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July 28, 2014

Irony Alert: A Delaware Oil Company Feels Threatened by Sea Level Rise

Oil companies seem to think they have the most to gain by denying climate disruption. Just look at the lengths that the oil-rich Koch brothers have gone to in order to suppress climate action, spending and saying anything to derail any policy tackling the climate crisis.

Why? Well, carbon pollution caused by burning fossil fuels is a key cause of the climate crisis -- and without action, they’ll be free to drill, extract, frack, refine, transport, and burn oil as much as they want. Apparently, it’s easy for them to ignore the cascade of problems their polluting behavior creates when they’ve got profits to be made. But, as it happens, such irresponsible, deeply flawed logic eventually comes full circle.

IRONY ALERT
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In Delaware, severe storms are eroding the shoreline and affecting homes and businesses up and down the coast - including the business of an oil refinery. The functioning of the Delaware City Refining Company property just south of New Castle, a division of PBF Energy, is threatened by increasing extreme weather. In other words, climate disruption is hitting the doorstep of its source.


The refinery has tried to get help, submitting an application with the Coastal Zone Management Act seeking shoreline protections due to “tidal encroachment” -- which is one way of saying sea level rise.

“The extent of the shoreline erosion has reached a point where facility infrastructure is at risk,” says the permit application from the company.

You read that right -- an oil company feels jeopardized by sea level rise. And they’re asking for assistance. That’’s like a cigarette company asking for help paying for ventilators for it’s executives after they’ve pedalled tobacco for decades.

Of course it took an immediate threat to its business for the Delaware City Refining Company to confront the problem. Nevertheless, this is yet another example of climate coming home -- in this case to an oil company exposed to the very threat it poses to others.

And this is not just any oil company.  The Delaware City Refinery is one of the first refineries to shift its crude oil supply to rail and is refining tar sands -- one of the most carbon-intensive fuels known to man.

Tar-sands-free-delaware-200To add insult to injury, the sea level rise preparations the Delaware City Refining Company is proposing could negatively affect the community by directing more storm surge toward the town of Delaware City, the small coastal community near where the refinery is located. But who could be surprised by an oil company with such a poor sense of irony acting with no regard for the people around it?

The Delaware City Refining Company is now in a wait period, after it issued a draft proposal in May 2014 that considers different solutions to address its new climate-induced problem. The Sierra Club’s Delaware chapter submitted comments on the plan, but there’s more to be done.

Our solution? Stop helping create climate-induced problems in the first place. Climate disruption has proven to be indiscriminate in the destruction it causes -- as this refinery and millions and millions around the globe are learning first hand. Denying climate disruption only exacerbates the problem -- we need to start working to move beyond dirty fuels.

Amy Roe, conservation chair of the Sierra Club's Delaware chapter.

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