Jackson County Residents Weigh In On Chevron's Expansion Plans

Chevron's proposed CCR expansion plan would replace two old gasoline production units with one new unit capable of producing more gas. It would increase gas production by 15 percent, or 750,000 gallons a day.

Chevron's Manager of Mississippi Policy Government and Public Affairs, Steve Renfroe, says his company is doing everything it can to make sure pollution doesn't increase along with gas production.

"We've added the controls that are required. We're going to add additional controls over and above that. We're offering that in the permit application. We think it's a good project," Renfroe said.

But the Mississippi Gulf Coast Sierra Club says Chevron needs to take a closer look at current air quality problems in Jackson County. The group says it doesn't have a problem with corporate expansion, but it does have a problem with an expansion that could mean an increase in residents getting sick from pollution.

"I don't have anything against a corporation making money, but I do have a problem with the high cancer rates along the coast. Since the early 90s, 1.5 billion of toxins have been produced here in Jackson County and they have the cancer rates to show it," said Brenda Songy, Chair of the Mississippi Gulf Cost Sierra Club.

Robert Handy was among those who spoke out during the hearing. He says he attributes air quality issues, in part, to eight family members either affected by or dying from cancer.

"99.6 percent of the United States is safer than Jackson County. Everybody in this room, your children and your grandchildren deserve better," Handy said.

Despite concerns over air quality, Chevron says Jackson County is meeting National Ambient Air Quality standards and is doing its part to make sure the county continues to meet those standards as the company expands.

"We think it's something that's very important and something we should be proud of, and we have to work to make sure we maintain that. And part of the permitting process is designed to assure that," Renfroe said.

Officials with the MDEQ say they will take all comments during the public hearing to the permit board for consideration. They say the permit board will carefully evaluate those comments, as well as the department's initial finding, before deciding whether it will grant the permit. A decision could come as early as May.