Monday, August 15, 2016

Stop the Sasol Land Grab of Mossville: What's a Voluntary Property Purchase Program

Environmental Justice Elders Lead Off Demo at
Sasol Houston Headquarters
Many of you have asked what's up with my blog.  I'm hoping to make a transition to a website with the blog embedded but I don't seem to have the skill or talent to accomplish that.  I'm looking for help.  I'll let you know how it goes. On to the main event!
Sasol, the apartheid era South African synthetic fuel company is perpetrating an coercive, deceptive and financially unjust grab for the land of people of Mossville Louisiana.  You all have read about Mossville over the years.  This post is about the collusion of the oil and chemical industries in creating something called the Voluntary Property Purchase Program to buyout communities and avoid liability for industrial toxic pollution that drives down property values, poisons the environment and destroys the livelihoods and health of the communities they are "benefitting."

I have found 4 other instances of oil refiners and chemical processing companies using Georgia-based Community Interaction Consultants (CIC) as their front organization in the negotiation of buyouts, all highly contested -- 2 in Michigan, 1 in Arkansas and 1 in 1999 in Baltimore.   The Port of Corpus Christi seems to be taking bids on one now.  John Mitchell, the president and founder of CIC, describes the company at his LinkedIn page as providing  

  • "community relocation consulting, program development, and program administration services for heavy manufacturers facing diminution of value claims"... and, 
  • "Beginning in 1989, consulting for the development and administration of property programs focused on green belt expansion for heavy manufacturing sites."
Green belts are supposed to be areas protected by zoning policy to maintain wild, agricultural and open space as a buffer between industry and settled areas.  International environmental justice activists have created a Green Belt Movement.  Of course international mega-corporations see these areas as expansion opportunities, greenwashing their buyouts as relocations, property value protection programs, and most egregiously, as voluntary.

Dislocation from ones home and land (especially in Louisiana where multiple generations live and build on the family property under the ownership of one family member) after your property has been polluted by dioxin, oil spills, benzine releases and other chemicals, your family's health destroyed and the concerted effort of community members and their allies to gain the attention of, and action from government, industry and the judiciary ignored -- in the case of Mossville for over two decades -- does not lead to a freely made decision to voluntarily sell one's property to the perpetrator (or the perpetrators' stalking horse) of the harm the community has experienced. 

There is probably need for a Department of Justice investigation into oil and chemical industry collusion in creating the VPPPs in order to avoid the true cost of their egregious disregard for the communities they have driven out and whose land they have come to own. 

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