A recent blaze at an ExxonMobil refinery has left many Baton Rouge residents wary about the company’s future in their Louisiana city. Only a week after the fire broke out, lawmakers have introduced comments made by members of the community to lawmakers who will have to decide how to further regulate the company responsible. ExxonMobil was quick to release a performance report almost immediately after the fire broke out. That wasn’t enough, residents say.
Lawmaker Cleo Fields said, “I want a meaningful dialogue.”
One of the biggest issues was frustration at the lack of response by Exxon or Baton Rouge officials when the fire began. They believe they should have been immediately notified of the danger — but they were not told.
One woman commented, “People need to know as quickly as they can to make decisions as quickly as they can and not be governed.”
Exxon employees struggled to contain the crowd, which had gathered at Star of Bethlehem Baptist sanctuary. One said, “I’m in a battle, okay? You need to understand that, and I have to make sure that firefighter goes home to his family at night, so it’s going to be a minute for us to set up, get our tactics in order, and get ready to go and get set up before I can contact public affairs, the environmental or whoever. Those guys want to get the information to you.”
But that’s the point. When a crisis occurs, everyone has their role to play — and one of those roles should be contacting government officials. Another should be contacting the public. Another should be contacting the affected environmental agencies. Those calls shouldn’t be difficult to make by those who are assigned to make them. Exxon was increasing the chaos through bad management instead of guiding those who needed guidance.
One person asked, “What is going on with Exxon and all, anybody else? I need to know that if I need to get my great grandbaby up out of the bed, where to take her, which route to take.”
After the fire, Exxon notified the public that the refinery fire released two carcinogens into the atmosphere: benzene and butadiene. Because of the amounts probably released, Exxon was forced to notify the Department of Environmental Quality immediately. Exxon ensured those in attendance that WAFB alerts were indeed made to nearby residents at approximately 12:20 a.m.
But that was already at least an hour after the fire broke out.
Representatives for Exxon have said that a new alert system is in the works, but have failed to provide any information on how it might be implemented or what exactly it might do.