WHITING, IND. - May 20 - As a spin-off of the Green Fest occurring this weekend in Chicago, environmental groups guided community members and media representatives around BP’s Whiting, Ind., oil refinery. The tour pointed to current sources of pollution, emphasizing that a planned expansion would boost the facility’s greenhouse-gas emissions to 5.8 million tons a year—the equivalent to adding 320,000 cars to the nation's highways.
BP has proposed the expansion—which would be the first in the United States in TK years—in order to refine low-grade crude from the environmentally devastating Canadian tar sands. Nearly 65 percent of the oil produced in the tar sands comes into the United States.
Complementing First Nations and international environmental opposition to development of the tar sands, local groups are opposing BP’s proposed expansion. The Calumet Project and the Global Community Monitor have appealed an air permit granted for BP’S proposed expansion, which would allow for increased sulfur dioxide, lead and particulate matter emissions.
"It's time for people to wake up and speak out,” said Denny Larson, Executive Director of Global Community Monitor. “Tar sands oil is about to be spread all over the Great Lakes region and the Midwest with possible devastating impacts. We've all got to stand together and let BP and the other oil companies know that they are not going to get away with making our communities sick while their wallets get fatter.”
“The Whiting area is already over-burdened with pollution,” said Bessie Dent of the Calumet Project. “BP tar sands pollution means more asthma and sickness for the community.”
“Toxic tar sands oil is the worst type of oil for the climate and is a step backwards in regional and national efforts to curb our greenhouse gas emissions and reduce oil consumption,” said Nile Malloy of Rainforest Action Network. “We need to move investments away from toxic projects and into cleaner energy solutions, such as wind and solar power, which also promote green jobs and healthier communities.”
Extracting low-grade bituminous oil from the tar sands requires five barrels of water for every barrel of oil produces and three times as much greenhouse gas than conventional oil. Refining heavy crude results in increased air pollution at the refinery, and extracting it from the Canadian tar sands threatens to completely destroy an area the size of Florida. Extraction has already polluted water supplies for nearby communities, many of them Indigenous.