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Motiva Enterprises toxic environmental record

The following information is in the form of extracts from a recent report produced by Louisiana Bucket Brigade environmental health and justice organization.

Louisiana refineries averaged one accident per day in 2010. There was a total of 354 reported accidents which released more than 975,000 pounds and 225,000 gallons of pollution.

Refineries rely too heavily on contract workers. There are simply not enough full-time workers on staff. Deferred maintenance and inadequate safety management significantly contributed to accidents, according to refineries’ own reports and testimony from the United Steelworkers.

During 2010, Motiva’s refinery in Norco reported seven accidents involving the same DU-5 unit, resulting in a total of 18,500 pounds of emissions. The largest accident happened in January, when a fire resulted in the shutdown of three refinery units, one worker injury and more than 17,000 pounds of toxic air emissions, including sulfur dioxide.

LDEQ’s report states that the “facility failed to perform operating procedures to prevent or reduce air pollution” as required by state regulations.3 In their final follow-up report, Motiva listed this accident as preventable with no further explanation.

After January, there were five more accidents at the DU-5 unit. These accidents illustrate a serious pattern.

On March 2, Motiva’s refinery in Norco experienced an emergency shutdown of two units. During the subsequent re-starting of these units, a pilot light was unlit resulting in heavy flaring which released 100,016 pounds of emissions, including highly reactive volatile organic compounds (HRVOCs), flammable gas and VOCs. Motiva’s follow-up report states that “Motiva was not able to determine the cause, but … severe weather conditions may have contributed to the loss of pilot flame.”1

On June 15, Motiva’s refinery in Norco reported a leaking pipe due to external corrosion. More than 250 gallons of naphtha (crude oil) spilled into the Mississippi River, upriver from New Orleans’ drinking water intake. Motiva classified the release as preventable, citing the discovery of “inadequate coating [to prevent external corrosion] on the blistered section of the piping.”1

Shell Chemical’s facility in Norco reported 19 accidents in 2010. Shell Chemical shares equipment with Motiva Enterprises refinery with the two facilities often routing chemicals to each other’s flares during accidents. Motiva’s refinery reported accidents which caused flaring at Shell Chemical 10 times, while accidents at Shell Chemical caused flaring at Motiva seven times.

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