Dec 13, 2013 6:37 PM
CORPUS CHRISTI - For the past 14 years, environmental activist Suzie Canales has fought a mostly uphill battle in a refinery-dependent town.
Canales leads Citizens for Environmental Justice, a tiny group with very few things to celebrate.
But as more and more companies seek permits to refine Eagle Ford Shale oil, Canales and other environmental groups are seeing another sort of opportunity.
As companies file for air permits to expand operations, they're stepping in.
"There's this huge industrial boom now with the Eagle Ford Shale oil and companies are having to do upgrades to their facilities to process new crude," she said on Friday. "So they're going to need new permits. But we're going to block every permit that comes down the pike."
When refining giant Flint Hills applied for permits as part of a $250 million expansion project, Canales linked with Austin-based Environmental Integrity Project and UT-Austin to petition against the permits.
The petitions helped convince Flint Hills to raise standards on emissions and efficiency. But the petitions did something else. They finally gave Canales a voice. She's using it to ask refineries to buy out homeowners.
"We need to use every avenue we can to accomplish what we know is right and what is right is relocating those people safety."
She told KRIS 6 News Flint Hills agreed to buy a home near their plant on the outskirts of town. She promised the homeowner she wouldn't identify them.
They're longtime residents who believe they can't get a fair price for their home, which is on Tuloso Road. Homes in the area appraise at or just below $100,000.
But for Canales and the environmental group, the deal is about much more than money.
"Really it's just basic human needs that they deserve, clean air to breathe, their home not shaking because the refinery's in upset," she said. "It's a terrible way to live and people don't understand that."
Flint Hills spokeswoman Darcy Schroeder told KRIS 6 News buying the home was in no way tied to their deal with the environmental groups.
She said buying the home, simply makes a good project, even better.