Chesterton Tribune

Mob mentality fuels region pollution

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Voice of the People

There’s no telling how BP convinced their bazillions of employees and contractors to attend the IDEM hearing on BP’s proposed air permit changes (modernization). The hearing was dominated by the mob-mentality that comes from fear. Union members provided a steady stream of testimony in support of the new permit, to protect their jobs, to keep their jobs from moving elsewhere and to keep food on their tables.

A BP executive endorsed their fears as he urged IDEM to approve the changes even though they will include a 30- to 40-percent increase in green house gas emissions - the stuff that comes out of your car exhaust pipe, but on a much bigger scale. Without the increase, he reported, BP will not be able to compete. It all sounds so familiar.

There was a time when industry warned that they wouldn’t be able to compete, jobs would be lost, they’d move elsewhere, if they were required to allow unions to organize. But, thanks to a few very courageous individuals who insisted on a better quality of life, unions were organized. Not only did workers’ lives improve, but somehow, industry and jobs survived despite the threats.

Remember when industry swore that if they were required to implement worker safety regulations, jobs would be lost, they’d move elsewhere, they’d be unable to compete? Well, thanks to a strong union that courageously stood up to industry and insisted on an even higher quality of life for workers and their families, safety rules were instituted. Because of union perseverance, today’s workers are safer, their families are more stable and, yes, industry and jobs survived.

Now, a few courageous individuals who believe we deserve a still better quality of life, are asking BP to use some of their mega-profits (over $22 billion in profits for 2006) to do more to reduce the poisonous pollution that they spew into our communities’ air. These individuals have spent countless hours trying to unwind the thousands of pages of a twisted, incomprehensible morass of documentation that seems intended to keep the most diligent, scientific minds from understanding the details of the new plan.

To the rest of us, BP just offered up the same old, dusty threats. I’m sure to employees, those threats seem very real. All the same, it was really disheartening to see union members, “boo”, and snicker at the ideal of cleaner air in Northwest Indiana. They should do more to honor their predecessors. Their grandparents and parents didn’t fight industry just to have low-paying, unsafe jobs. They fought for better jobs to improve the lives of their children and grandchildren. Now, it’s our turn to fight for improved air quality and a better life for our children and grandchildren, not just to maintain the same amount of bad air, or accept worse air of a different type. After all these years, how can union members believe that industry will look after their children?

Last summer, we demanded that BP do better than our pathetic water quality regulations require. Likewise, compliance with weak air quality standards is not enough. BP needs to reduce all types of emissions, instead of using loopholes in the law to pretend they are reducing pollutants when they are really decreasing some bad pollutants slightly in exchange for increasing other bad pollutants a lot. If money is that short for BP, maybe they should shift some funds from their enormous marketing budget. Then, they could really be good to our environment, instead of just saying so. To find out more about BP, visit www.beyond-petrol.com

Deborah Chubb

 

Posted 3/18/2008