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Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services & Community In-Power and Development Association (CIDA)

Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services & Community In-Power and Development Association (CIDA)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: THURSDAY, 11/28/19

STATEMENT ON TPC CHEMICAL DISASTER

On the morning of Wednesday, November 27, 2019, an explosion involving a processing unit was reported at TPC Group Port Neches, Texas Operations site, east of Houston and less than 10-miles from Port Arthur Texas. No official statement has disclosed the full names of chemicals or toxicants being released into the air and surrounding community during the ongoing fire. The TPC Group Plant has a total of 175 full-time employees and 50 contractors, all personnel on-site have been evacuated and 3 personnel sustained injuries, 2 personnel of TPC Group and 1 contract worker. All 3 injured personnel were taken to the medical center in Southeast Texas, and one was later transported to Memorial Herman in Houston.

 “My father was a United Steelworker who succumbed to cancer in 2016. I am well aware that symptoms from this chemical disaster may not surface for years to come. Workers’ medical needs should be covered by TPC for years to come because of known bioaccumulation of both known and unknown chemicals exposures in the body. This facility is has a history of non-compliance, which means that workers bodies absorbed the costs in health impacts. Workers are the first line of defense when these chemical disasters happen. These expenses should be covered by TPC this is the cost of having unsafe business practices, otherwise, they will continue business-as-usual.” -Ana Parras, Co-Executive Director T.e.j.a.s and former President of AFSCME, Local 3242, Corpus Christi, Texas

Incident command was established offsite at the Huntsman Administration building due to the size of fire and inability to get into the location. No immediate shelter-in-place was ordered for the surrounding community until 9:00 am, as of 6:00 pm a total of 50,000 people are under mandatory evacuation. According to the EPA Region 6 and local officials, the main chemical of concern is 1,3-Butadiene although other chemicals may be involved. 1,3-butadiene is a gas used in the production of styrene-butadiene rubber, plastics, and thermoplastic resins. This chemical is carcinogenic, meaning it’s cancer-causing and has both short and long term effects including: irritation of the eyes, nasal passages, throat and lungs, neurological effects, blurred vision, fatigue, headache, and vertigo have also been reported at very high exposure levels. Skin exposure causes a sensation of cold, followed by a burning sensation which may lead to frostbite. Thousands of peo

“We will be spending thanksgiving under shelter-in-place and evacuation orders. We are now 35 hours after the initial blast that started at 1 am yesterday morning at the TPC plant, a known violator of the Clean Air Act, it will most likely burn throughout the night. We woke up to a fiery blast the day before Thanksgiving. This is life for our communities sitting at the fence-line of the petrochemical corridor along the gulf coast. Evacuation orders have only gone out to a 4- mile radius and more than 50,000 southeast Texans have evacuated. We live in an ever-growing petrochemical corridor because of the billions of dollars being invested in petrochemical infrastructure. Not even a full week after the Trump EPA Chemical Disaster Rule rollback. A rule that would have provided common-sense prevention rules in place during catastrophic events like this TPC Disasters.”

-Hilton Kelly, CIDA Inc. Founder & Director,

Just six days ago Trump’s EPA slashed common-sense protections under the Chemical Disaster Rule that could have mitigated the harm faced by communities impacted by disasters like this one. Protections including root-cause analysis, third party inspections and improved communications with first responders and local authorities. The impacted area included several vulnerable areas including residences and schools. The school district of Port Neches-Groves has a total of 11 schools with a total of 5,131 students, 39.1% are economically disadvantaged. All 11 schools sit inside the 4 mile radius of the chemical fire this includes: Taft Elementary, Groves Elementary, West Groves Education Center, Van Buren Elementary, Groves Middle School, Ridgewood Elementary, Port Neches Elementary, Port Neches Middle School, Port Neches- Groves High School, Woodcrest Elementary, and Alternative Education Center.

