Report: EPA-funded group misleads public, government agencies

According to the Pelican Institute, there is no “smoking gun” to show LABB is manipulating data, but there is evidence that LABB is loose with facts or employing “slipshod” data gathering techniques.

LABB says it gathers its refinery incident data from the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, which gets its data from refinery industry reports, but LABB doesn’t disclose the methods it uses to gather such data nor does the group seem to have controls on how its staff presents it to the public.

At an August 2012 public meeting sponsored by the EPA, a LABB staffer declared that ExxonMobil’s two Louisiana facilities experienced more than 935 incidents over the past year — more than ten times the number LABB usually cites, which is already inflated.

On a flyer, the group says that the ExxonMobil refinery in Baton Rouge, the second largest refinery in the country, alone had 778 incidents over a seven year period ending in June 2012, but the state’s numbers say Exxon’s refinery only had 202 incidents over that period.

In a 2012 letter to the EPA, LABB urged the agency to put the Exxon refinery high on their list of enforcements and actions, arguing the refinery had 709 incidents between 2005 and 2011. At the same time, the groups online database recorded 772 incidents.

In the groups 2011 Common Ground report, they said the Exxon refinery had 407 incidents between 2008 and 2010, while the group’s online database says there were 414. The state’s numbers say the refinery had only 139 incidents total during that time.

“The Louisiana Bucket Brigade’s characterization of our safety culture is wrong,” an ExxonMobil Baton Rouge spokesperson said in an email to The Daily Caller News Foundation. “Nothing is more important to us than the safety and health of our employees, contractors and those who live and work around our operations.”

The Exxon spokesperson told TheDC News Foundation that they have a good relationship with the community, try to keep neighbors informed, and support health, education, and environmental programs in the area.

The Bucket Brigade has also staged one demonstration outside the state capitol where they held up an effigy of the plant’s manager while playing the song “Mr. Big Stuff.”

In one publication, LABB did disclose why its numbers were different from industry figures, arguing “the EPA sets emissions levels at which companies must report such incidents. ‘[O]ur accident total differs from the refineries and even the LDEQ because we include all such accidents.'”

The discrepancies did not go unnoticed, as early on the LDEQ sent a letter to the regional EPA director detailing a half-dozen “serious” factual discrepancies in a version of LABB’s Common Ground report. The EPA essentially ignored them.

“More disturbing is the fact that the EPA is well-aware the LABB is disseminating inaccurate ‘data,’ as evidenced by a 2010 complaint letter it received from the State of Louisiana,” according to the report.

“The EPA has done nothing to rein in the LABB’s unethical behavior, thereby arguably contributing to an adversarial relationship between the federal regulator and state and local regulators,” the report added.

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