Sunoco Refinery News: 2004
Environmentalists target local lawyer|
Intimidation alleged in Sunoco case
| Dec 20: Ohio Citizen Action to file for federal protection of Sunoco health survey privacy|
The complaint reads in part: "Ohio Citizen Action believes that it is subject to the disclosure and criminal provisions of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996. Without a declaration that [the Act] has application to the canvassing described above, which is at the heart of Ohio Citizen Action's activities, persons acting of behalf of Ohio Citizen Action subject themselves to criminal prosecution from engaging in First Amendment protected speech and information gathering functions, notwithstanding the conclusion of the state court judge. Wherefore, your plaintiff demands the issuance of a declaratory judgment finding that the information gathering functions of Ohio Citizen Action and those acting in concert with it are subject to the provisions of [the Act]," Complaint for declaratory relief, Ohio Citizen Action, Inc. vs. U.S. Department of Justice, 33 KB doc.
| Dec 17: Sunoco attorney in Toledo demands that Ohio Citizen Action members pay his legal fees
TOLEDO -- "Sunoco's Toledo attorney filed papers with a Toledo court on December 14, demanding that Ohio Citizen Action members pay his legal fees. Louis Tosi had previously subpoenaed Citizen Action demanding that the organization turn over to him all health questionnaires, including personal medical information, about Sunoco neighbors, with their names and addresses. Ohio Citizen Action is opposing both these proposals," Ohio Citizen Action.
Mr. Tosi's demands raise some good questions:
TOLEDO -- "During the course of this campaign, the Love Canal Homeowners Association sued Hooker, which had been taken over by Occidental Chemical Corporation, a subsidiary of Occidental Petroleum. The case Urban et al. v. Occidental Chemical Corporation et al. was heard in Buffalo, New York; the Supreme Court, State of New York. During the discovery section of the legal case, Occidental attempted to get access to the individual medical information we had collected from the families. The judge held a discussion of this issue in his chambers, at which I was present. After hearing the arguments of both sides, the judge barred Occidental from receiving the information. He did say he would allow them to argue the question again at a later point in the case if they chose to do so, but they did not," affidavit, Lois Gibbs.
Judge say consumer group must turn over confidential health surveys from Toledo refinery neighbors to Sunoco |
Media is silent
CLEVELAND -- "On November 22, Judge Franks denied Ohio Citizen Action's motion to quash Sunoco's subpoena and ordered the organization to turn over the survey forms within fourteen days. That clock ran out on December 6. Ohio Citizen Action has asked for time to contact the individual respondents and ask for their permission. Without that permission, Ohio Citizen Action says it can't comply with the judge's order. Contempt of court citations are the likely result. Now here's the weird part. This story was last covered by the Toledo Blade on September 9, three months ago. Since then, despite numerous Ohio Citizen Action press releases, there's been no media coverage of any kind -- not by the Blade, or Toledo television, or the AP, or the Cleveland Plain Dealer, or the Columbus Dispatch, or NPR. Nobody. Nothing. Total silence. Try to imagine that it was a reporter or a newspaper in this situation -- facing jail time for protecting the confidentiality of low-income residents who filled out a form describing their personal health problems. Would there be media attention? The only question would be the size of the headline on the front page of USA Today," Bill Callahan, Callahan's Cleveland Diary.
FT WORTH, TX -- Residents challenge 'sham' refinery deal, Scott Streater, Ft. Worth Star-Telegram.
Dec 12: U.S. EPA hasn't won the improvements it touted|
Ohio Citizen Action files for time to appeal Judge Ruth Ann Franks order that it give neighbor health surveys to Sunoco|
TOLEDO -- ". . . at the heart of Ohio Citizen Action's ability to conduct its good neighbor campaigns is the ability to question neighbors about their health and well-being in a manner free from the backdoor manner in which this information has now been sought to be provided to [Sunoco] the target of their inquiries," Bruce French, counsel, Ohio Citizen Action, 1.6 MB pdf.
CLEVELAND -- Supporting affidavit of Sandy Buchanan. "Ohio Citizen Action has no interest in being the agent for having individuals dragged into what could be an unpleasant or intimidating experience simply because they were willing to talk to a volunteer canvasser at their door," Sandy Buchanan, Executive Director, Ohio Citizen Action, 48 KB doc.
