After two years of inspections, protests, and discussions the City of Mobile has come up with an ordinance to regulate above ground fuel storage tanks. And from the start one of the biggest debates has been the city’s role in monitoring something that’s considered private property.
“Ask yourself did my council person vote in my best interest to protect my health, my safety, my property values, my way of life,” said Harold Bolton, Mobile.
But for stakeholders near and far from the port, where most tank farms are located the concerns have been over health and environmental impacts.
“I think it was quite clear there could be health ramifications,” said Jim Gilbert in a recent interview.
Now Mobile has a starting point. New storage tanks will have to be set back 1500 feet from the tank to the closest residential community, school, or church. In addition any tank built on a new site that has not been approved, will have to go through a planning commission. Otherwise, operators who choose to build on existing land simply have to get permits to replace tanks.
“We have an ordinance we didn’t have anything, we ventured off in something new,” said Fred Richardson, Mobile Councilmember.
Environmental watchdog leaders like Casi Callaway have been closely monitoring the proposal, she thinks it’s a starting point.
“There are many community members who feel strongly that we needed air emissions controls as well beyond the scope of the city council, I think we’ve got to deal with air emissions worries and concerns, we got to do that through our state agency and through our existing laws,” said Casi Callaway, Mobile Baykeeper Exec. Dir.
At least, for one tank operator thinks the new law leaves room for growth.
“It gives us the ability in case there’s opportunity in 2018, 2019, 2020 when the crude prices — when they do come back which everyone speculates they will; it gives the industry the opportunity to expand on our current footprint,” said Steve Gordon, Radcliffe Economy Marine Services General Manager.
“I feel like our city council abdicated it’s responsibility to remain completely open to its citizens to require a full open process,” said Herbert Wagner.
Residents, however, are mixed and they say they’re going to have to work harder to keep a close eye on developments along the waterfront.