Several environmental groups raise concerns on Flint Hills Resources December oil spill

KRIS 6 News
Alexis Scott
Original Article


CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Local environmentalist groups in Corpus Christi are raising concerns about the lack of updates from Flint Hills Resources Ingleside Terminal regarding the oil spill that happened on December 24, 2023.

The initial report from Flint Hills Resources stated more than 3,000 gallons of light crude oil was released. It was later determined to be more than 14,000 gallons.

According to the company, the oil spill was caused by a pipe failure. Light crude oil was found in several locations including North Beach, Corpus Christi Marina, Indian Point, Nueces Bay, the Rookery Island, a dredge material placement area and University Beach near Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi.

Elida Castillo with Chispa Texas says she’s been working to get answers from the company. Now, more than three months later, she says she and other community members are frustrated that they’re being left in the dark when it comes to their environment.

“I think the biggest concern was the lack of information,” said Castillo, “We were just being told ‘every thing is okay now. There’s no reason for you to be concerned.’ But we’re like “No,” an oil spill is kind of a big deal.”

Armon Alex, the Vice President of the Mayor’s Environmental Task Force, went to University Beach with other community members to help clean up. He says although crews were at the beach following the spill, the mess was still visible weeks later.

“When I got to University Beach and I got to the shoreline, I couldn’t take more than three steps without coming across some of the oil that was washing up on our shorelines,” said Alex.

Just recently, he collected washed up paraffin wax pieces that he says are still on the beach. Alex says the impact of the oil spill has also affected wildlife.

“Here we are three months later and we don’t know anything,” said Sanchez, “It wasn’t communicated properly about what happened. We don’t know the damage it has done to the water or to the animals. We know for sure it has done some damage and we just want answers, we want transparency.”

Although with their concerns, the groups say they want to be updated on Flint Hills Resources’ preventative measures so a spill like this doesn’t happen again.

Other groups supporting the push for transparency and accountability are For the Greater Good, Hillcrest Residents Association, Ingleside on the Bay Coastal Watch Association, South Texas Human Rights Center and Texas Campaign for the Environment.

Flint Hills released a statement regarding the progress of the oil spill saying, “Flint Hills Resources is continuing to monitor and recover paraffin material trapped in breakwaters and jetties that occasionally washes up on the shoreline at North Beach and University Beach. We will maintain the ability to respond to residual material that may be reported by the public. At this time an investigation is underway to determine the root of the cause. Once complete, that information will be shared with the relevant regulatory agencies.”

Flint hills resources says they have shared their necessary updates with the U.S. Coast Guard, the Texas General Land Office and the City of Corpus Christi. They add the investigation of the oil spill is on track to finish next month.

Energy company among environmental group’s ‘Terrible 12’ Gulf Coast polluters

Victoria Advocate
By Leo Bertucci
Original article

John Beard, an environmental activist from Port Arthur, speaks at a CERAWeak awards presentation in Houston on Monday. CERAWeak is a satirical program held during the CERAWeek oil and gas industry conference. Contributed by Mark Nathan

An oil and gas company operating in the Crossroads received an award, but it was not the kind of recognition a business would want to tout.

Max Midstream received the “Number Two Award” on Monday from a group of protestors who demonstrated near where an energy conference in Houston was held. Diane Wilson, a Port Lavaca environmental activist, said the award recognizes an industrial producer who treats their local community like “poop.”

Wilson nominated Max Midstream for the “Number Two Award.”

“They treat all of Calhoun County like a number two,” Wilson said.

Wilson was among a group of activists from Texas and Louisiana who spoke at CERAWeak 2023, a program mocking the CERAWeek conference taking place at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston from March 6-10. The event was organized by Save Texas, a projected created by the Texas Campaign for the Environment.

The group of environmental advocates in attendance Monday came up with a list of energy companies who they believe are some of the worst polluters along the Gulf Coast. These companies are known as the “Terrible 12.”

CERAWeek, which is put together by the American banking corporation S&P Global, is attended by oil and gas company executives and government officials. This year’s speakers include Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan and the CEOs of Shell Oil Co. and Chevron Corp.

The award ceremony for CERAWeak was held Monday at the Discovery Green, a park located outside of the convention center. Wilson said the protesters were not allowed to enter the building.

“There was a lot of networking,” Wilson said about the group who protested. “We were in solidarity with each other because we are dealing with similar issues. It’s a grassroots community.”

In a statement sent by a company spokesperson, Max Midstream CEO Johnathan Novitsky said his business has supported Calhoun County residents in various ways.

“During the last two years, Max has donated more than $85,000 to local charities, created 16 jobs for skilled workers, and invested more than $200 million into the local economy in capital projects that generate local property tax revenues in excess of $1 million annually,” Novitsky said.

Novitsky also referred to Max Midstream’s Environmental, Social and Governance plan, saying the company has offset 100% of its carbon footprint as of Tuesday.

A project to widen and deepen the Matagorda Ship Channel, which was put on hold last year when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers withdrew its environmental assessment, could benefit a ship terminal Max Midstream owns at the Port of Calhoun. The company announced in 2020 it would invest $225 million for the expansion of the ship channel.

