Ohio Citizen Action began a good neighbor campaign focused on pollution prevention at the Sunoco Oil Refinery in East Toledo in January 2003. The refinery, which was built in Toledo in 1894 (operating as Sunoco since 1945) is located in the middle of a low-income residential area and is a neighbor to 72,000 residents within a three-mile radius. This community has over 40 schools and daycare facilities for children, including an elementary school directly across the street from the tank farm.

We’re very pleased to report that we have had a major victory in this campaign. On June 16, 2005, Sunoco agreed to invest over $100 million in new pollution control equipment to prevent sulfur dioxide emissions, as well as new programs to detect and prevent leaks of benzene and toxic chemicals. Once the work is complete, Sunoco estimates that emissions will be reduced by over 75%.

Campaign Achievements

  • We helped neighbors form the East Side-Oregon Environmental Group, which has been holding community meetings and collecting “pollution logs” from residents who chronicle their experiences with foul odors, flaring, smoke, oily residues and soot that engulfs their property.

  • Over 18,000 Ohio Citizen Action members wrote personal letters and petitions to Sunoco management urging them to modernize their operations and prevent pollution at the refinery.

  • When Sunoco subpoenaed Ohio Citizen Action and attempted to force us to turn over private medical information of the refinery neighbors, we mobilized opposition to their demand from environmental, medical, and civic organizations from throughout the region and throughout the country. Sunoco eventually withdrew this demand.

  • We produced a DVD featuring interviews with neighbors who have suffered health problems and property damage from the refinery, and distributed it to company leaders, public officials, and members of an international corporate accountability organization called CERES, of which Sunoco is a member.
Sunoco’s commitment to reduce pollution comes as part of a legal agreement with the U.S. EPA. On September 21, 2005, Sunoco told the community it plans to implement all the major changes much earlier than expected. The Fluidized Catalytic Cracker Unit Scrubber and Selective Catalytic Reduction Units, as well as the significant improvements to the Sulfur Recovery Unit and the installation of a backup sulfur recovery unit are planned for completion by November, 2008.

Background on the Sunoco campaign