getting industry to try to eliminate emissions, and undertake remediation.” He added that the city will cooperate fully with the EPA, and that it is likely the EPA investigation will not be the end of the matter. “In this litigious society,” Utter said, “I’m not sure that anything gets resolved without some court action.” TNRCC spokesman Patrick Crimmins defended the commission’s vigilance in regulating pollution and environmental hazards in Corpus Christi, and rejected the charges of discriminatory enforcement. “We’re going to cooperate fully with the EPA,” Crimmins said, “give them anything they want, answer any questions they have. As far as the substance of the allegations themselves, we would deny the allegations. Corpus Christi is a very active area for us, and we’re very active with the community, and the city, industry, and with environmental groups, and we have many enforcement cases down there. Refinery Row is a heavily scrutinized area.” He added that the fact that the EPA might accept a complaint for investigation says nothing about the ultimate validity of the complaint, and he expects the TNRCC to be cleared of any wrongdoing. IT MAY BE SOME TIME before the validity of the citizens’ complaint is established, one way or the other. Neil Carman, the Austin Sierra Club Clean Air Director who developed the research which underlies the environmental allegations, calls the Corpus Christi complaint one of the most complex currently being considered by the EPA. His research calls into question not only the current pollution record of the industries in Refinery Row, but the historic zoning practices of the city and the permitting processes of the TNRCC, which, the complaint alleges, are effectively “skewed” to discriminate against low-income and minority citizens. In their heavily documented complaint, Carman and Attorney Hankins argue that the city’s zoning, tax abatement, and related policies have imposed an industrial free-fire zone where there once had been a predominantly residential community, and that when more affluent neighbors moved out, poorer blacks and Hispanics had nowhere to goan effect exaggerated by the physical isolation made permanent by neighboring highways. “The zoning was absolutely racially structured,” says Carman, and he noted that industrial boundaries were even drawn directly across the street from neighborhood homes. Carman analyzed recent census statistics, health survey material, and industrial emissions data to show that the predominantly African-American and Hispanic neighborhoods in or near Refinery Row \(an area which is home to more than twenty greatly disproportionate burden of environmental hazards, including industrial emissions of all kinds, particulate emissions, and heavy metal contamination of air and water. Moreover, charges Carman, the regulatory agencies monitor pollution by intentionally piecemeal, scientifically inadequate standards, designed to overlook the overall and long-term effects of environ mental hazards. “They say, ‘We’re not going to talk about the comprehensive clean air problem. We’re going to talk about one sliver for CITGO, or one sliver for some other company.’ When they do the [air pollution] modeling down there, they don’t require a company to look at the whole piewhich is like one hundred million pounds of pollutants per year, a conservative estimate. They don’t even require a plant-wide model. So when they monitor, they’re only looking at a tiny aspect of the problem. It’s totally bogus, because they’re ignoring the backgroundwhat they plug into the monitor is ‘zero.’ Well, it’s not zero. It’s like taking a child molester to court, who’s got this criminal record of molesting a hundred children, and saying we’re not going to look at all the things he did, we’re just going to look at this one incident. It’s not scienceit’s scientific fraud.” Moreover, residents say that their complaints about specific noxious odors, gas flaring, or other problems are ignored or disregarded by the city and TNRCCand that the TNRCC often violates its own regulations by failing even to log citizen complaints. The analogy to child abuse might at first seem extreme. Yet when describing their neighborhoods, the residents repeatedly return to the immediate and future health risks threatening their children. Reverend Roy Malveaux, state director of PACE, accuses the companies of “contaminating a whole new generation.” He says that instead of substantive solutionslike closing the schools in preparation for relocating the entire communitythe city has offered condescending “emergency” policies, including its “Shelter-in-Place” public relations program featuring the safety turtle, “Wally Wise.” In the event of a toxic emission, Wally Wise counsels going indoors, closing doors and windows, and breathing through a wet cloth. PACE describes the “Shelter-inPlace” program as a “get-gassed-inyour-home plan.” WHATEVER THE outcome of its pending investigation, the EPA will have its hands full in attempting to bring together industry, city and state agencies, and the people of Refinery Row. According to EPA spokeswoman Rosezella Canty-Letsome, now that the complaint has been accepted for investigation, the city and the TNRCC will be allowed to submit responses to the allegations, which will take some time. The agency will send investigators to the city to review the evidence and to bring the interested parties together. She says the agency would prefer to find some “happy medium” among the groups, rather than resorting to a range of sanctions available. “Remedies can include,” she said, “the ultimate sanction: removal of federal assistance. But we’d like to see an agreement made between all the parties…. We have to see what’s most important to the people involved.” Bill Green, a former refinery worker who still lives in the neighborhood and is the regional director of PACE, hopes that the EPA investigation truly means a change for the better. “We hope it will wake up the local government and the TNRCC, so that they really do what they already should be doing. As for the refineriesthey’re vital to the economy here. We don’t want them to go away, we just want them to be responsible, and be accountable for their actions.” SHELTER-IN-PLACE 1 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 9
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