25-years-ago BP abandoned its professional training facilities in Robertsdale, donating the facilities to Calumet College, and moved to a 200-acre LEED certified campus in Naperville. They did so because they could no longer attract professionals to this location due to Quality of Life issues. Quality of Life issues they had a major hand in creating.
Today BP’s professional staff enjoy the healthy work environment of a green campus with ample buffering between office buildings and roadways, while residents adjacent to the BP’s refinery are not so fortunate. Today BP is constructing a whole new facility at their East Chicago / Whiting Refinery to refine the “No Good, Very Bad, Dirty” heavy sour crude from the Alberta Tars Sands and to do so they are constructing 6 cokers directly across the street from the Marktown Historic District where more than 120 children under the age of 18 live, play and sleep.
BP likes to refer to the project as a modernization or retooling project. This is an important distinction to them because to call it what is, a “new facility” or “new construction,” would trigger all sorts of regulatory reviews and permitting, including a new-source review requiring an environmental and health risk assessment. I am not certain if there has ever been a risk assessment done on the impacts the BP refinery has the neighboring communities. I don’t know if that is because they have been grandfathered in or what. I just know that new construction ought to trigger a new source review and that is not happening.
For labor purposes BP calls the project a “maintenance project.” Thus they bypass all sorts of labor rules in terms of pay, scheduling, and work conditions as would be the case for new construction. Let’s make this simple, if I tore down my house to construct a brand new home, I could not go to City Hall seeking a maintenance permit for the new construction. I would be required to seek the proper permits and follow requirements for new construction. This is just one way in which BP has been cutting corners here to save themselves costs. I can’t say what other cost cutting measures BP is making, but I do know they did not do this without the aid of regional leadership. I wonder what our regional leadership is thinking now as we learn more about the costs of BP practices to the gulf region.
This is a good environmental justice example of how benefits-without-risks are created and separated from risks-without-benefits in a free-market economy. Free-market corporations and present day land use policies have a very intentional consequent of accumulating wealth and benefits in one location while clustering risks and blight in another. All too often the geography of separation is as clear as the “Northshore” and “Southshore” designations.
It makes me wonder if anyone working in office complexes similar to the BP complex in Naperville feel any sense of culpability for the lives negatively impacted on the other side of their company’s production line. What about Kraft Foods? what about Grainger? what about Cargill? and U.S. Steel? and ArcelorMittal? Boeing? GATX? or Ryerson?
[ Wikipedia list of Corp HQ in the Chicago Met area ]
Compounding problems, BP extracted an additional $165 million in tax abatements from the mostly poor people of Marktown and East Chicago. They did this behind closed doors, and without a single public hearing, all while lecturing the region on “Good Government.” Despite efforts, residents, who pay the highest property taxes in the state at 7.4%, still do not know that they gave up $165 million to BP. BP accomplished this feat by spreading the wealth to voting districts outside the plume of negative externalities while taking advantage of their partnerships with corrupt local political enterprises under the plume. BP is well known for this form of philanthropic activity and I could go on about “to whom” and “how much” was given, but that will have to be for another post. Let these two examples suffice for now.
Three years ago a $25-million donation from BP capped Phase 1 of a three-part expansion and renovation campaign. Since 2002, BP had agreed to more than $125 million in state and regional legal settlements over pollution problems.
Art museums are often the beneficiaries of largess from corporations wishing to polish their sometimes less-than-gleaming image. (Cigarette, anyone?) Oops.
via [ LA Times ] BP Grand Entrance at LACMA looking not-quite-so-grand
In 2009 BP gave to Napperville for $1 an extremely expensive Hydrogen fueling station with multipliers of positive effects.
BP / TAR SANDS, East Chicago Portrait Series, Energy, Environment, Tar Sands