I grew up in communities that needed environmental justice the most. I also lived in neighborhoods that already had the resources and ability to make change. Still, I didn’t understand the difference or know what the environmental world called the movement until later in life. I could only connect the dots when I had more access to education and a framework for understanding the issue.
The impacts of Hurricanes Harvey and Laura on oil and chemical facilities in Texas and Louisiana were foreseeable. Yet, Big Oil giants like ExxonMobil and Shell have left their facilities there vulnerable – and now the surrounding communities are paying a terrible, long-term price. It is difficult to grapple with such a massive corporate failure. We can’t risk the same happening here in New England.
ExxonMobil’s climate neglect puts local communities in danger.
“The communities surrounding this facility cannot wait for the EPA to dig through a mountain of backlogged permits to feel safe,” said Bradley Campbell, President of Conservation Law Foundation. “And waiting for a major storm to expose the vulnerability of the terminal is also not an option. This case needs to move forward now so Exxon is forced to prepare for the impacts the climate crisis will have on this facility. The health of thousands of its neighbors depends on it.”
“As a result of those intense rains, that treatment system is being overwhelmed on a regular basis, leading to violations of their Clean Water Act permit and leaving exposure of local waters and local communities to some pretty powerful carcinogens and other toxins,” said Brad Campbell, president of the Conservation Law Foundation.
Conservation Law Foundation filed its groundbreaking lawsuit against ExxonMobil for violations of federal environmental laws and for failing to prepare its Everett terminal to withstand the effects of climate change. CLF’s complaint alleges that ExxonMobil has been aware of the risks climate change poses and has not taken sufficient action — or “failed to design and implement protective measures” — to address them.
Extreme weather caused by climate change may damage coastal infrastructure by degrading equipment containing hazardous chemicals or by flooding storage facilities. But fossil fuel companies like ExxonMobil and Shell would rather take their chances and do nothing to ready their facilities. CLF knows, however, that these companies have a legal duty (not to mention an ethical one) to adapt their facilities to the foreseeable effects of climate change.
Meanwhile, a federal judge in Boston in March allowed a suit filed by the Conservation Law Foundation against Exxon to go forward. The suit alleges the company failed to protect an oil storage facility against the impacts of climate change.
And in the event of a catastrophic spill, yes, Exxon will bear some costs. But the public will also be bearing a heavy cost. The families and businesses that will have oil and toxics flowing through their basements and into their homes, they will be bearing a cost. The taxpayers of the region, who paid billions to clean up Boston harbor, which is now a jewel of economic and urban rebirth here in Boston, they will suffer a terrible cost.
Roseann Bongiovanni is a lifelong Chelsea resident who has led significant environmental justice campaigns over more than 20 years. She is the Executive Director of GreenRoots, Inc., an organization dedicated to achieving environmental and climate justice for Chelsea and East Boston. CLF’s lawsuit against ExxonMobil passed a major milestone in March, which is a victory for… Continue reading Guest Post: Court Victory against ExxonMobil Gives Weight to Community Concerns