Thirty years ago, Jim and Bobi Miller bought a house in a quiet middle-class neighborhood a quarter-mile from Flint Hills’ West Plant. Bobi, now 56, says, “We bought it when we were young, and we knew we were buying close to the refinery, but I guess we didn’t know what we were getting into.” Her husband, Jim, is 71. Three years ago doctors told him that he’d inexplicably lost 40 percent of his lung capacity. He’s never smoked, and his lungs are clear, but, he says, “I’ve been on oxygen now for three years.” He adds, “It looks like I’ll be on oxygen until the day I die.”
Bobi, a former schoolteacher, recounts that when she worked at Tuloso-Midway primary school, they would practice “shelter in place” drills in case of a refinery explosion. Ten years ago she too began to have trouble breathing. Doctors diagnosed her with pulmonary sarcoidosis, a rare type of lung disease, but they couldn’t determine the cause. Over the years it grew worse, until she had to keep a breathing machine in the classroom. Now that Bobi is retired, the Millers would like to sell their house and move to the other side of town, but “nobody wants it [the house] because it’s too close to the refinery,” Jim says.
Meanwhile, Flint Hills Resources, a Koch Industries subsidiary that until 2002 was called Koch Petroleum Group, continues to expand into area near the Millers’ neighborhood. Since 2011, the plant has doubled the amount of shale oil from Project Eagle Ford that it processes, with plans to increase that number even more. Flint Hills assured residents that it would use “state-of-the-art pollution controls” to minimize emissions.
The Millers aren’t so sure they believe it.
Del Bosque, M. & Reel, J. (2012, October 24). Kochworld: To see how the Koch brothers’ free-market utopia operates, look no further than Corpus Christi. Texas Observer. Retrieved from http://www.texasobserver.org/kochworld/