Guest Post: Court Victory against ExxonMobil Gives Weight to Community Concerns


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 environmental justice communities like Chelsea and so many others throughout the nation. Our community’s voice and concerns about Exxon failing to prepare its Everett storage facility for climate change will be heard.

Exxon’s facility sits at the junction of the Mystic and Island End rivers. Toxic chemical releases from the site in violation of the company’s federal water quality permit are increasingly putting the health of our communities at risk. Even more concerning is the constant threat of chemical and petroleum spills that could occur if ExxonMobil’s facility is hit by a storm – leading to the flooding of our neighborhoods and the destruction of our homes.

This is not a theoretical worry. Hurricanes Harvey, Katrina, and Sandy all put petroleum facilities underwater, spilling dangerous chemicals into nearby communities. It would take only a Category 1 storm (a fraction of the power of those storms) to do the same at Exxon’s Everett terminal.

That’s why CLF’s lawsuit, which aims to hold Exxon accountable for failing to prepare its facility for climate impacts, is so important. And why my neighbors and I celebrated in March when a federal judge rejected ExxonMobil’s attempt to dismiss the lawsuit.

Lawsuit Serves as a Signal that Exxon Must Take Community Concerns Seriously

As a lifelong Chelsea resident, I have seen the prioritization of industry profit over public interests when it comes to the treatment of our public spaces and environment along the Mystic River. Communities like Chelsea and Everett are continuously exposed to pollutants, burdened by industry, and threatened by toxic spills and releases. Chelsea, Everett, and area residents have said, “Enough is enough.”  We’re grateful that CLF has taken on this case and is helping to give voice to the most impacted communities.

The judge’s ruling – allowing the case to advance – reaffirms our community’s concerns both surrounding ExxonMobil’s persistent permit violations, as well as its failure to ensure its facility is climate resilient. Our hope is that the lawsuit’s progress will signal to Exxon to finally take our concerns seriously and to step up and act on climate in our community.

Climate Impacts are Real, and ExxonCan’t Ignore Its Responsibility to Prepare for Them

Around the country, we are seeing more frequent and severe climate impacts. Within the last year alone, we’ve witnessed the deadly devastation caused by Hurricanes Florence and Michael as well as the California wildfires. And, just last month, large parts of Nebraska were inundated by a bomb cyclone.

Here at home, 2018 saw us hit with four nor’easters in three weeks, reminding us of what we already knew: We must fortify our coastal communities. Our community has expressed our fears regarding the climate risks we are facing, and now a federal judge has signaled that these concerns carry significant weight. Exxon’s practice of putting our communities at risk for the convenience of corporate profit is unacceptable.

I am grateful that CLF will now hold them accountable – for the sake of our families, our neighbors, and our community.

 

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