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June 10, 2013

Standing Up for Clean Air in Delaware

Delaware city refinery
The Delaware City Refinery

I am not an American. I have never been to Delaware before. I do not own a car. Whether the Delaware City Refinery is granted its Title V air permit or not has very little effect on my life. Why, then, did I go to the hearing for the Title V air permit application by the Delaware City Refinery? Because my future and the future of every person on this planet depends on struggles like this one. Because I believe in a world where people can have safe jobs that promote healthy communities. Because I believe no one should be subjected to depend on a corporation that makes its profit on the back of future generations.

I went to Delaware to tell the refinery owners that we will not stand aside and watch as they endanger the health and future of everyone in that community to save a few dollars.

The Delaware City Refinery has recently retooled to begin processing tar sands. Because the tar sands are a much dirtier fuel source, the refinery would maintain the same output, but drastically increase the pollution levels. Processing tar sands will increase the levels of pollutants like suspended particulates, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, sulfuric acid, ammonia, and lead. Tuesday's hearing was to take public input on the Title V permit renewal that would incorporate these increased pollution levels.

Given these developments, I went to Delaware to support the community in asking for the following:

1. Installation of real-time air quality monitoring
2. Collaborative development of an Emergency Response and Evacuation Plan.
3. Requirement that the Refinery implement a plan to reduce flaring and associated pollution within 1 year of permit renewal.
4. A reduction in air pollution emissions
5. End to the refinery's intimidation tactics of concerned community members.
6. Accountability for the mobile emissions of the train cars
7. Implementation of pollution limits for the facility’s SSM operations
8. Require the Refinery to apply for and obtain a National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit within 6 months.
9. Require the Delaware City Refinery to draft and publicize a plan for the storage and removal of petcoke waste.

These demands do not endanger the refinery. All we ask is that they reduce pollution and have monitoring systems for residents to know when they can safely leave their homes.

In my opening paragraph I mentioned that one of the reasons I went was because my future and the future of every person on this planet depends on struggles like these. Yes, in part I say this because of climate change. I say this because when refineries process tar sands they are buying into a fuel that will exacerbate the carbon problem even more. The main reason I say this, however, is because we cannot allow corporations to continue using our dependence on them as an excuse to plunder our resources, ravage our land, poison our air and, most importantly, deny future generations the beautiful world we were able to enjoy.

I went to Delaware City because I believe a good economy and a green livelihood are not mutually exclusive. In fact, I believe that is the only option we have available for us, because when we have used up every resource on earth, polluted the last lake, and felt the effects of runaway climate change, there will be no more economy to speak of.

-- Rodrigo Samayoa, Sierra Club Beyond Oil Intern

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