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The Toxic End Of The KXL Pipeline

A major emissions event took place April 15, 2013 in the city of Port Arthur, Texas. But, the real problem is the steady, routine release of toxic chemicals that never makes the news.


A major emissions event took place April 15, 2013 in the city of Port Arthur, Texas.

Port Arthur is an oil refinery town on the Gulf of Mexico, where most of the oil from the U.S. and Canada is refined before being shipped away on barges to the rest of the world.

While the State Department continues with their investigation to decide whether or not to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, perhaps they should take a look at what's happening at the proposed end of the pipeline in Port Arthur, Texas.

On Earth has a great piece on the cost the town of Port Arthur has paid to be the nation's oil refinery center:

"The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Toxics Release Inventory places Jefferson County among the very worst in the nation for air releases of chemicals known to cause cancer, birth defects, and reproductive disorders. In a state that regularly records in excess of 2,500 toxic emissions events per year, Port Arthur is near the top of the list of offending cities. Data collected by the Texas Cancer Registry indicates that cancer rates among African Americans in Jefferson County are roughly 15 percent higher than they are for the average Texan. Shockingly, the mortality rate from cancer is more than 40 percent higher. And cancer is only part of the story. A study by the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston found that residents of Port Arthur were four times more likely than people just 100 miles upwind to report suffering from heart and respiratory conditions; nervous system and skin disorders; headaches and muscle aches; and ear, nose, and throat ailments.

The reason is simple: this is where many Americans get their oil and gas. Yet despite Port Arthur’s importance to our fuel-dependent way of life, few people have ever heard of it. Of those who have, many know the city as little more than a name that gets repeated in countless articles about the Keystone XL pipeline. Should the final phase of the project be approved, Port Arthur will be the completed pipeline system’s terminus. The city’s refineries stand at the ready to turn 830,000 barrels per day of diluted, chemically treated bitumen into heavy diesel and petroleum coke—a dirtier alternative to coal."

A lot of promises are tossed around when new industrial sites or hazardous waste facilities are being proposed to a community: jobs, new amenities for the area, sometimes even cash infusions. These promises almost always fall short of the resident's needs or expectations. Most importantly, these "perks" can never outweigh the short and long-term impacts on the health of residents. If you live and work near a hazardous facility you're being exposed to toxic chemicals 24 hours a day.

Refinery spokespeople acknowledge that their facilities are emitting toxic chemicals. But they follow up with a question: As automobile drivers, are we willing to help offset the industry costs associated with increasing safety and reducing emissions every time we go to the pump?

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