The End of the Line for an Economic Myth

Residents of Port Arthur, Texas have sacrificed much over the years for the growth of the oil and gas industry, including through tax abatements that their local government have granted to refineries and through loose environmental controls.  What the people of Port Arthur have received in return is an unemployment rate more than twice the national and state averages, and higher risks of cancer.  The cancer mortality rate for African Americans in Jefferson County, including the predominantly black community of Port Arthur, is consistently about 40 percent higher than Texas’ overall cancer mortality rate.  Although there are many possible reasons for such disproportionate health impacts, including a lack of access to health care and healthy food, the contribution of pollution cannot be ignored.  From 2012-2016, there were 230 illegal air pollution “upset” events from industries in Port Arthur, and many of these incidents released toxic chemicals including benzene, a carcinogen, according to state records.  The American Lung Association gives the local county a grade of F for air quality. Asthma rates for children here are more than twice the national average.

See additional photos of Port Arthur, here.