“People should be spending their holiday with families, instead they have been displaced due to no fault of their own. Fortunately, schools were not in session. What if the blast occurred during school hours? How many children and teachers would have suffered? Disasters like these are preventable, it shouldn’t take a chemical explosion for local, state and agency officials to take action and realize the dangers of chemical facilities.” – Nalleli Hidalgo, Community Engagement and Education Liaison

 The TPC fire is not the first, nor last of explosive chemical disasters occurring in Texas. The frequency of chemical plant explosions are endangering workers’ lives on-site and raises concerns of public health issues for frontline communities. We are reminded of the recent fire at the ExxonMobil and the ITC facility on March 16, 2019 and March 17, 2019 in Baytown, Texas and Deer Park, Texas. All incidences found in the southeast Texas petrochemical corridor, east of Houston, Texas. We remain adamant that local, county and state officials implement a Regional Air Toxics Plan and support reinstating the Chemical Disaster Rule, which the current administration recently rolled back. We also want to urge the general public to seek legal remedies outside of the claims hotline and make a full assessment of damages including health impacts. We urge you not to come in direct contact with ash and other debris. Other considerations to keep in mind are the use of ponds, swimming pools and other open waters used for recreation, please avoid exposure to chemical ash and other debris that could have settled on these bodies of water. The same consideration should be given to ash and debris that has landed near residences, including but not limited to metal, charred material, and fire retardant foam that can potentially land on people’s residences, vehicles, and other property. If ash is located on your property avoid cutting lawns. The maintenance of lawns and other landscape can agitate any particulate matter. Instead, call local health and safety departments and take pictures and video of debris if permitted to return to your residences. If you are feeling any side effects visit your physician and maintain a record of your health. Document any symptoms including but not limited to the symptoms affiliated with 1,3-butadiene exposure. Local command stated that other chemicals may have been involved.

For these and additional concerns Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services urges residents in the area affected to evacuate and seek safety with friends and relatives further from the facility. Please remain calm and cautious of current and future road closures and weather events that may complicate the situation. Local officials have not called for a mandatory evacuation outside of the 4-mile radius but we urge those at further distances to take precautions and make decisions best for themselves and family members. Tejas also urges the surrounding municipalities and communities including but not limited to Port Arthur, Port Acres, Pear Ridge, Griffing Park, Lakeview, Central Gardens, and Viterbo, and communities in-view of the plume to take precautions and limit outdoor exposure due to unknown substances that the plume may carry. Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services is not a government agency or county entity to mandate evacuation. We are a 501(c)3 registered environmental advocacy nonprofit that seeks to educate and inform communities on the environmental issues of concern. Due to the concentration of production, storage and other sensitive materials in and around the area we remind the public to stay abreast of the situation as they are out during the day before the Thanksgiving holiday. A Red Cross shelter is being set up at Ford Park in Beaumont according to Chester Jourdan, executive director of the American Red Cross of Southeast and Deep East Texas.

 As local, state, and agency officials release statements that their data, based on handheld air monitors is safe; community members continue to sit beneath a massive plume of toxic-chemical smoke. TPC is a petrochemical facility known to have a history of air permit violations according to the Enforcement and Compliance History Online (ECHO), an EPA database. ECHO data has documented TPC as a facility with over 12 quarters of violations dating back to 2017.

“Don’t tell me that health and safety is the topmost priority for TPC a known violator of the Clean Air Act. Children, elderly, pregnant women and so many others are being exposed to cancer-causing 1,3-butadiene. We have no information on the full slate of chemicals being released or the amounts. I appreciate local officials evacuating community members and taking intentional steps to protect public well-being it is a step up from the efforts during the ITC Disaster, and yet TPCs official updates lack the detail and information that ITC handed to the affected community. What we need is for the TCEQ to stop handing out air permits like candy and for the state to lift caps on financial penalties for facilities to fully enforce the letter of the law. How does a known-violator of the law keep getting permission to operate? This is not the first time TPC undermines community well-being. Their activity is criminal and TPC should not be allowed to continue to operate. I hope the general public understands this type of production is not one based on energy demand but the production of plastic goods. This is the real cost of plastic.” – Yvette Arellano, Policy Research and Grassroots Advocate, T.e.j.a.s

Both T.e.j.a.s and CIDA release this statement jointly believing that no community should have to face a chemical disaster as everyone, regardless of race or income, is entitled to live in a clean environment.

