Southern Communities Brace for the Impact of Big Oil's Expansion Plans

President Donald Trump kicked off last week with a Monday morning tweet hailing — and seeming to wrongly take credit for — Exxon Mobil’s plan for a $20 billion expansion of its refineries, chemical plants and liquefied natural gas operations along the US Gulf Coast.

“We are already winning again, America!” Trump tweeted after the Texas-based company released the latest details of a plan first announced in 2013 in response to rising natural gas supplies. He went on to tweet, “Buy American & hire American are the principals at the core of my agenda, which is: JOBS, JOBS, JOBS.” The company says the expansion, which includes projects at 11 proposed and existing sites in the region, could create as many as 35,000 temporary construction jobs and 12,000 permanent jobs.

But for communities that are already bearing the brunt of the industry’s environmental impact, the expansion is a more complicated matter than just a jobs creator: It also means living with more pollution and other safety hazards.

Last week, the Louisiana Bucket Brigade and DisasterMap.net released their latest tally of petrochemical accidents in the state. During the first two weeks of February alone, the environmental group documented 78 such accidents, including 14 on offshore drilling platforms in Louisiana waters. One of the accidents killed a pipeline worker, while another released cancer-causing benzene into the St. James community. (There was another reported spill in St. James this month, when a storage tank owned by Houston-based Plains All American Pipeline released over 12,500 gallons of crude oil, with an unknown amount flowing out of the containment and into a ditch.)

The Bucket Brigade’s report serves as a reminder of the industry’s long record of safety problems. For example, oil and gas extraction workers have an on-the-job fatality rate seven times greater than the rate for all US industries, while the oil and gas industry is among the world’s worst polluters.

Exxon Mobil has its own history of…

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