Now, I consider myself an environmentalist.
Trees, birds, fish, clean air and water all appeal to me. I
remember the Iron Eyes Cody television spots and have tried to grow
up to be a responsible adult to my environment.
Recycling garbage doesn't bother me, and I wouldn't mind paying
a reasonable increase for reformulated gasoline or gas-fired
electricity generation. I would even buy a natural gas-powered car.
But, I want to continue to drive a car, crank up the natural gas
when it gets chilly and flip a switch when night falls.
For the past year, however, there has been renewed fervor in the
environmental campaign against oil companies. In three weeks, it
will be the anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska. It
has sparked debate about the transport of oil in domestic ports and
This has precipitated huge writedowns for oil companies and
large public relations budgets from the industry to show its safety
In Oklahoma, Phillips Petroleum Co. of Bartlesville had a deadly
explosion at its Houston Chemical Complex in October that killed 23
people. And, Kerr-McGee Corp. of Oklahoma City has a contaminated
refinery and nuclear plant in Cushing that may be put on the
Still, like Mike Coldren, executive director of the Oklahoma
Independent Petroleum Association, said a while back in an
interview, "We've come a long way, baby," in pollution prevention in
the oilpatch. And, Oklahoma oil and gas regulations were on the
cutting edge of forming national policies.
Coldren along with many others believe the environmental
regulations coming down the pike in the 1990s will force a majority
of the small independent companies out of business. It is a complex
and costly endeavor to meet all the requirements.
Phillips' explosion may bring on new regulations for the
industry as well.
In a couple of weeks, a federal report on the Phillips explosion
is expected. Another is due toward the end of April, followed by
another congressional hearing.
Following the accident, Phillips' executives told members of the
House Employment and Housing Subcommittee the incident was tragic
and devastating, but said they felt proper safety measures were
installed and followed.
Members of the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers union, however,
told the subcommittee on Nov. 6 that Phillips' chemical complex was
a "disaster waiting to happen."
An Environmental Protection Agency report on the incident is
expected to be finalized in a couple of weeks, said EPA inspector
Jim Staves, who conducted the investigation and prepared the report.
By the end of April, the federal Occupation Safety and Health
Administration report is due, said OSHA investigator Tom Littrell,
who is conducting the investigation. OSHA was given a six-month
limit to prepare its report from Oct. 23, the date of the incident.
Neither Staves nor Littrell would reveal preliminary findings,
but both reports will be given to the subcommittee in late April for
consideration of possible penalties, said subcommittee staff member
The range of possible penalties is not known, nor how much the
incident has cost Phillips in medical claims and rebuilding the
plant plus lost business.
Meanwhile, Phillips, based in Bartlesville, has just released a
20-page color booklet outlining a broad scope of measures the
company takes to protect the environment.
Phillips began its own internal environmental management team
back in 1961 and for two years prior to the Houston explosion was
cited as the safest oil company by federal and industry