On January 11, 2017, Western Refining had what they called an “emissions event”

If you recall, they had identified the leaked gas as sulfur dioxide, a toxin that can affect a person’s health immediately or over time, depending on the quantities it is released in.

According to today’s El Paso Times column–

“A final report on the incident filed with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality states that the event began at 11:43 a.m. and ended at 7:22 p.m. Jan. 11 — a time in which about 3,308 pounds, or 1.6 tons, of particulate matter were released.

Gary Hanson, a spokesman for Western Refining, said the particulate matter mentioned on the report “was basically a fine sand material.”

“The particulate matter, or sand, would have had the same health impact as a spring sandstorm or blowing dust that we experience from time to time in the spring,” he added.”

Some important things to consider as we read this:

If you remember, Western Refining originally stated that the release consisted of over 2,000 pounds of what they themselves identified as sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere surrounding the Ascarate, Lakeside and Bassett neighborhoods. By permit, the particular tower the gas escaped from is only allowed to release 1/100 of a pound of sulfur dioxide. That is a fraction of an ounce per hour.

The report states that over 3,300 pounds of matter was released. A 50% increase over their original estimate.

Pay close attention to the words used by their spokesperson Gary Hanson, “the same health impact as a spring sandstorm”.

Ahh, spring with the flowers, butterflies and pure, fresh air.

Talk about spinning an environmental disaster into nothing more than a common El Paso sandstorm.

Sandstorms DO NOT come with huge quantities of toxic gases, chemicals and various other ingredients used in petroleum refineries mixed in with the blowing wind.

That ridiculous comparison is purposely crafted to create the impression that there is “nothing to worry about people, move along now.”

Western Refining will conduct an investigation as to how this might impact people within the area and their health, but I can almost bet it is more of a “How are you feeling today...yesterday? Smell anything funny lately? No? Good. See you next time another emissions event occurs.”

People within the splash zone of Western Refining’s belching stacks and towers may not feel anything immediately, but the long-term heath effects of huge releases of toxins and daily releases that coat residents’ cars, yards, doorknobs, window sills...well that is what Western Refining should be spending appropriate amounts of money to study.

But wait a second, Paul Foster is in the process of selling Western Refining to Tesoro Corporation of San Antonio and the last thing he needs is a local chemical disaster that people are paying attention to.

Price — $6,400,000,000 (Six billion four hundred million dollars).

Things are happening in El Paso that we all need to be aware of.

Don’t take ANYTHING for granted.
Educate yourself. Have an opinion. Vote. Sign a petition.
Let’s take care of each other.