Contact: Yvette Arellano, T.e.j.a.s Policy Research and Grassroots Advocate, 281-919-5762, arellano.inbox@gmail.com Hilton Kelley, CIDA Inc. Founder & Director, 409-498-1088, hiltonkelley5011@gmail.com

Photo from Maharlika News.

UK to take back 42 containers of plastic waste from Malaysia

UK to take back 42 containers of plastic waste from Malaysia

Kuala Lumpur, 25 November 2019 – The UK has agreed to repatriate 42 containers comprising illegal shipment of plastic waste from Malaysia, in accordance with the Basel Convention. Authorities and shipping agents are currently working
together in the repatriation process. The containers, which had arrived at Penang Port between March 2018 and March 2019, were deemed illegal as they failed to comply with the necessary import papers.

The announcement came following a recent visit by the UK’s Environment Agency (EA) organised by the British High Commission in response to news of the illegal shipment of plastic waste from the UK. The EA held a series of meetings with the Ministry of Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change (MESTECC), Department of Environment, Royal Malaysian Customs Department, relevant port authorities and agencies in Malaysia. These meetings have resulted in
a greater mutual understanding of the regulatory framework and policies related to trade in plastic waste, as well as an exchange of knowledge in sharing intelligence, inspection procedures, identification and repatriation of plastic waste.

Y.B. Yeo Bee Yin, Minister of Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change said, “The British High Commission’s proactive action of working closely with MESTECC in repatriating 42 plastic import containers in Penang Port is
highly commendable. This co-operation signifies a recognition that plastic pollution is a global issue which requires commitment from various countries to address the problem.

“We hope the co-operation and understanding between Malaysia and United Kingdom will set an example for other countries with companies exporting contaminated plastic waste to other developing nations,” she said.

H.E. Charles Hay MVO, British High Commissioner to Malaysia said, “The UK Government shares the same concerns as the Malaysian Government on the issue of plastic waste. The repatriation of these 42 containers reflects our commitment to fighting the illegal plastic waste trade.

“We look forward to working with Malaysia on the broader agenda of conserving the environment and addressing climate change, particularly with the UK becoming the joint chair of the 26th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP26) next year,” Hay added. MESTECC and the British High Commission are already collaborating on a number of initiatives in tackling plastic pollution including jointly hosting a VIP screening of BBC Studios’ Blue Planet II to raise public awareness on the perils of single-use plastics. In addition, the high commission is offering UK expertise from WRAP Global, a UK sustainability charity, to support MESTECC’s initiative in setting up the Malaysia Plastics Pact. The high commission will also be sending UK experts to deliver a venture workshop in partnership with MESTECC, to promote research and innovation in mitigating the use of plastic.

 

Contact
Raymond Chua, British High Commission +6012 3088043
Raymond.Chua@fco.gov.uk
NormaizatulAkmal Tujad, MESTECC +603 88858299
akmaltujad@mestecc.gov.my

Open letter to the world’s top plastic polluters: it’s time to change

Open letter to the world’s top plastic polluters: it’s time to change

Dear Coca Cola, Nestlé, PepsiCo, Mondelez International, Unilever,

On World Clean Up Day 2019, over 70,000 people went out into their communities to clean up plastic pollution and collect data on the brands they found. After analysing the results of 484 brand audit events in over 50 countries, you have been found to be the top 5 global plastic polluters, most of you for the second year.