Texas Campaign for the Environment, which runs the group behind CERAWeak, wants to shed light on what it believes to be problems with the fossil fuel export industry. Executive Director Robin Schneider said oil and gas companies are harming the global climate with their new infrastructure.

“They don’t want to hear critics, which is very disappointing,” Schneider said.

One Victoria County official has done business with Max Midstream, and he said it was a positive experience.

Precinct 1 Commissioner Danny Garcia said the oil and gas company applied concrete over a shallow pipeline which had drainage issues. The project, which took place in Bloomington in either “late 2021 or early 2022,” was something no other company had agreed to do until Max Midstream stepped in.

“They said they would have it done in a month, and they did what they said they would do,” Garcia said.

Environmental activists in Houston planned other events for the week of March 6-10, Schneider said. There was a march against fossil fuel producers and their financiers, and a “pollution watch party” — a gathering in which people viewed infrared images of air pollution that were projected onto a building.

“We have a long way to go,” Schneider said about the efforts of environmental advocates.

Environmentalist groups seek answers from Flint Hills Resources on December oil spil

Caller Times
Vicky Camarillo
Original Article


Men in blue suits stop to examine a spot on North Beach during a cleanup effort by Flint Hills Resources on Jan. 3, 2023. Matthew Jimenez and Angelica Mancera, of San Antonio, take photos and fish from the beach during a short visit to Corpus Christi, Texas.

Three months after a pipe failure at Flint Hills Resources led to 14,000 gallons of light crude oil spilling into Corpus Christi Bay, environmental advocates are raising concerns about the absence of a public update from the company on the effects of the spill.

The spill, first reported on Dec. 24, originated from a pipe failure at Flint Hills Resources’ Ingleside crude oil terminal.

The light crude was found at North Beach, Corpus Christi Marina, Indian Point, Nueces Bay, the Rookery Island, a dredge material placement area and University Beach near Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi.

On Friday, the day that marked three months since the spill, a coalition of seven South Texas advocacy organizations issued a news release saying Flint Hills has yet to report to the public its findings “about what happened, why it happened and at what stage the clean-up is.” They said debris from the spill is still present in the bay.

“I don’t understand why they haven’t reported such data, and why they were so hush hush about it for three months,” Love Sanchez, co-founder of Indigenous Peoples of the Coastal Bend, said in the news release. “We want answers!”

The advocacy groups are Chispa Texas, For the Greater Good, Hillcrest Residents Association, Ingleside on the Bay Coastal Watch Association, Indigenous Peoples of the Coastal Bend, South Texas Human Rights Center and Texas Campaign for the Environment.

Since Dec. 24, Flint Hills Resources has been conducting a joint investigation with the U.S. Coast Guard and the Texas General Land Office into how the spill occurred. Officials believed subfreezing temperatures may have been a contributing factor.

The investigation is ongoing, and the company expects to have a final report this spring, Jennifer Worrel, a spokesperson for Flint Hills, told the Caller-Times.

“At our weekly meeting between Flint Hills Resources, the US Coast Guard, the Texas General Land Office, and the City of Corpus Christi, we shared on Friday that the investigation is on track to conclude next month,” Worrel wrote in an email.

The size of the spill did not warrant limitations to beach access, swimming or fishing. It also was not large enough to require the cleanup response to be federally directed, City Manager Peter Zanoni said in January.

Still, the spill and cleanup forced the temporary closure of the Corpus Christi Ship Channel.

Globs of oil dot the shoreline in Ingleside on the Bay on Dec. 30, 2022. Six days prior, an oil spill occurred originating from a pipe failure at Flint Hills Resources’ Ingleside crude oil terminal.

Within a couple of weeks of the spill, at least 13 birds died due to exposure to crude oil and one turtle was treated for potential exposure.

In their news release, the advocates included a list of questions for Flint Hills about how many people and animals have been exposed to the crude, the short- and long-term risks to people who were exposed and the status of the cleanup.

Worrel did not directly respond to those questions when asked by the Caller-Times.

The environmentalist groups also suggested the city take over “man-made environmental disaster management instead of ceding clean-up and investigation of accidents to the polluters” and keep industry accountable in part by administering “heavy fines” for violators of the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act.

“City Manager Peter Zanoni must better prepare city staff to quickly respond to man-made environmental disasters,” the news release stated. “The city cannot count on the fossil fuel industry to adequately respond to future disasters.”

However, Zanoni told the Caller-Times the city doesn’t have the funding, staff size or expertise to respond to environmental issues of that size. The national practice is that a company responsible for an environmental hazard is also responsible for cleaning it up, he said.

Under the Incident Command Structure, part of the National Incident Management System, an incident is not resolved until a state or federal agency — depending on the case — gives approval.

“In that case, the city wouldn’t be involved because we would be surpassed by the state, and if not the state, the federal government,” Zanoni said. “We don’t have the jurisdiction to demand that they continue to clean up or not.”

He said a city code allows the city to issue small fines, but doing so would prevent it from receiving bigger settlements from state or federal agencies in the future.

“We may be waiving some future significant dollars to get a smaller amount in the upfront” if the city imposed fines against companies, Zanoni said.

“The city’s role is to make sure we keep the community informed of the event, that we do our own overall assessment as to whether or not the persons managing it are keeping the city’s interests as a high priority,” Zanoni said.