LETTERS NEEDED MONDAY: Request a Public Hearing for Plains’ Magazine Point tank farm air permit

Fellow Mobile Residents,

Please join us in writing a letter to permitting regulator, Ronald W. Gore at ADEM’s Air Division, respectfully requesting a public hearing so that impacted communities may participate fully in the air permitting process that affects most but rarely engages any.

Please do not hesitate. These must be received by the regulator by Thursday, December 24, 2015!! You can mail it in first thing Monday, but the safer bet is to hand deliver them to the ADEM office at Mobile Coastal Field Office, 3664 Dauphin Street, Suite B Mobile, AL 36608.

Plains has applied for a Major Source Operating Permit (MSOP) through ADEM’s Air Division. MSOPs are 5-year permits required for facilities triggering Title V “regulation” under the Clean Air Act.

Unfortunately at the current time due to having been grandfathered in, the level of “regulation” for old petrochemical storage tank farms like this one is little more than filing the permit for the emissions that are suspected. There are no reporting or testing requirements, thus facilities like Plains’ tank farm operate only by the friendly guesswork of regulators who don’t have local or state emissions reporting requirements, like ADEM.

This facility’s emission products are linked to risks for respiratory diseases, cancers, and birth defects not to mention the highly likely negative impacts to property values. Given these concerns, antiquated and unacceptable approaches to “regulation” warrant challenge.

For those interested in verifying that the code doesn’t require any testing whatsoever, the statement that the tanks aren’t required to have any testing or emissions reporting is found on page 17 of 68 of Plains’ MSOP permit application here [23.6mb PDF]. Also available are the relevant sections of the federal code (40 CFR Part 60 Subpart Kb) and ADEM Admin Code r.355-3-6-.03 (SIP) [508kb PDF] that are cross-referenced in the permit application with regards to Clean Air Act jurisdiction.

Again, please do not hesitate. These must be received by the regulator by Thursday, December 24, 2015!! You can mail it in first thing Monday, but the safer bet is to hand deliver them to the ADEM office at Mobile Coastal Field Office, 3664 Dauphin Street, Suite B Mobile, AL 36608.

Plains Proximity Map

Plains’ tank farm proximity to Africatown

For a little background on where this facility fits into the larger picture of the threats facing Africatown and Mobile, the pipeline laid from this facility connects to the one traveling across the Big Creek Lake watershed to Chevron’s massive Pascagoula, Mississippi chemical refinery. That same pipeline was proposed to be tied into the currently tabled massive expansion of petrochemical transport and storage facilities in Africatown adjacent to the historic Mobile County Training School.

Thank you for taking a stand for resident participation in decisions that affect them!


Here is a SAMPLE LETTER with all of the relevant addressing information. It is not ready to print and sign. Please use it as a style guide for your own thoughts:

December 21, 2015

Public Hearing Request Re: Facility/Permit No. 503-3013
Plains Marketing L.P.’s Mobile Terminal at Magazine Point

Ronald W. Gore, ADEM-Air Division
PO Box 301463
Montgomery, AL 36130-1463

Dear Mr. Gore,

Out of concern about Plains’ above ground petrochemical storage tank farm at Magazine Point, Facility/Permit No. 503-3013, I am formally requesting a public hearing for this permit request.

Magazine Point, where this facility is located, is the site where the 110 survivors of Clotilde landed after their perilous journey across the Atlantic after being sold into slavery to the Meaher family. [For residents in proximity:] I live [x amount of distance] from the Plains facility, and I smell noxious oil and asphalt odors in and around my home on a regular basis. I believe this facility’s 17 storage tanks to be a significant contributor to the ongoing nuisance. [If you are not close enough to smell the tank emissions, please note how you are affected or concerned by what you have heard]

Concerns have been repeatedly raised by prominent area medical professionals that chronic exposure to the Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) and Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAP) emissions from facilities like this as well as the resultant photochemical ozone made from reactions involving VOCs, nitrogen oxides and sunlight could cause respiratory diseases, cancers, and birth defects.

In light of the permit application stating plainly that emissions testing requirements would only be applicable to any of the tanks at this facility if gasoline is eventually stored, I am concerned that the proposed permit is actually unenforceable with respect to the damaging VOC and HAP emissions regulated under Title V of the Clean Air Act.

According to ADEM’s statement of basis for this Major Source Operating Permit (MSOP), VOCs at this facility are assumed to be emitted at a rate of more than 100 tons/year with the additional presumption that HAPs are emitted at less than 25 ton/year, but without testing or reporting requirements, how does ADEM know, in fact, how many tons/year of VOCs are actually emitted at this facility?