Once again, the efforts of thousands of people around the world have shown that your products are those found in the environment in the greatest quantities, in most countries. Despite the urgent need for action, the focus from your companies is currently on false solutions such as shifting to other disposable materials, claiming your products are 100% recyclable, or by
embracing chemical recycling, none of which will solve the crisis we currently face.

The signatories to this letter are calling on you to change how you design and deliver your products, away from your reliance on single-use plastic. We believe that as the top global plastic polluters, it is your responsibility to lead the way in redesigning packaging to be refillable and reusable. It is time to take responsibility for the harm caused by the single-use plastic you are
pushing on society. We ask that you urgently address plastic pollution by working to change your products along the
following lines:

– Reveal: Publicly declare how many units of single-use plastic you produce per year per country.
– Reduce: commit to dramatically reducing the number of single-use plastic products and packaging you make and use with a clearly defined, publicly available action plan working towards measurable results.
– Reinvent: radically rethink how you deliver products to your customers so that you no longer rely on single-use plastic, with a focus on reusable and refillable packaging systems.

The signatories to this letter wish to stress that any commitments that do not meet the above criteria will not be adequate to address the plastic pollution crisis. Only a wholesale shift away from single-use packaging will change your status as the world’s top plastic polluters.

Yours sincerely,

7th Generation Advisors
Aotearoa Plastic Pollution Alliance
Association 3 Hérissons
Beyond Plastics
Bio Vision Africa (BIVA)
Break Free from Plastic
Bundesverband Meeresmüll e.V./German Marine Litter Association
bye bye plastic bags
Californians Against Waste
Center for Biological Diversity
Center for Coalfield Justice
Center for Environmental Solutions
Center for International Environmental Law
Centre for Environmental Justice
Centre for Zero Waste & Development
CESTA Friends of the Earth El Salvador
CIRCULAR THINKING PROJECT
Citizen consumer and civic Action Group
ClientEarth
Eco Canton
Ecowaste Coalition
Environment and Social Development Organization (ESDO)
Za Zemiata
European Environmental Bureau
FracTracker Alliance
FUNDACIÓN CONCIENCIA
GAIA (Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives)
GAIA Africa
GLOBAL 2000
Global Initiative for Environment and Reconciliation
Green Africa Youth Organization
Greeners Action
Greenpeace
groundWork
HEJSupport
Horizons
Indonesia Plastic Bag Diet Movement
Inland Ocean Coalition
IRTECO Tanzania
Judith Enck, Founder, Beyond Plastics
Korea Federation for Environmental Movement(KFEM/FoE Korea)
Marine Conservation Society
War on Waste Negros Oriental
Mind the Store campaign
Mother Earth Foundation
New Zealand Product Stewardship Council
NGO O.ZERO
Occidental Arts and Ecology Center
Pacific Environment
Pipeline Safety Coalition
Plastic Change
Plastic Free Seas
Plastic Pollution Coalition
Plastic Soup Foundation
Polish Zero Waste Association
Post-Landfill Action Network
Retorna
Rio Grande International Study Center
San Antonio Bay Estuarine Waterkeeper
SCIAENA
Society for Earth
Student Public Interest Research Groups
Taiwan Zero Waste Alliance
Taller Ecologista
Texas Campaign for the Environment
The 5 Gyres Institute
The Center for Oceanic Awareness, Research, and Education (COARE)
The Green Earth
The Last Plastic Straw
The Story of Stuff Project
Toxics-free Corps
Turtle Island Restoration Network
VOICE
VšĮ Žiedinė ekonomika
War on Waste Negros Oriental
Wen (Women’s Environmental Network)
Wild at Heart Legal Defense Association, Taiwan
Youzhu Lin from FON
Zelena akcija / FoE Croatia
ZERO – Association for the Sustainability of the Earth System
Zero Waste Alliance Ukraine
Zero Waste Europe
Zero Waste France
Zero waste Tunisia
Zero Waste Villages
Zero Zbel

