Sunday, December 30, 2012

You Tell Us

In the continuing Tar Sands story, Manchester residents have issued a community statement demanding that Valero Refinery CEO and President William R. Klesse release information on industrial pollutants the company is releasing into their atmosphere.

From the TSB website: 

The National Disease Clusters Alliance reports (pg. 2) that children living within two miles of the Houston Ship Channel have a 56% higher likelihood of developing leukemia than those who live more than ten miles away.

As blogged earlier, the community is predominantly Latino with the average resident living below the poverty line.   Environmental observers describe the situation in the Houston neighborhood as "a textbook case of environmental racism."  The TSB site reports growing police harassment of residents for organizing on health hazards in the area, including intefering with the group's distribution of food from a free community grocery outlet and patrolling the neighborhood in vehicles owned by Valero.

The statement issued:
William R. Klesse,
As CEO & President of Valero you must be held accountable for the human rights abuses your corporation is committing in communities like ours. One need not do anything more than visit Houston’s Manchester neighborhood to know that the air here is dangerously polluted; air monitors have recorded 1,3-butadiene levels measuring 11 times greater than what is allowed in a toxic waste dump.
Nearly all children here have persistent coughs, and adults are plagued with sickness and headaches. We have come forward and documented countless stories of illnesses and disease such as asthma, leukemia, and a variety of cancers all of which we attribute to the presence of your refinery.  No more will we allow you to poison our air and lungs without question.
Manchester is almost completely Latino, and the average family here lives below the poverty line.  In 2011, you earned $11,027,067 by exploiting us and other communities like ours.  It would take the average resident in our community 368 years to earn what you do in one. What you are forcibly doing to us is without a doubt environmental racism.
You have 5 days to be accountable to the following information:
  1. What are you putting into our air?
  2. How do these chemicals affect our health
  3. What kind of violations have happened here that you haven’t told us about?
  4. What are the annual emissions limits for each chemical you emit, and what are your measured emissions of these chemicals?
We know that your refinery can not operate within federal law, and now it’s time that the rest of the world know as well. We demand transparency from you, and want you to know that we do not consent to the presence of your refinery in our community.
We are in solidarity with the Tar Sands Blockade, TEJAS, and all those who fight for truth and justice. We oppose all those who seek to exploit others for their personal gain.
Not only do we hold you, William, personally accountable, but we hold all Valero shareholders and the American people who lay eyes on our community and only provide passive support.  We will not be your sacrifice.

In March 2010, Associated Press reported that William Klesse received 10.9 million dollars in compensation in 2009, in a 64 percent increase from the prior year. 

Diane Wilson and Bob Lindsey, whose story was also blogged earlier, are now in the 29th day of their hunger strike.  Both were arrested after chaining themselves to a truck outside the Valero refinery in solidarity with the Tar Sands Blockade.  Manchester is the end of the line for the TransCanada Pipeline.

In another action, two of the three Tar Sands protesters arrested after sealing themselves inside the pipeline in Smith County, Texas have been released on reduced bail, with the third activist, Matt Almonte still in jail at the time of the latest linked story from the group.  Their bail was originally set excessively high at $65,000 each, and the judge in that case is reported as recusing himself since for undisclosed reasons.  The current bail is still excessively high, but reduced to 20-30,000 dollars for each protester.

Photo credits/top, courtesy of Tar Sands Blockade/Manchester Community Unity, a child paints at a Manchester community function organized by residents to oppose the presence of industrial pollutants in their neighborhood./bottom, courtesy of Tar Sands Blockade/Manchester Community Unity, Manchester residents pose with protest sign in English and Spanish demanding transparency and accountability from Valero Refinery.  The sign reads, "We demand to know what you are forcing us to breathe!" And, "¡Exigimos saber lo que nos est├ín obligando a respirar!"

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