CLEVELAND -- Dec 6 Letter to survey respondents, Sandy Buchanan, Executive Director, Ohio Citizen Action.
Nov 22: Opinion and Judgement Entry denying motion to quash by Ohio Citizen Action|
TOLEDO -- "It is further ordered, adjudged and decreed that third party deponent Ohio Citizen Action, Inc. shall produce the requested documents which are the subject of this Opinion and Judgement Entry within fourteen (14) days of this Order," John Clarke et al., vs. Sunoco, Inc., Judge Ruth Ann Franks, Court of Common Pleas of Lucas County, Ohio.
Oct 29: Sunoco inferno captured by neighbor|
OREGON -- "This video of an October 7 blowout at Sunoco in Oregon, Ohio was captured by neighbor Heather Wolfe. Heather lives less than a quarter-mile from Sun's fenceline. The video was taken from her property. 'It was really pouring out smoke that day, and it had been a bad week of smoke and smells coming from the plant. Sun has to start making improvements -- we just can't live with this,' Wolfe said. The October 7 blaze led Sunoco officials to shut down the fluidized catalytic cracker, one of the main processes in refining oil," Rachael Belz, Ohio Citizen Action.
Oct 21: Supplemental pleading with regard to motion to quash by Ohio Citizen Action, Inc.|
TOLEDO -- "The learning from these cases is that citizens ought not to be fearful of consequences for expressing their points of view. Citizens in the region of the Sun refinery, when they wished to become known, forwarded to Sun officials postcards and other information voicing their view of the company's operations. Ms. [Rachael] Belz's Affidavit also reflects the concern about 'intimidation of neighbors by Sunoco and/or [they] were afraid that neighbors of relatives who work at the plant would be jeopardized.' Thus, the interviews were designed to provide information about neighbors' perceptions of health effects in a manner to allow them to take concerted action to improve their lot in life. Obviously, no one envisioned that the questionnaire information would be made available to Sun or its lawyers, because those wishing to make a public complaint had already done so," filing, John Clarke et al., vs. Sunoco, Inc., Court of Common Pleas of Lucas County, Ohio, 40 KB .doc.
CINCINNATI -- Affidavit in support of motion to quash filed by Ohio Citizen Action, Inc., Rachael Belz, Ohio Citizen Action.
U.S. EPA cuts pollution levels with refinery settlements|
PAULSBORO, NJ -- Town welcomes curbs on refinery; N.J. asphalt plant among six sites in CITGO cleanup deal, Maida Cassandra Odom, Boston Globe, October 8, 2004.
BEAUMONT, TX -- Attorney to file 6,000 lawsuits over emissions, Associated Press.
436,678 people live within 10 miles of the Sunoco Toledo Refinery|
OREGON -- What is the biggest public health problem facing Northwest Ohio? Here's why the Sunoco Toledo Refinery should be a finalist: Every day, 436,678 people live and breathe within 10 miles of the facility, according to a U.S. EPA analysis of U.S. Census data. The Northwest Ohio region includes 11 counties with a combined area of 4,874 square miles -- larger than some countries -- and a combined population of 987,405. Of these people, fully 44% live within 10 miles of the Sunoco refinery, Ohio Citizen Action.
TOLEDO -- $100 million hydrogen plant planned in Toledo; BP, Sunoco plan same amounts in refinery upgrades, Julie McKinnon, Toledo Blade.
Firm gassed about flare fix|
Koch subsidiary may have found solution to refinery emissions
WICHITA, KS -- "It's called flaring and it looks spectacular -- a giant orange flame shooting into the sky as refineries reduce internal pressures by burning off hydrocarbons. In reality, it's not good. Not good for the refinery, which is torching valuable, salable product. And definitely not good for the air, which is getting a load of sulfur dioxide, oxides of nitrogen and volatile organic compounds. . .Flint Hills Resources has already implemented a policy that has substantially improved flaring performance at its refineries. Time in flare has been reduced from an average of 110.1 minutes per day in 2000 to 10.2 minutes per day in 2003. . . . Hilton Kelley, a clean air activist associated with the Refinery Reform Campaign, a national organization lobbying for clean air regulation and restrictions on refinery emissions, said Koch's example is one he hopes the industry will embrace. 'Any time you reduce flaring, you reduce pollution,' he said. 'Unfortunately, many refiners use it as a way of correcting mistakes. They just send 'upsets' to the flare and burn it off. What Koch is doing is definitely a good thing,'" Phyllis Jacobs Griekspoor, Wichita Eagle.
