South Texans Against the Refinery, or STAR, called a community meeting last week where they brought experts to share the concerns that come with this type of industry.
Standing, sitting or leaning against a wall people packed in to hear about the possible creation of an oil refinery in Duval. Henry Cortinas, a life long resident of Bruni, was initially excited about the news. "When you hear about the promise and the opportunity of new jobs to the area who wouldn't be excited about that?," he says.
But aside from the expected $500 million being expected as an addition to the Duval tax base, environmental experts say it could be bringing much more. Since a permit application has not yet been submitted to TCEQ, little is known about what the refinery will bring. Yet, Allen Messenger, an environmental engineer, says refineries usually affect the quality of air and water through the chemicals it releases and uses.
"The chemicals that will be released range from volatile oraganic compounds, to particulate emmissions, to sulfur compounds, and among the organic compounds include chemicals that are potentially cancer causing."
Raised hands and questions represent the uncertainty that remains about this refinery. Marissa Perales, an environmental attorney, is urging them to continue asking their questions and provides some direction. "They put their concerns in those comments and that comment period is going to take place simultaneously with the review of the application with the TCEQ staff," she explains.
Expressing these concerns can make a difference when TCEQ is deciding whether to grant the permit application, deny it, "or, they can issue the permit but add additional special conditions so that they can make it even more protective to address the concerns that were raised by the public," adds Perales.
Until then, residents are expecting to get a clear look at what their future might look like in South Texas. "If it is a health issue, then it is a health issue," says Cortinas. "I'm certainly not going to support that. If it's not a health issue, then we need to talk about that."
The closest towns to the refinery will be Hebbronville and Bruni which are less than ten miles away from the land purchased for the facility. Environmentalists who study refineries have said that's close enough to have an effect on public health.