www.lazyoakbandb .com EEl BOOKS \\-“X”:12;iiiZELLUITZIZELEgagirtlailX1;il 9eagee Jdolag+ oat okil,itnt 827 West 12th Street Austin, TX 2 blocks east of Lamar Monday-Saturday 10-6 512.499.8828 between different activists. I finally decided I had to do things on my own.” The divisions emerged after a meeting MODEL held to release the findings of the Subra study. The meeting was designed to spark a dialogue between the community and industry; which, it was presumed, would no longer be able to deny that their emissions were a problem. But after the initial meeting, the petrochemical facilities declined to negotiate directly with MODEL. Instead, they decided to form their own organization and invited select community members to join. The group, officially known as the Port Arthur Industry and Community Leaders Advisory Group, has now been meeting for more than a year, presumably ushering in a new era of cooperation. Sue Parsley, Public Affairs Manager at the Motiva refinery and member of the advisory group, thinks this is the case. Over the phone, she maintains the cheerful optimism that is the hallmark of her profession. She lists all the wonderful things that industry and the community can accomplish by working together: improve the schools, set up an emergency line to warn about industrial accidents and bad weather, etc. She fails to mention emissions or unplanned releases. When pressed, Parsley tersely says that they have always done their best to control pollution. “We are preparing a presentation, so we can show how our technology is, and has been, state of the art,” she says. Kelley was working with MODEL when he first arrived in town, but in time, he came to believe industry had gotten the better of the group. “The folks at MODEL have done a lot for the community,” he says. “But, lately, they seem satisfied just to be sitting across the table from industry. I don’t believe that’s going to change anything. The only thing that will make them Change is legal action.” Others agree. In Corpus Christi, for example, a group of residents has tiled a class action suit against Valero Energy Corporation over upset emissions. After hundreds of’ hours of research, the group’s lawyers were able to document that the refinery’s upset emissions in 1995 were more than ten times larger than normal permitted emissions. \(The company was never fined by the Some in Port Arthur have lost faith in the system. One such industry critic is Reverend Roy Malveaux, who advocates a more drastic solution. “It is in everyone’s best interest to create a mile and a half buffer zone around the refineries,” says Malveaux. “It’s good for industry, because they are free from liability from both emissions and accidents. It would provide more security if a terrorist decided to target a refinery. And it would finally put an end to the legacy of environmental racism we have here in Beaumont and. Port Arthur.” Such a solution would mean moving entire neighborhoods at tremendous cost to industry. Although Kelley agrees that a buffer zone would be ideal \(it has simple enforcement of existing laws could also make a huge difference in people’s lives. In a narrow, barren room at the community center, Kelley outlines his plans. “I am going to set up a computer lab with Internet access in here,” he says. And the kitchen, just a sink now, will one day be able to feed groups that come for training and educational seminars. Every month he turns the center over for long meetings about the pollution that plagues Port Arthur. In the days before the gatherings, Kelley takes a stack of flyers and stands in front of the local grocery store, hoping to find folks willing to help him document what upsets are doing to the community. Most seem interested, he says. And at each meeting, one or two new people participate. It’s a start, albeit a slow one. Kelley hopes that with a little luck and a lot of activism, his story will become a trend, and others will return to Port Arthur. “I want to be right here when the businesses and families start coming back to the Westside,” he says. ill Michael May is a freelance writer living in Austin. 18 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 3/1/02
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