Activists question Sunoco air quality|
Survey of residents finds health issues
OREGON -- "Are East Toledo and Oregon residents being sickened by foul air? While government agencies from Toledo to Columbus to Atlanta probe that question, the results of a mid-August survey performed by the state's largest environmental group show hundreds of people living near the Sunoco Inc. refinery on Woodville Road claim to have health problems. The survey, involving 473 respondents polled by 40 Ohio Citizen Action volunteers, showed 60 percent of those interviewed complained of headaches. More than a third said they suffer from itchy, irritated eyes. Nearly 30 percent also said they have asthma, shortness of breath, and general fatigue. One in four complained of sinus or ear infections. The activist group yesterday sent the results to Dr. David Grossman, Toledo-Lucas County health commissioner. . .Refinery spokesmen were not available last night to respond to the Ohio Citizen Action survey," Tom Henry, Toledo Blade.
TOLEDO -- Health Commissioner reply, David Grossman, Commissioner, Toledo-Lucas County Health Department, letter to Rachael Belz, Ohio Citizen Action.
Based on community health questionnaire results:
Ohio Citizen Action presses Lucas County Health Department for a study of Sunoco Refinery neighbors health|
OREGON -- "Sixty percent of the respondents or their children experience headaches, many on a daily basis. Thirty-five percent of the neighbors we talked with, or their children, have itchy, irritated eyes. Approximately a quarter of respondents or their kids have or experience asthma, shortness of breath, general fatigue, sinus infections and ear infections," Rachael Belz, Associate Director, Ohio Citizen Action.
Activists seek denial of Sunoco data request|
Article published Thursday, September 2, 2004 OREGON -- Coy only building marked to be replaced. "Coy Elementary, 2630 Pickle Rd., is a priority for the district because of its proximity to the Sunoco refinery's tank farm and because it's 78 years old. In 1998, the school was evacuated twice in 10 days because of leaks at the tank farm on Wheeling Street near Brown Road. One day, it was because of fumes from a diesel spill; another day, it was fumes from a leaking butane line," Erika Ray, Toledo Blade.
Ohio Citizen Action won't release member list to refinery lawyer|
First Amendment cited by group working with refinery neighbors
Why was air not tested at Coy School?|
OREGON -- "The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) recently conducted air monitoring at several locations around Sun Refinery. I inquired why Coy School was not monitored. Jennifer Freed from the ATSDR replied: 'ATSDR attempted to get an air monitor at Coy School. That was our first choice. But we were not given permission.' Who from the Oregon School system refused to allow air monitoring at an elementary school by a federal governmental organization under the Department of Health and Human Services? The Oregon School administration and school board have a responsibility to allow such testing. Students, teachers, and parents have a right to know about the air in Coy School. It is shameful that the testing was not done -- it should be. Not allowing the testing implies something is wrong. Is it?" Sandy Bihn, letter to the editor, Toledo Blade.
PHILADELPHIA, PA -- Environmentalists demand pollution data from the Sunoco refinery be made public, Gwen Shaffer, Philadelphia Weekly, issue dated Aug 25 - 31, 2004.
|Aug 19: Study gives mixed results to Sunoco refinery|
OREGON -- "Millions of Americans are routinely exposed to more air pollution than what federal records show because states have allowed refineries and chemical plants to liberally define what they consider to be accidental releases, a national report issued yesterday clams. The Environmental Integrity Project, founded in 2002 by a former U.S. EPA enforcement chief, claims Ohio and Pennsylvania were the weakest of 29 states analyzed on such data. Michigan was not studied. The issue hit home in East Toledo and Oregon, where the century-old refinery operated on Woodville Road by Sunoco Inc. is the focus of a federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry health study slated to be completed this fall. . . Anita LaPorte of Oregon, who led the drive for the federal health study, said she and others believe their health has declined because of overexposure to refinery emissions. 'Something is obviously wrong,' she said," Tom Henry, Toledo Blade.
