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Coker Installation Planned for Refinery in Warren, PA

By Ryan Talbott

If you have ever been to Warren, PA you are sure to have seen the refinery along the Allegheny River owned by United Refining Company. I distinctly remember trips to Warren to go shopping as a child and having to hold my breath as our car crossed the bridge that spans the Allegheny River near the refinery. I often wondered how the people that lived nearby could tolerate the smell. Of course, as a child, I just thought it was a bad smell that the people there became accustomed to. I never really gave much thought to the stark reality of health effects stemming from that awful smell billowing out of the smokestacks day in and day out.

The refinery dominates the landscape as you drive along the Allegheny River. For many, the refinery is an integral part of the community, for better or worse. That is why when United Refining announced plans to install a delayed petroleum coker, many in the community decided it was time to get organized and find out the facts about cokers and their environmental and safety concerns. The result was the formation of the Warren County Quality of Life Coalition.

The coalition consists of members of the community that have lived in the Warren area for years, in some instances all their lives. For some, this was their first experience in dealing with a permitting process by the Pennsylvania Department of Environment Protection (DEP). Due to public concern with the effects of the coker and other proposed "expansions" at the refinery, the DEP held a public hearing at the Beatty High School in downtown Warren. The hearing, held in June, was well attended and those who gave testimony were nearly all opposed to United Refining’s plans.

Many spoke of their frustration with the DEP about a less-than-honest permitting process. Others spoke out against United Refining's non-compliance with Clean Air Act requirements. Still others related heart-wrenching testimony about loved ones who they believed to have been seriously affected by the pollution that already exists from the refinery.

For more information or if you would like to support the Warren County Quality of Life Coalition, contact Pat Constable pattyb@kinzua.net

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