Valley Interfaith is drawing a connection between stories of cancer-related deaths, three gas stations and a benzene plume moving through a neighborhood blocks from St. Joseph the Worker Catholic Church in McAllen. Leaders are in the midst of a research campaign with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), Texas state legislators and County Commissioners to get to the bottom of the benzene plume. Discovery of the toxic gas plume emerged from a listening campaign about the concerns of Rio Grande Valley residents.
When neighborhood parishioners of San Juan Diego Catholic Church in the Montana Vista colonias grew frustrated at the lack of gas service in their unincorporated district, they organized a petition drive, signing up 300 families to demand that the Texas Gas Service install gas lines. When the petition did not bring about the desired response, these parishioners approached their priest for help. He challenged them to join the social justice ministry of the church and to work with the El Paso Interreligious Sponsoring Organization (EPISO). These leaders responded, joining the ministry, organizing house meetings with other neighbors and, with EPISO, targeting the TX Gas Service President, Kari French, with an invitation to tour their neighborhood, to see for herself the state of infrastructure in the colonias.
The President accepted the invitation, toured the area, and committed to meeting with the department head to see what can be done. She reflected, "my people can tell me what is going on in the colonias," but it is different to see it for oneself.Read more