|Aug 18: Sunoco Oregon Refinery|
Upsets, accidents and malfunctions: 2002 - 2003
OREGON -- "During the last two full years, the Sunoco Oregon Refinery has had 104 accidents, upsets and malfunctions. All but 6 of these releases were of amounts high enough to be reportable to the local air agency, Toledo Environmental Services. Different chemicals have different reporting amounts. For instance, the limit for a sulfur dioxide release to be reported to the air agency is 500 pounds. The accidents throughout 2002 and 2003 were varied and included these types of releases: small and large amounts of sulfur dioxide; particles, soot and dust; butane; gasoline components; and waste products known as 'slop oil.' . . . From the information Sun submitted to Toledo Environmental Services, it appears that most of the actions taken at the time of the upsets were of a 'band-aid' nature, rather than a long term fix. This seems to explain why there are many times throughout 2002 and 2003 that Sun experienced the similar, or the same, problems many days in the same month," Rachael Belz, Ohio Citizen Action.
WASHINGTON, DC -- Report: U.S. EPA fails to close loopholes in 29 states where "upset" air pollution goes unpunished, often untracked, release, report, Environmental Integrity Project, 40 KB doc; Appendix E: Ohio.
|Aug 16: News advisory for Aug 18 |
Report to show nationwide loopholes for supposedly "accidental" air pollution pushing carcinogenic pollutants well over U.S. legal limits
Group to highlight Sunoco Oregon Refinery accidents; Video shot by residents of refineries victimized by pollution to illustrate air woes
OREGON -- "Millions of Americans -– including Ohioans -- are exposed today to supposedly "accidental" industrial site air pollution incidents that include cancer-causing pollutants far in excess of the limits set out under federal law, according to a report to be released in Ohio on August 18, 2004 by Ohio Citizen Action and the nonprofit, nonpartisan Environmental Integrity Project. . . .In addition to the national news event, Ohio Citizen Action is also releasing a local report detailing the 2002 and 2003 upsets at the Sunoco Refinery in Oregon, Ohio. Ohio Citizen Action and Sunoco refinery neighbors have been working to reduce emissions from the refinery. This information was compiled using reports submitted to Toledo Environmental Services by the Sun Oregon Refinery," Rachael Belz, Ohio Citizen Action, Stephanie Kendall, for Environmental Integrity Project.
|Aug 9: Agency will review sulfur-dioxide levels|
Emissions by Sunoco plant face more study
OREGON -- "Officials from the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry . . . they cited concerns about sulfur-dioxide levels from the plant, explaining that anyone with asthma who lives within a half-mile of the plant could be subject to more coughing, shortness of breath, and other signs of respiratory distress. The agency said it will do more analysis of the refinery's output of that pollutant. 'We have to look at how often and who's breathing it,' said Jennifer Freed, an agency environmental health scientist who was involved with the study," Tom Henry, Toledo Blade.
Jul 28: Despite high demand, oil refineries are closing|
TOLEDO -- From bad to worse. "At the same time, two environmental groups published a study indicating that industries are under-reporting the toxins they release, perhaps by as much as 400 percent. In Lucas County, the study said, refineries and chemical plants may have put 727,778 more pounds of noxious substances into the air than they reported to the feds. The EPA numbers come from figures self-reported by the industries. In some cases, the EPA concedes, the amounts are estimated rather than obtained via actual monitoring of emissions. The environmentalists' report, issued by the Environmental Integrity Project, a Washington think-tank, and a Texas group, the Galveston-Houston Association for Smog Prevention, used the results of actual monitoring. 'The bottom line here is the public is being exposed to more pollution than what's being reported under TRI,' explained an attorney for the environmentalists. If that is the case, the EPA ought to be requiring direct testing for toxins, rather than the so-called 'legally defensible' figures industries are allowed to concoct on their own and report," editorial, Toledo Blade.
