Bucket Brigade sets its sights on Orion

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 22, 2002


NORCO – Orion Refining Company found itself again on the defensive last week with another broadside from the Concerned Citizens of New Sarpy and the Louisiana Bucket Brigade.

The latest move by the activist organizations is a petition filed to ask the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to withdraw administrative authority from the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality over the Clean Air Act the the Resource Recovery and Conservation Act and take over the program directly.

The move was taken, according to the petition, “due to the extremely serious findings of the Louisiana State Legislative Auditor (Dan Kyle) and the thousands of innocent families that are threatened by LDEQ’s mismanagement.”

Ann Rolfes of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade called Orion “the poster child for dangerous plants in Louisiana,” citing, among other things, construction of a catalytic cracker without the required permits.

“It’s a glaring, glaring problem,” Rolfes said.

Not so, retorted Orion spokeswoman Joy Patin, who said, “They can say anything they want to get your attention. We can only tell the truth.”

Some of the legislative auditor’s report include poor response to complaints, lack of accessibility to public documents, nearly $11 million in uncollected fees, inconsistent enforcement and poor administration over who it regulates.

“They’re not responsive to the citizens’ complaints at all,” Rolfes said, and concluded, “I think the people of New Sarpy are living this with every day of their lives.”

Dorothy Jenkins, president of New Sarpy Concerned Citizens, commented, “Orion and DEQ endanger our lives every day. Let’s give EPA a chance to protect us.”

She asserted that Orion has averaged two accidents per week since beginning operations in May 2000. Further, Jenkins said Orion further violated permits by adding on to their facility.

Again, not so, Patin said. Jenkins is confusing “accidents” with “incidents” and added in September, Orion observed one million safe man-hours at the plant, meaning one million man-hours worked without a single lost-time incident.

In fact, Patin continued, Orion will soon receive four awards from the National Petrochemical and Refining Association for their 2001 safety program. Additionally, Orion was recognized in February by Training magazine as being one of the top 100 petrochemical companies in the world, actually ranked first.

“Orion’s environmental health and safety record for 2001 was very good, with a 60 percent reduction in the number of releases to the air and an 84 percent reduction in flaring, compared to 2000, which was our startup year, none of which exceeded allowable limits.”

Patin continued: “We found the accusations against Orion to be inaccurate and purposely misleading. Our safety record is significantly better than the national industry average.”

She continued: “The inflammatory statements made by the Bucket Brigade and a very small group of people are part of their continuing effort to discredit Orion and to pressure our company into implementing an unneeded property purchase program.”

Patin concluded, “The bottom line is they want to be bought out, and there’s no reason to buy them out. We’re investing in the community.”