Activist Climbs Flagpole Outside LyondellBasell, Hangs Banner Denouncing Investment in Tar Sands

UPDATE Friday 5:00 pm – Perry Speaks About Why They Took Action

Perry will be on KPFT, 90.1 FM Houston, tonight at 7:30 pm to talk about why they took action on Wednesday to expose LyondellBasell. You can listen online at

UPDATE 2:00AM – Perry Has Been Released – Thanks to Everyone Who Contributed to Their Bail! 

Check out all the great media coverage from Perry’s action to expose LyondellBassell as a tar sands profiteer. Democracy Now,  Houston Chronicle’s blog, Fox News Channel 26, and KHOU Channel 11.

UPDATE 11:30 – Perry Has Been Arrested – Demonstrate Your Support with a Contribution to Their Bail Fund

Demonstrate your support for Perry and their daring action today to expose LyondellBassell’s plans to nearly triple their tar sands refining capacity and deepen their history of environmental racism. Perry is being charged with criminal trespass. Check out more photos from today’s action here.

Consider a generous contribution to Perry’s bail fund. 

Your contribution goes directly toward the front-line grassroots resistance to Keystone XL and will allow us to continue our ongoing campaign to confront tar sands profiteers like LyondellBassell. Thank you!

Perry Graham

UPDATE 11:10 am – Fire Department Has Removed Perry and Banner From the Flagpole

After blocking off an entire street downtown the Houston Fire Department used their fire ladders to remove Perry and their banner from their perch 50 feet off the ground on a flagpole in front of tar sands profiteer LyondellBassell. Get more updates on our twitter and facebook pages.

Perry and the Fire Dept

Fire Dept and Perry

Check out more photos from today’s action here.

UPDATE 11:00 am – Twenty-two Emergency and Police Vehicles on the Scene!

We’re counting an astonishing twenty-two police and emergency vehicles at the scene, plus two news helicopters circling overhead. The entire street is blocked off and fire trucks are raising ladders toward Perry Graham who climbed 50 feet up a flag pole and hung a banner denouncing LyondellBassell’s investments in toxic tar sands.

UPDATE 10:50 am – Two Firetrucks Arrive and Block Off the Entire Street in Downtown Houston

Perry and the Police Response

UPDATE 10:45 am – Four Police Are on the Scene – Two Police Cars are Blocking a Lane of Traffic in Downtown Houston

More police, a fire truck, and an ambulance arrive on the scene of the courageous banner hang to expose LyondellBasell as a major profiteer from the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

UPDATE 10:30 am – Banner Unfurled Exposing LyondellBasell as a Tar Sands Profiteer – Passersby Gather to Watch

A few dozen passers-by have gathered to take photos and gawk at the daring spectacle.

Best Banner Shot

HOUSTON, TX – Wednesday, March 27, 2013, 10:00AM – An activist with Tar Sands Blockade climbed a 50 foot flagpole in front of LyondellBasell‘s downtown Houston office this morning and hung a banner denouncing the corporation’s plans to nearly triple its tar sands processing capacity at its Houston Refining facility in the Hispanic neighborhood of Manchester. The banner reads, “LyondellBasell, Stay Out of Tar Sands. No KXL.”

Today’s protest, from activist Perry Graham, is in response to a recent announcement by LyondellBasell’s CEO Jim Gallogly that they were “just finishing up” a $50 million upgrade to increase the Houston Refining facility’s capacity to process tar sands. The planned upgrade to the largest refinery in the City of Houston would process 175,000 barrels of tar sands per day, or nearly one-quarter of the capacity of TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline. If built, the pipeline would carry toxic tar sands from Alberta, Canada to Houston and other Gulf Coast refineries before being primarily exported overseas.

“I’m taking action today to expose LyondellBasell’s unjust practices of environmental racism, from the poisoning of the Athabascan Chipewyan people due to tar sands extraction, to the ongoing refinery pollution affecting communities of color in Houston’s toxic East End,” said Graham. “After last week’s 55 actions across the continent to stop tar sands profiteers, corporations like LyondellBasell that process tar sands should expect active resistance.”

lyondellbassell logo

LyondellBasell has a history of dodging accountability for their pollution. In 2009, LyondellBasell filed for bankruptcy, allowing the corporation to avoid nearly $5 billion in environmental cleanup costs at 11 contaminated sites across the country. Last year, LyondellBasell was sued by Harris County for four incidents at their Channelview refinery that resulted in the release of 5 tons of pollutants, including benzene, octane, ethylene, propylene, and 1,3-butadiene.