Jul 24: Air sampling doesn't find serious health hazards|
TOLEDO -- "Sampling of the air around the Sunoco, Inc. refinery during a three-month span didn't reveal a level of contaminants considered to be a serious health hazard to area residents, but the agency which conducted the sampling acknowledges it was limited in scope and levels of sulfur dioxide should be further monitored. . . The agency set up two air monitoring stations to the east and west of the refinery. . . .Some residents, however, said a station should have been located north of the refinery because many residents in that neighborhood have complained of odors and ailments such as sore throats. Ms. Freed conceded air contamination at the refinery could vary with the seasons and operations at the facility. She also said emissions from a tank farm along the eastern boundary of the Sun property probably weren't detected," Larry Limpf, Eastern Maumee Bay Press.
Jul 22: Sulfur dioxide emissions at Sunoco Refinery still climbing -- up by 88% since 2000|
OREGON -- New data show that the Sunoco Refinery in Oregon is sending more sulfur dioxide into the air each year -- a jump of 797,880 pounds between 2002 and 2003 alone. This is a whopping 88% increase of sulfur dioxide emissions since 2000, when the figure was 9,563,400 pounds.
The source for all these numbers is the 2003 Title V Fee Report submitted by Sunoco to Toledo Environmental Services. Rachael Belz, Associate Director, Ohio Citizen Action.
Jul 15: Refineries running at capacity, but new ones aren't in pipeline|
OREGON -- ". . .experts point out that refineries cost billions to build, are subject to stringent government scrutiny, and draw the ire of residents who don't want them nearby. Plus, constructing and starting a refinery would take a decade, and it's hard for refiners to predict whether demand would be sufficient for the investment to pay off, said Mike Burdette, senior research analyst with the federal Energy Information Administration. . . . No capacity expansions are planned at northwest Ohio's three refineries, although some officials said managers routinely discuss such possibilities. 'That's something you always have to weigh in doing business,' said Olivia Summons, spokesman for the Sunoco Inc. refinery on the Toledo/Oregon border, which can process up to 150,000 barrels of crude oil a day. 'We have been running at full capacity through the winter and all spring,' said Ms. Summons, adding that the refinery was down in March for scheduled maintenance," Julie McKinnon, Toledo Blade.
Jul 14: Federal health unit sets July 20 community meeting on Sunoco Refinery|
OREGON -- "In October 2003, the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) held a community meeting at the East Toledo Family Center. At this meeting, we outlined what environmental health investigation activities were being planned, such as sampling for the exposure investigation. The July 20 meeting will update the community on our progress, including providing the results of air monitoring recently completed in the community. We will also discuss the ATSDR Health Consultation on Sunoco Company that will soon be ready for public comment," Jennifer Freed, Environmental Health Scientist; Dawn O’Connor, Health Communications Specialist, U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, 15 KB doc.
Jun 7: Thirty things we don't know about Sunoco's Refinery in Oregon, Ohio|
OREGON -- "Neighbors have consistently complained about the refinery's pollution, odors, noises, explosions and, too often, the sickness that results. There are many things we don't know yet that Sun needs to explain, and make changes to correct: (1) How often is Sun legally allowed to flare? (2) Why does Sun flare almost every day? (3) Isn't flaring a 'last resort' so the refinery 'doesn't explode' as neighbors have been told by refinery officials? (4) Doesn't flaring so frequently tell us that Sun is consistently operating in a 'crisis' mode? (5) Why do Sun's flares sometimes go out? Doesn't that mean that sulfur dioxide is pouring from the plant unchecked?. . . .," Rachael Belz, Associate Director, Ohio Citizen Action.
Apr 21: New data on Sunoco Toledo Refinery:|
Hundreds of times more pollution than executives admitted to neighbors
OREGON -- "For a year, Sunoco has told the neighbors of its Toledo refinery that pollution from the plant had dropped to approximately 50,000 pounds a year and that "Since 1988, the Toledo Refinery has reduced its environmental releases by approximately 85%. . ." These statements are not only false, they are not even close: Sun emits hundreds of times more pollution than executives admitted to neighbors, according to the most recent available data obtained by Ohio Citizen Action from the Environmental Services Division, City of Toledo. Further, the pollutiion has been increasing sharply. For the year 2000, Sunoco reported to the government 396 times more pollution than it told neighbors about; for the year 2001, it was 375 times more. The comparable 2002 figure of 48,819 pounds is about to be released by the U.S. EPA; the total actually released is 520 times that number. The data below show that in 2002, Sunoco emitted 70% more sulfur dioxide, 176% more carbon monoxide, and 90% more volatile organic compounds than the previous year, 2001. Sun increased total emissions by 35% in one year to an average of 69,609 pounds a day," Rachael Belz, Associate Director, Ohio Citizen Action.
