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Louisianans turn out for Texas hearing on oil refinery emissions

Peter Moskowitz

More than 120 people traveled to suburban Houston Tuesday to attend the final public hearing on new EPA rules that govern the amount of cancer-causing chemicals refineries are allowed to emit.

A busload came from Louisiana where more than 200,000 residents live within two miles of a refinery, according to Katie Moore, research analyst for the activist group Louisiana Bucket Brigade.

Moore was one of about 30 people who testified on the proposal. Under the rule, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency would force refineries for the first time to monitor and report emissions of benzene to people who live along the fence line of a refinery.

The Louisiana Bucket Brigade contends it’s not enough to monitor for this one chemical. If the rule is adopted as is, Moore said, it will still take years before refineries must adhere to stricter emissions standards.

“We know community members can’t wait three years to have a rule implemented and then go through this process again,” Moore said. “We need for this rule to be as strong as it possibly can so when it’s finally implemented at refineries it makes a real difference in people’s lives.”

This final hearing within a 60-day comment period was required as part of a lawsuit. The suit argued the EPA waited too long to review and update toxic air standards for refineries. Moore is invigorated by the grassroots activity to get the EPA to reduce hazardous emissions under the Clean Air Act.

“I’ve just been really blown away by the testimony that’s happened at the hearing. I think there’s a lot of energy and a lot of momentum to do as much as we can to clean up the air in Louisiana, Texas and across the country,” Moore said.

The EPA has until April 2015 to issue a final rule. Comments to the rule change must be received on or before Aug. 29.

Chuck Smith brings more than 30 years' broadcast and media experience to Red River Radio. He began his career as a radio news reporter and transitioned to television journalism and newsmagazine production. Chuck studied mass communications at Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia and motion picture / television production at the University of California at Los Angeles. He has also taught writing for television at York Technical College in Rock Hill, South Carolina and video / film production at Centenary College of Louisiana, Shreveport.