The City of Austin seems to never learn. It repeats the same racial injustices year after year despite all its claims of equity and diversity. The latest example is the proposed Bergstrom Jet Tank Storage Proposal next to neighborhoods of color.
In 1993, the City Council finally shut down a 52-acre fuel tank farm at Airport Blvd and Springdale after massive protests from East Austin community organizations PODER and EAST. The Eastside tank farm, owned by six multinational oil companies, contained 10 million gallons of toxic fuels and was “adjacent to residential homes and within one mile of seven schools.” A tank farm exposes nearby residents to carcinogens in the soil, air and groundwater. Residents near the earlier tank farm died due to such exposure. Large petroleum storage containers have exploded and caught on fire in other locations, including the Holly Power Plant.
The shutting down of the tank farm was an exceptional environmental justice story of “grassroots opposition successfully defeating global corporations. … We must remember our past and avoid repeating our mistakes created through decades of city planning that systematically reinforced inequitable outcomes for people of color.”
Yet today, City staff seeks to repeat the same racial injustice that East Austin fought successfully to right 30 years ago. The city is proposing to construct a new tank farm to store jet fuel just a few hundred feet from existing modest-income neighborhoods. It would be located on the western edge of Austin Bergstrom International Airport, along the east side of U.S. 183 between McCall Lane and Metropolis Drive.
Airport officials said at “informational” meetings that the location near homes is “the safest, best fit” and “it doesn’t conflict with future airport development, like a third runway, realigned taxiways, cargo operations, general aviation operations, new midfield concourses.”
Nearby neighborhoods and community members are outraged. There is no reason the city cannot put the tank farm on the massive Bergstrom Airport complex where it isn’t adjacent to where people live. You would think Austin would put humans and community health first.
This matter is coming up soon to council. A council work session was supposed to be held on March 22 but is not listed on the city council agenda and a virtual meeting for the public scheduled for March 23 is also not listed.
When will they ever learn?
Contact Mayor Steve Adler and your representative on the Austin City Council using the information below, and tell them the Bergstrom jet tank location is wrong—and to stop this gross injustice now. Check this map if you aren’t sure which council member represents you.
Together we can build an Austin for everyone!