GreenARMY group pushing for safety changes at chemical plants

Published: Feb. 20, 2014 at 2:24 AM CST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Cancer Alley is what some people call the area between Baton Rouge and New Orleans because of all the chemical plants. One group known as the GreenARMY, led by retired Lieutenant General Russell Honore, believes the plants are not doing enough to protect those who live near them.

Honore says there are around 100 chemical plants between the two areas. "We're not stupid in Louisiana," he said, Wednesday. "We might eat crawfish, but we ain't stupid. It's no way you can stand on site and say no chemicals went beyond the fence line."

The group he is in charge of has been pushing the chemical industry to make changes, for safety reasons.

"We have hundreds and thousands of citizens of Louisiana at risk from petro chemical plant accidents," said Darryl Wiley, with the Sierra Club.

A handful of representatives from federal agencies were in Baton Rouge for a listening session. The purpose of the sessions, to get input from residents, businesses and safety advocates on how to improve chemical plant safety and emergency response. These sessions are part of an executive order, signed by President Barack Obama, back in August 2013. The order followed the explosions in West, Texas.

The order says, in part, that the federal government has started programs to reduce risk, and "additional measures can be taken by executive departments and agencies ... to further improve chemical facility safety and security."

"From West, Texas to Norco, to Bayou Corne, to Jefferson Island, to Grand Bayou - we've got issues in the state of Louisiana," Honore said.

The Green Army says a federal agency needs to be established in the state, to work with local and state agencies.

Honore says the plants here should also be bonded, so they can pay if their actions cause damage. He referred to FEMA paying to rebuild schools in West, Texas after that explosion because the plant could not pay the cost.

Honore also says the chemical plants need an alert-system, in case there's an emergency.

"There's no requirements in the state to have any of that. So we operate like its 1800 and we're in the 21st century."

He says they also need to be required to have monitors at homes nearest to the plants. He says Louisiana law is that the monitor is somewhere three to four miles away. He says that begs the question, "What is the minimum safe distance people should live near plants?"

If these practices were already in place, Honore says, no one would have excused the situation in Bayou Corne, with the bubbles, as just swamp gas in the early stages.

The Green Army group also believes that because fire departments are usually first on scene in an emergency, the chemical plants should also pay to have firefighters haz-mat trained and certified by federal and state government.

Copyright 2014 WAFB. All rights reserved.