of the Sierra Club are co-sponsoring the petition. “We will do what we can, but we know what we are up against. If we can’t stop the issuance of permits, we will strive to make it the cleanest operation in the country”, said Mutschler.