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-See Branded Vol ii: Identifying the World’s Top Corporate Plastic Polluters for background, methodology, data analysis and locations of brand audits https://www.breakfreefromplastic.org/globalbrandauditreport2019/
-See Branded Vol i: In Search of the World’s Top Corporate Plastic Polluters for the 2018 results https://www.breakfreefromplastic.org/globalbrandauditreport2018/
-See report by Greenpeace for more information https://www.greenpeace.org/international/press-release/24580/greenpeace-plastics-false-solutioreport-exposes-how-multinationals-are-pretending-to-solve-the-plastic-crisis/

 

With Only 9% of All Plastic Recycled, Break Free From Plastic Calls Out Hypocrisy of “America Recycles Day”

With Only 9% of All Plastic Recycled, Break Free From Plastic Calls Out Hypocrisy of “America Recycles Day”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

November 14, 2019

Contact: Claire Arkin, claire@no-burn.org, 510-883-9490 ext: 111

Berkeley, CA — Tomorrow, on the industry-backed, “America Recycles Day,” people across the country will be participating in clean-up activities, and pledging to recycle more. At the same time, Break Free From Plastic leaders will be getting arrested on Fire Drill Friday to call attention to environmental injustice, climate change, failing recycling systems, and waste dumping scandals, while demanding that corporations reduce the production of plastics, instead of focusing on cleaning it up after the fact.

Keep America Beautiful, the non-profit organization behind America Recycles Day, is funded by some of the biggest corporate polluters (Coca-Cola, Nestlé, Pepsi) according to the recent global brand audit report, and has a history of sabotaging plastic reduction legislation while blaming consumers for the plastic pollution crisis– taking the heat off the corporations who are creating it in the first place.

Instead of taking meaningful steps to phase out single-use plastic from their business models, corporate polluters uplift recycling as the primary solution to plastic waste. But while Americans are diligently recycling and attending clean-ups, the plastic industry is planning to quadruple plastic production by 2050. Meanwhile, only 9% of plastic ever made has been recycled.

Corporations’ over-reliance on recycling is actually undermining it. According to a group of mission-based recyclers including Ecology Center, Eco-cycle, Eureka Recycling, and Recycle Ann Arbor, “Our jobs are becoming harder and harder as major consumer brands flood the market with more and different types of single-use plastics and other disposable packaging, insisting that these items should be included in our recycling programs while doing little to nothing to actually make their products recyclable and recycled.” Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and Nestle only use 9%, 3%, and 2% recycled content in their products, respectively.

“Just like the fossil fuel industry, corporate polluters have been using recycling to justify ever-increasing production of single-use packaging, while taxpayers and cities are left to foot the bill. Lower income communities and communities of color, who are the hardest hit and the least responsible, bear the brunt of a model that has brought us to the brink of the waste and climate crisis,” said Denise Patel, US & Canada Program Director of GAIA.

Meanwhile, China’s effective ban on foreign post-consumer recycling imports has exposed the major flaws in our global recycling system, which has been shown to pollute communities in other parts of the world, particularly Asia.

“Plastic waste shipments supposedly for recycling are trashing poor villages and communities wherever they end up. Companies need to come clean on this one — they cannot continue to fool the public that has become acutely aware that the solution to the crisis lies in producing and using less plastic to begin with,” said Von Hernandez, Global Coordinator of Break Free from Plastic.

Fortunately,  communities and businesses across the world are working with local governments towards zero waste, including  alternative delivery systems like refill and reuse, organizing for improved  product redesign and implementing bans on a wide range of single-use disposables.

According to Patel, “We must think beyond recycling. A Green New Deal for Zero Waste will create millions of jobs that focus on reduction and reuse before recycling, bring innovative design and delivery systems for products built with cities, businesses, and communities coming together, and promote health and well-being instead of waste and injustice.”

###

Green groups to DENR: Stop being an apologist for the plastics industry!

Green groups to DENR: Stop being an apologist for the plastics industry!

