Amid An Energy Boom, Louisiana’s Air Quality Is Improving

Editor’s Note: We’re passing along this post from our friends at EnergizeLA.com, who are doing excellent work fighting back against the moonbats and shysters at the Louisiana Bucket Brigade…

With Tuesday’s release of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade’s latest annual report, “Mission: Zero Accidents,” Energize LA is providing the following rapid response to offer important context, which the report conveniently left out. As Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association (LMOGA) President Chris John noted when this year’s Common Ground report was released to the press:

We look forward to reviewing the report in full and providing an in-depth response, but for now it’s important to acknowledge the following key facts:

Louisiana’s Air Quality Is the Best It’s Been In Decades.

Louisiana’s air quality is the best it has been since the Clean Air Act was signed into law in the 1970s – and that’s as our energy boom in Louisiana has continued ramp up.  As Rodney Mallet of the LDEQtold the Times Picayune last year is, “We have the data, and EPA agrees, that the environment in Louisiana is the best it’s been since the Clean Air and Clean Water acts were implemented.”

Further, LDEQ maintains a comprehensive database of all refinery activities. This database, which the Bucket Brigade traditionally claims is the source of its data, actually shows that refinery incidents have fallen sharply over the past decade. According to LDEQ, emissions associated with unauthorized discharges decreased by 41 percent since 2008. In fact, emission-reduction efforts from refining and chemical facilities helped the Baton Rouge area meet all federal ozone air quality standards for the first time ever in 2008, and again in 2009 and 2010.

And now, thanks in large part to the efforts of the refineries themselves, Louisiana is on track to meet the federal 75 ppb ozone standard by the end of 2013.

Here’s some more good news worth noting:

  • On Aug. 29, 2013, LDEQ notified St. Bernard Parish officials that SO2 emissions had only exceeded the hourly federal health standard once in the previous three months, and in doing so praised the Rain CII Chalmette petroleum coke processing plant for being an effective environmental partner and “making significant progress” towards lowering emissions.
  • Citgo Manufacturing Complex in Lake Charles has seen a 32 percent decrease in emissions from 2008 to 2010. In addition, from 2006 to 2010, the Citgo complex reduced solid waste generation by 53 percent.
  • Valero Corporation, which operates a 270,000-barrel-per-day refinery in St. Charles, has invested more than $2.6 billion on environmental upgrades at its refineries over the past six years. As a result, since 2007, Valero has reduced flaring events by more than 73 percent, air emissions by nearly 52 percent and wastewater discharge incidents by 58 percent.
  • The ExxonMobil Baton Rouge complex has reduced volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions by 75 percent since 1990, including a 19-percent reduction in VOC emissions from 2010-2011. In addition, between 1990 and 2011, the Baton Rouge chemical plant and refinery RF reduced sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions by 63 percent and nitrogen oxides (NOx) by 39 percent.

State Regulators Have Openly Questioned the Credibility of Past Bucket Brigade Reports:

The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ) has expressed deep reservations about the numbers cited in the Bucket Brigade’s previous Common Ground reports:

  • “In their ‘Common Ground’ reports we can’t figure out how they get their numbers.” – LDEQ Spokesman Rodney Mallet (12/18/12)
  • “They are stretching the truth from time to time.” – Rodney Mallet (12/18/12)
  • “Some of the things they’re quoting are … almost to the point of fear mongering.” – LDEQ Administrator, Inspection Division, Chris Piehler (5/19/11)

Even the Bucket Brigade Has Acknowledged Its Own Inability to Produce Accurate Reports:

When challenged about the integrity of their figures and statistics, the Louisiana Bucket Brigade has responded by describing their reports as ways to start conversations about air-quality issues, not as authoritative accounts of refinery emissions. As The [Baton Rouge] Advocate reported in 2010.

Strong Safety Performance

Nothing is more important to the oil and gas industry than worker safety – it’s built into every aspect of how we do our business, and it’s the foundation of every discussion about our plans for the future. In 2011, the rate of job-related nonfatal injuries and illnesses for refinery workers was 0.6 per 100 full-time workers – a rate lower than beef cattle ranching (6.6) and casino hotels (2.3), just to name a few.

Through the American Petroleum Institute’s Standards Program – a collaborative program between companies, regulators and other stakeholders – the industry has created more robust refinery standards to maintain and improve operational safety.  In fact, many of Louisiana’s regulatory and reporting requirements far exceed federal standards.

Additionally, in early March 2013, LDEQ announced that the agency has been working with nearly 40 representatives from the state’s petroleum refining and chemical manufacturing industries to reduce emissions through an Information Exchange Workgroup. This effort, involving a much larger group of industry partners than the one that had been proposed earlier by EPA Region 6, is designed to identify the most common causes of upset emissions and malfunctions, provide expertise from industry leaders on efficiency measures, and share best-management practices and other strategies for minimizing emissions.

The Workgroup held its first meeting in August to share best practices for minimizing releases, safely conducting shutdown and startup procedures, and coordinating emergency response efforts during hurricanes and other severe weather events.  Nearly 120 individuals representing a wide cross section of industry partners, emergency response agencies and regulators attended the meeting, getting a chance to talk openly and hear directly from both LDEQ Secretary Peggy Hatch and EPA Region 6 Compliance Assurance and Enforcement Division Director John Blevins, among others.  The EPA judged this first meeting a success, and future workshops being planned for the spring and fall.

The Bottom Line

The oil and gas industry in Louisiana takes environmental and worker-safety concerns very seriously. As the same time, we take great pride in the tremendous progress that is being made on reducing emissions – even as production has continued apace – and our record of improving worker safety. These are key facts that must be included in any conversation about Louisiana’s vital refining industry, and the state’s energy industry overall.

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