To make matters worse, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) refused to allow a public hearing to review LyondellBasell’s benzene emissions in Houston in 2010. This lack of oversight leaves affected communities like Manchester, located less than two miles from the LyondellBasell refinery, to suffer toxic pollutants and cancer-related deaths without recourse.

“The fence-line community of Manchester already deals with the effects of the pollution from surrounding industry,” said Manchester resident and Tar Sands Blockade spokesperson Yudith Nieto. “Now LyondellBasell wants to almost triple dirty tar sands refining in our communities without regard for the safety and well being of the people. Where are the state environmental agencies who have a duty to protect us from this unjust and destructive industry?”

Read more on LyondellBasell’s toxic legacy below:


LyondellBasell is a multi-national corporation based in the Netherlands  that operates oil and gas refineries all across the country, including the largest refinery in the City of Houston. LyondellBasell’s Houston refinery sits on over 700 acres overlooking Houston’s toxic East End, the Houston ship channel, and the community of Manchester. Now this refining megalith is attempting to bring more poison into Manchester, and the greater Houston area.

LyondellBasell is attempting to buy into the Canadian tar sands at a time when investor confidence in the Keystone XL tar sands project is at an all time low. Not only has the price of tar sands dropped to $60/barrel, but Germany’s largest and most prestigious research institute, Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres, pulled out of the Canadian tar sands project just last week. “It was seen as a risk for our reputation,” Professor Frank Messner, Helmholtz UFZ’s head of staff said.

LyondellBasell also has a great reputation; for poor management and pollution. In 2009 LyondellBasell filed for bankruptcy. This effectively allowed LyondellBasell to avoid $4.75 billion in damages for hazardous waste sites across the country. While the EPA was attempting to obtain $5 billion for cleanup of these sites, Lyondell was able to settle for only 5%. In December of the same year one of Lyondell’s subsidiaries, Equistar, was sued for improperly installing gaskets which led to the release of 450 lbs of 1,3 butadiene (causes cancer and birth defects), and 725.8 lbs of butenes (cause ozone to form). Not even a year prior, in August of 2008, 6,346 lbs of benzene were released from their Channelview plant, a single incident resulting in emissions greater than the total allowable amount in a year. Two months later, 28,641 lbs of sulfur dioxide were released from Houston Refining. Two months later (see a pattern?), 11,542 lbs of a known carcinogen were released in less than five hours at an unspecified Houston-area chemical plant. Not a single enforcement citation was issued.These refineries break federal laws, daily, and nothing happens.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) won’t even allow a public hearing to review benzene emissions from the LyondellBasell Houston refinery, levels of which are higher than from other refineries, thus posing an “unreasonable risk to Houstonians.” Most concerning of all, the LyondellBasell Houston refinery in Manchester is gearing up for the Keystone pipeline. LyondellBasell found $50 million to increase tar sands refining capacity from 60,000 to 175,000 barrels per day, despite their alleged financial issues. Tar Sands are the most toxic form of petroleum on the planet, and are about to be handled by one of the most careless refineries in Texas, with a proven track record of dangerous leaks and poor management. To spell it out in a way that we are familiar with; Houston, we have a problem.

The primarily Hispanic neighborhood of Manchester, which is located just a couple miles from the refinery, already suffers from elevated levels of cancer and asthma. This  neighborhood will only see conditions worsen if the tar sands are refined in their community. When a single demographic is sacrificed for the financial gains of polluting industry, it is nothing less than environmental racism.

However, resistance to Canadian tar sands is growing, both locally, and internationally. On the heels of 55 actions  across the nation in the past week, communities across the continent are stepping up to say, “No KXL, No Tar Sands!” While LyondellBasell, and others, have been able to avoid accountability for their crimes so far, and continue to pursue an agenda that disproportionately affects poor and communities of color, they may find their efforts both misguided, and less profitable than intended.

In summary, LyondellBasell is a persistent polluter, poisoning the community with dangerous levels of benzene, 1, 3 butadiene, sulfur dioxide, and other carcinogens. They have repeatedly been unaccountable for the pollution they have caused. The TCEQ refuses to enforce regulations and will not allow a public hearing on their emissions permit. Refining tar sands at the largest refinery in the city of Houston will only increase their emissions and make pollution in the city worse. The neighborhood of Manchester, which is located right next to the refinery, and already suffers from elevated levels of cancer and asthma, will only see conditions worsen with the refining of tar sands in their community. LyondellBasell and other tar sands profiteers must be stopped.

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