Plastic Monster-in-the-box installations delivered at the DENR headquarters

Quezon City, Philippines (November 14, 2019) — Environmental groups belonging to the global #breakfreefromplastic movement today delivered monstrous plastic installations at the  Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to expose the agency’s hypocritical and pro-industry stance on plastic pollution. 

Representatives of environmental organizations Ecowaste Coalition, Greenpeace Philippines, GAIA Asia Pacific, Mother Earth Foundation, Nagkakaisang Lakas ng Mga Mangangalakal sa Longos (NLM), and Samahan ng Mangangalakal ng Scrap sa Capulong (SMMC) delivered three monstrous  jack-in-the-box installations made out of single-use plastics bearing the names of the top corporate polluters found in recent brand audits conducted by local groups in the Philippines. The groups stressed that the delivery was intended to remind the DENR of its mandate to protect the environment and for the agency to stop serving as an apologist for the plastics industry and the companies who  profit from the extensive use of single-use and throwaway plastic packaging that often end up polluting and blighting waterways and ecosystems.

“By putting the blame on consumers and promoting false solutions such as waste-to-energy incineration technologies, and bioplastics, the DENR is  in effect promoting the agenda of an industry that wants to continue with their business as usual polluting practices. This makes the agency, mandated to safeguard our environment, actually complicit in perpetuating the plastic pollution crisis.  Plastic pollution is not a joking matter,” said Beau Baconguis, Asia-Pacific Coordinator of Break Free From Plastic and Plastics Campaigner of GAIA Asia Pacific. “The DENR should stop clowning around with its mandate and start offering real solutions to this crisis,” she added.

For his part, Jove Benosa, Ecowaste Coalition’s Zero Waste Campaigner, said: “DENR officials have been mouthing industry lines that products sold in sachets and other single-use plastics benefit the poor. In reality, the poor communities are the ones suffering from the impacts of plastic pollution. What is urgently needed now is a national ban on single-use plastics and packaging, as suggested by President Duterte himself.  In addition, the National Solid Waste Commission must release the long-overdue list of non-environmentally acceptable packaging and products.” 

Greenpeace Southeast Asia campaigner Abigail Aguilar added that the proposed national ban on single-use plastics should aim for a drastic reduction of the manufacture of single-use plastic products and packaging and their eventual elimination from the market. “Importantly, this ban must include the phaseout of sachet packaging,  and direct companies to redesign packaging for their products, and give incentives to reuse, refill, and other alternative delivery systems,” said Aguilar. 

Meanwhile, Maricon Alvarez, Program Manager, Mother Earth Foundation, called for strict implementation of RA 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000. “In developing countries like the Philippines, our work with communities has demonstrated that Zero Waste is a practical, viable, and sustainable solution to our waste problem. Single-use plastics (SUPs) are the biggest enemy of communities aiming for Zero Waste as these can neither be recycled nor composted. Now, more than ever, is the perfect time to ban these problematic materials,” she said. 

This “people’s delivery” is part of #breakfreefromplastic’s Global Week of Action from November 6 to 15 this year. Following a series of brand audits held worldwide, #breakfreefromplastic recently revealed this year’s top corporate plastic polluters. #ends 

 

Notes to Editors: 

  1. BreakFree From Plastic’s Brand Audit 2019 results: https://www.breakfreefromplastic.org/globalbrandauditreport2019/
  2. DENR Undersecretary Benny Antiporda’s interview on ABS-CBN’s “Failon Ngayon” https://youtu.be/7rJw9TAvR_M

 

ABOUT BFFP

Break Free From Plastic movement is composed of 1,800 organizations worldwide demanding massive reductions in single-use plastics and  pushing for lasting solutions to the plastic pollution crisis. 

 

CONTACTS

Jed Alegado, Communications Officer, Break Free From Plastic
jed@breakfreefromplastic.org | +63 917 607 0248

Sonia Astudillo, Communications Officer, GAIA Asia Pacific
sonia@no-burn.org | +63 917 596 9286

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