Sunday, May 03, 2015

The Exodus of the People of Mossville, Part 3: Who Is Sasol?

This is 3rd in a series of posts on the Exodus of the People of Mossville, Louisiana, an historically African-American community founded in the late 1800s by Jack Moss. Sasol, the South African synthetic oil company, is buying up property to build the first North American (fracked) gas to liquids plant.

The following facts are drawn from the Mossville Environmental Action Now website (see website for citations):

Who Is Sasol?

  • Founded in 1950 in South Africa, in response to international communities' fuel embargo due to the practice of apartheid. 
  • In 1954, Sasol created Sasolburg to supply housing and facilities for employees; it segregated the development into Sasolburg proper (exclusively for white employees) and Zamdela township (for non-whites).
  • Zamdela remains marginalized.
  •  Despite the presence of a major manufacturer in their backyard, unemployment in Zamdela remains high, 43% as of January 2013 (1). 
  • Sasol has been accused of pollution in Zamdela that’s caused sickness and hospitalization, including a chlorine gas leak in 2000, which led to over 200 hospitalized (2).
  • Over 42,000 tons of volatile organic compounds are reported to have been polluted into Zamdela (3). 
  • Residents of Zamdela began monitoring their air in 2001- finding quickly that the level of benzene in the air was over 8 times the US legal limit (4). 
  • Most of Zamdela’s residents earn less than R400 a month (about $40 USD a month); Sasol’s CEO David Constable received a 68% pay increase (5) this year, bringing his salary to R53.7 M for the year ended June 2013. 

What is Sasol North America? 

  • Condea Vista (now Sasol North America) was found guilty of "wanton and reckless disregard of public safety” in 1997 for its responsibility for one of the largest chemical spills in the nation’s history, which contaminated the groundwater underneath the surrounding community. The company was charged with dumping an estimated 19-47 million pounds of ethylene dichloride, a suspected human carcinogen, into the local estuary (6).  This local estuary is Mossville, Louisiana. 
  • Sasol North America has self-reported releasing dioxins, a cancer-causing highly-toxic group of chemicals in Mossville area (7).
  • Greenpeace is suing Sasol North America for spying: "allegedly trespassing, conducting unlawful surveillance and stealing confidential information related to Greenpeace's work in the Lake Charles region of Louisiana," (8) which includes work with the Mossville. 

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