This letter was written by PCU member Errol A. Summerlin and the PCU endorses the following comments and recommended action by the city of Portland.
On December 20, 2016, you unanimously passed Resolution 726. That Resolution, in part, stated that the safety and quality of life would be diminished by industry locating too close to the community. The Resolution urged Exxon Mobil Corporation to seek a site other than the proposed site and urged other political entities and elected officials join in support of this Resolution.
Exxon ignored your request and began an aggressive campaign to obtain support for the project from other entities and elected officials who lacked the courage to stand up for what was right. It is now time for you to take the next step.
In your open letter to citizens published in the May edition of The Breeze, you stated “Successful economic development and industrial growth should not require that we sacrifice the quality of life or the livability of our communities. Both objectives can be achieved, but only if both are considered to be of equal importance… we are committed to protecting and enhancing the quality of life in our existing neighborhoods.”
Exxon has now filed for its air and water permits from the TCEQ. The official Notice of Application for the air permit contains the following statement: “The facility will emit the following air contaminants: carbon monoxide, hazardous air pollutants, hydrogen sulfide, nitrogen oxides, organic compounds, particulate matter including particulate matter with diameters of 10 microns or less and 2.5 microns or less, sulfur dioxide, ammonia, ethylene oxide, and sulfuric acid mist. The proposed facility will also emit greenhouse gases.”
If the quality of life and livability of our communities are equally important and you are committed to protecting and enhancing our quality of life, then the City of Portland has an obligation to its citizens to challenge the air permit and, to the fullest extent, limit these emissions. I urge you to consider this matter as you would any other “litigation” that threatens the City. Retain competent counsel to represent the City and its citizens in the permitting process up to and including a contested case hearing. Allocate funds for expert testimony to review the application and comment on Exxon’s application, its air emission controls, or lack thereof. We cannot simply rely upon TCEQ. Exxon will cut as many corners as possible to reduce costs, all to the detriment of our citizens.
Of additional importance is the water permit sought by Exxon that will allow a daily discharge of 9,000,000 gallons per day with spent caustic. That is 10,080 acre feet per year that will flow through a series of pipelines and drainage ditches across the area ultimately ending up in our bays and estuaries. The amount of water discharge, wastewater quality, stormwater runoff, erosion, and overall environmental impact to our bays and estuaries that support a diverse array of species which serve as the raw materials for a variety of economic activities associated with commercial and recreational fishing, birding and other ecological services is of utmost concern to our community. Counsel and experts should also be retained to challenge this permit.
Exxon viewed your Resolution as inconsequential. The site was outside your jurisdiction and they did not need your approval. Well, the health and safety of your citizens is within your jurisdiction and equally important to economic growth. Challenging these permits will have a consequential impact on our quality of life and will not be ignored.
Errol A. Summerlin is a retired attorney, Portland resident, and supporter of Portland Citizens United, a grass roots organization opposing the Exxon/SABIC project