Apr 13: Oregon's Coy Elementary may be replaced;|
School board weighs building options
OREGON -- "Replacing Coy Elementary, 2630 Pickle Rd., could become a priority for the district, officials said, because of its age and associated problems -- along with its proximity to the Sunoco refinery's tank farm. In 1998, the school was evacuated twice in 10 days because of leaks at the tank farm on Wheeling Street near Brown Road. One day, it was because of fumes from a diesel spill; another day, it was fumes from a leaking butane line. . .'I would go out on a limb and say that replacing Coy is our No. 1 priority,' [Board member Cathy Johnson] Johnson said," Ignazio Messina, Toledo Blade.
Apr 8: Lawsuit targets Sunoco refinery;|
Toledo, Oregon residents claim property, health damage
OREGON -- "The suit, assigned to Judge Ruth Ann Franks, alleges that Sunoco 'intentionally, recklessly, willfully, wantonly, maliciously, and negligently failed to construct and/or maintain its facility, which caused the invasion of plaintiffs' person and property by noise, fallout, noxious odors, air contaminants, and other airborne pollutants on dates too numerous to mention,'" Tom Henry, Toledo Blade.
Apr 2: Sunoco begins newsletter to neighbors|
OREGON -- "A new Sunoco Refinery newsletter began arriving in area mailboxes today, saying the company wants to build 'relationships between community and refinery.' So why does the newsletter not say when and where the company's 'neighbor task force' will meet next?," Ohio Citizen Action.
Mar 24: Sunoco to pay $475,000 fine for suburban Toledo refinery|
OREGON -- "Sunoco Inc. will pay a $475,000 fine to settle air pollution violations at its refinery on Woodville Road in the Toledo suburb of Oregon, according to the latest consent order negotiated between the company and the state attorney general's office. The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency said yesterday that the order, filed in Lucas County Common Pleas Court, requires the refinery to stay in compliance for sulfur dioxide emissions. A similar order was signed in 1995, when Sunoco agreed to pay a $200,000 fine and achieve reductions that the state EPA had sought since 1988. Two years ago, state attorneys sued Sunoco on the grounds that it had violated the 1995 order," Tom Henry, Toledo Blade.
Mar 15: Ohio Citizen Action withdraws from Sunoco's 'Neighbor Task Force'|
OREGON -- "Ohio Citizen Action agreed to participate in a 'neighbor task force' with the understanding that it would be an open process involving neighbors of the plant; you would provide information needed for a back and forth discussion; and you were committed to identifying and making changes at the plant to reduce the pollution affecting the neighbors and workers. This hasn't been the case," Rachael Belz, Associate Director, Ohio Citizen Action, letter to W. Roger Lyle, Plant manager, Sunoco Toledo Refinery.
Feb 9: Lawsuit, study could compel a cleaner Sunoco|
OREGON -- "Residents have convinced the agency to study the potential health risk that Sunoco's emissions pose to more than 57,000 people living within 3 miles of the refinery. Jennifer Freed, an [Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry] environmental health scientist, said air samples are being collected, and that data likely will be released in the spring. . . .While complaints about refinery odors and pollution issues are voiced throughout the nation, some ardent critics see a brighter future for Sunoco's refinery here. Ohio Citizen Action, the state’s largest activist group, claims it has awakened Sunoco with its 'good neighbor' campaign. It is encouraged by a series of meetings begun in December with a new task force that has agreed to meet monthly. 'There's a willingness there to start working on some of this stuff,' said Sandy Buchanan, Ohio Citizen Action’s executive director," Tom Henry, Toledo Blade.
News from 2003