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Posts Tagged ‘Healthy Port Communities Coalition’

HPCC-Dee-Blast-Zone-768x1024

Dee Arellano (t.e.j.a.s.) shows the oil train blast zone for East Houston.

The news of the fiery explosion of two trains in Panhandle, Texas broke as organizers in Houston were discussing how to reduce the high risks of accidents involving toxic trains in Houston. That day, June 28th, two trains collided, resulting in a fiery explosion, the presumed death of three workers and the hospitalization of another. The trains in Panhandle, TX, were fortunately not carrying crude. However, the collision and explosion reminded us of the importance of standing up for safety in rail transport during the Stop Oil Trains Week of Action, July 6th – 12th.

The Healthy Port Communities Coalition (HPCC) kicked off the week of action on July 6th with a press conference and a community meeting to discuss the risks that we Houstonians face as a result of rail traffic within our communities. This was especially poignant as less than a week earlier, on June 28th, two trains collided near Panhandle, TX, leaving 1 employee injured and 3 employees presumed dead. Fiery and fatal incidents over the past few years have increased concerns around rail, public safety, and chemical security, and we shared our concerns with media (“Exigen a autoridades frenar la contaminación por el transporte de combustible” and “Crude-by-Rail Plummeting In Texas But Critics Insist Risk Of Accidents Remains“) and with community members. From our discussion, community members wanted to find out more information about exactly what kind of chemicals are transported through their neighborhoods to better understand the risks. The HPCC is taking a stand against oil trains because we are concerned with hazardous, flammable materials coming into the Houston area. Toxic trains put Houstonians at risk through the possibility of explosion and by polluting the air with cancer-causing diesel and other toxic gases, through collisions, and by trapping folks behind stalled trains. One person reported being trapped behind a train for 90 minutes! (more…)

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In response to the disaster in West, Texas, a listening session on chemical safety was held in Texas City with several federal agencies in attendance.  The goal of the listening session was to hear the public and stakeholders’ ideas on how the government should proceed in ensuring the safety of facilities that house dangerous chemicals.  Several groups from Texas were in attendance, including Public Citizen, Air Alliance Houston, TEJAS, labor organizations, local emergency planning committee (LEPC) members, and others.  Concerns were raised about the lack of funding to LEPCs and how the federal government could effectively implement rules on chemical safety.  One speaker lost her father in a workplace accident and called for rules ensuring worker safety.  Another speaker was an LEPC member who raised concerns about chemical plants in her area and their susceptibility to terror attacks.  Concerns were raised about the post-9/11 restriction on online access to information on chemical hazards.

Only one industry representative spoke in opposition, in contrast to over a dozen speakers who spoke in favor of ensuring the security of the homeland, communities, and workers.

This was the first of several listening sessions that will be held across the country.  The last listening session will be held in Houston, Texas, during the week of January 20, 2014 – location and actual date and time to be determined.

Following on the heals of the chemical safety “listening session”, the “Invisible Houston Revisited” conference was held on Thursday at Texas Southern University addressing issues facing the African-American community and communities of color in Houston.  A panel of three environmental experts addressed environmental justice concerns, including Adrian Shelley of Air Alliance Houston.  Results of the Healthy Port Communities Coalition (HPCC) survey of residents in the Houston Ship Channel were presented, piquing the interest of several conference attendees who asked about HPCC’s recommendations for the port and the implications of the port expansion on communities of color.  Other participants on the panel include Dr. Elena Craft of the Environmental Defense Fund and Dr. Robert D. Bullard, long considered the father of environmental justice.

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