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Residents frustrated by last-minute cancellation of meeting on BP's Whiting Refinery

BP's Whiting Refinery as seen from 129th Street.
Courtesy of Google Maps
The Whiting Refinery has had several serious maintenance issues within just the past few weeks. That includes two tank leaks and a power outage that released excess pollution and forced employees to evacuate.

Northwest Indiana residents say a meeting on BP’s Whiting Refinery was abruptly canceled last week when the high school hosting it locked its doors. State officials said the East Chicago high school decided not to host the meeting because it didn’t want the press there.

The Whiting Refinery has had several serious maintenance issues within just the past few weeks. That includes two tank leaks and a power outage that released excess pollution and forced employees to evacuate.

Longtime Whiting resident and environmental advocate Carolyn Marsh said when she and others attempted to go into the Indiana Department of Environmental Management meeting, the door was locked and at the time the meeting was to start, the lights in the building were turned off.

“We need to do the trace and get to the bottom of this because this is undemocratic as hell. We cannot tolerate being locked out of a public building in a public meeting that's about our health and safety," she said.

READ MORE: Toxic leaks at BP's Whiting Refinery come as advocates push for stricter pollution control

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Marsh said incidents at BP have shown the plant is dangerous and residents need to be on high alert.

Though IDEM said the meeting was canceled because the School City of East Chicago didn't want the media to attend, the district said it was because members of the public tried to “force” their way in and that IDEM didn’t provide adequate security for the meeting.

IDEM rescheduled the meeting for Thursday, Feb. 22 at Calumet College of St. Joseph at 6 p.m. CT. The agency also extended the public comment period until Feb. 26.

Rebecca is our energy and environment reporter. Contact her at rthiele@iu.edu or follow her on Twitter at @beckythiele.

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Rebecca Thiele covers statewide environment and energy issues.