Monday, March 16, 2009

Valero Refinery Update and Comment Rescue

The Delaware City Valero refinery shutdown is complete. It will remain idle at least for 30 days.

I hope DNREC monitors the maintenance and repairs underway, using engineers and whatever technical expertise necessary to know exactly what risks remain once the facility is to be brought back on line.

Valero Completes Refinery Shutdown
News Journal - 16 March 2009

Valero completed a full shutdown of its 210,000 barrel-per-day refinery near Delaware City over the weekend, a company official reported today, with the plant likely to remain idle for another 30 days during repairs to a key unit.

Bill Day, a spokesman in the company’s Houston headquarters, said that major work was continuing to a unit that extracts fuels from low-value refining leftovers. That unit, called a coker because it uses a grainy, bottom-of-the-barrel material for heat, was clogged and damaged in February during a disruption caused by problems with a related system.

State officials said previously that they are unaware of any previous full shutdown since Tidewater Oil opened the complex in 1957.

Day said Valero would retain its regular workforce during the shutdown, and would use the time for other maintenance and repairs.

Workers will restart the refinery’s many units in sequence, with the entire process likely to take several days, Day said. The company employs about 700 at Delaware City, along with varying numbers of contract workers.

Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control officials are investigating plant emissions during and after the original problem on Feb. 16 and to determine if the company violated state air quality rules.

My post last month calling for permanently sunsetting all permits for this refinery drew a comment from fellow Delaware Libertarian writer Brian Miller :

[I had written] : When it was foisted on a sleepy part of lower New Castle County by J. Paul Getty circa 1953, things were different. Now 1000's of families and individuals live and work within close range of this site.

Why did thousands of people willingly choose to live and work there, then?

Reminds me a bit of people who move into homes next to airports and then seek to limit the growth of air traffic due to "all the noise."

Refineries are an important part of infrastructure -- there aren't enough of them as there is. While individuals have a right to expect their property not to be polluted, it's manifestly silly for people to willingly purchase or lease a home next to a refinery and then express "shock and outrage" when pollution happens.

Generally I believe that being libertarian means working against collective impositions on individuals. This is normally the province of government, but environmental polluters are very much of the same ilk. So, I responded to Brian :

Sorry, Brian, but the common environment we all share fungibly (i.e. air and water) especially in a narrow geographic area cannot responsibly be left to the good faith devices of commercial entities, operating as corporate fictions and dealing in heavy industrial, chemical, and/or hazmat activities.

Staking a claim to property before others acquire adjacent, adjoining or proximate property serves as no excuse for devaluing the lives or property of those latter property holders by releases of identifiably hazardous substance into the air or water or ground (to include the polluters's own ground).

As far as the assumed risk argument you rather weakly posit, this requires knowing the risk. Let's be real that no one should be expected to assume they are being poisoned by an industrial polluter.

You may have lots of room for that crap up in Pennsylvania, and God knows some of that south Philly industrial stench could knock a buzzard off a shitwagon in Chester, much less the overpowering stink over the bridges on either highway ingress.

But our boundaries here are too small and population density too high to responsibly permit chronic polluters.

Having environmental protection as an increasingly de facto local undertaking is, I believe, our best bet to strike a good balance between free economic activity of this dangerous, heavy, industrial variety and limiting collateral harm to individuals who are continuously exposed passively to its demonstrably harmful byproducts and releases, even to the eventual point of permanent shutdown.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think this is a good news for those individuals who are continuously exposed passively to its demonstrably harmful byproducts. Good!!