Given my stated concerns, I feel that a public hearing is warranted to allow me and my neighbors the opportunity to learn about and participate fully in ADEM’s public air quality permitting process.

I also respectfully request a response to my request.

[your name]
[your address]


A Sultry Public Hearing in Africatown on the Petrochemical Storage Tank Ordinance

Update 12/3/15: The City of Mobile Planning Commission Chair Jay Watkins announced that the vote on their proposed above ground petrochemical storage tank zoning ordinance amendment would be held over until January 7, 2016 due to the high number of holiday absences and recusals, like his attorney-advised recusal related to an ongoing ethics investigation by the Alabama Ethics Commission.

Louise Moorer: "Out here we have heavy industry, trucks, trains and you can smell the #oil in our area. . . Help us build up our community. . . I say no more tanks or any hazardous chemicals in Africatown."

Louise Moorer: “Out here we have heavy industry, trucks, trains and you can smell the oil in our area. . . Help us build up our community. . . I say no more tanks or any hazardous chemicals in Africatown.”

December 1 was a hot night in the Robert Hope Community Center in Africatown. Attendees were using a handout of MEJAC’s critique of the Planning Commission’s ordinance to fan themselves in the hearing room as the air conditioning failed to cool the passion coursing through the hall.

The Planning Commission agreed to hold this public hearing on their petrochemical tank ordinance during the week after working hours to facilitate the participation of working Africatown community members who would find it difficult to participate during the Commission’s regularly scheduled meeting hours.

In total, MEJAC counted well over 100 people in the room. With industry representatives and Planning Commissioners present, it’s safe to say that 90-100 residents showed up to witness the proceedings with a dozen individuals speaking. It was standing room only even after additional chairs were carried into the room during staff’s reading of the ordinance’s text.

Martha Andrews Johnson telling Commissions "It is amazing how much disregard of the history of Africatown I see in this ordinance."

Martha Andrews Johnson telling Commissions “It is amazing how much disregard for the history of Africatown I see in this ordinance.”

Not a single Africatown resident spoke in favor of the proposed ordinance and many expressed extreme disappointment in what they felt was an utter disregard for the community’s historic significance and longing for a much-deserved process of de-industrialization. Residents are ready to end Africatown’s status as a regional sacrifice zone.

MEJAC sent its comprehensive critique of the ordinance to Planning Commissioners and Councilmembers already, but many commenters reiterated the most obvious and glaringly insensitive elements including the 1,000 feet setback from a habitable residential structure, the lack of control of toxic emissions from the storage tanks, and the historical fact that the Africatown area’s I-2 “Heavy Industry” zoning designation was determined in the 1940s and 50s well before African-American Mobilians had any elected representation or any ability to effectively negotiate with landholders and businesses operating in their community.

That last point was perhaps driven home most elegantly by MEJAC organizer Nashid Rushdan who was quoted in a Mobile Press-Register article covering the hearing:

[T]he concerns expressed by the Africatown residents pre-date the pipeline debate by decades.

Nashid Rushdan . . . said the area became zoned for industry in the 1940s when blacks didn’t have representation in city government and were unable to request restrictions on the paper mills.

“You have a moral responsibility to change the years of neglect this community has endured,” he said.

MEJAC President Ramsey Sprague noted the absence of Planning Commission Chair Jay Watkins, who also chaired the Planning Commission Subcommittee on Above Ground Storage Tanks, which was responsible for drafting the proposed ordinance. Mr. Watkins recused himself from presiding over the hearings under the advice of his attorney, as he is still under investigation for alleged ethics violations related to petrochemical storage tank conflicts of interest over the course of the last five years of his appointment to Mobile’s Planning Commission.

MEJAC Vice President Joe Womack’s statement, in which he aggressively attacks the Keep Mobile Growing lobby group’s deceptive tactics, can be seen in the following video:

While the Planning Commissioners are presumably doing their best to sort through the massive amount of misinformation being peddled by the Keep Mobile Growing Big Oil Lobby, many are hopeful that by seeing the visceral passion from Africatown community members displayed last night that Commissioners will understand the impacts of their actions better than how it is expressed to them downtown by industry.

The Commission votes tomorrow, December 3, 2015 on whether or not to approve the ordinance as written. Despite the heated rhetoric in the hot hall of the Hope Community Center last night, there’s still time for common sense and cooler heads to prevail now that they’ve more thoroughly heard from the community most potentially impacted by their ordinance.

Written by Ramsey Sprague for MEJAC.wordpress.com