By LUCAS ALAN DIETSCHE
April 26, 2019 marked the one-year anniversary of the day that the Husky Refinery, in Superior, Wis., exploded and caught fire. For nine hours, toxic fumes blew 30 miles to the south. Eleven workers were injured but soon recovered. Most of this city along the shore of Lake Superior had to be evacuated.
Husky is an oil and gas corporation headquartered in Calgary, Alberta, and a tripartite player with Enbridge and TransCanada. Its Superior refinery takes in tar sands from Alberta and, as one of the projects, turns the oil into asphalt. To make asphalt, Husky uses a deadly chemical called hydrogen fluoride (HF). The burning asphalt on April 26 was merely a few feet from the tanks of this deadly substance.
If the fire had released the HF, Superior and much of the surrounding area might have resembled Chernobyl, Ukraine—where the nuclear disaster took place on the same date 32 years earlier.
Without having yet learned the details about the damage, Superior’s Democratic Mayor Jim Paine said that the air was unpolluted after the fire had been put out. Right away, however, community members began to express their fears about the quality of the water, air, and soil.
Since the explosion, there has not been much opposition to Husky and their use of HF. However, to mark the anniversary, a small coterie of activists, in which Socialist Action was involved, organized a community forum that was endorsed by Nukewatch, Anti-colonial Land Defense, Nookomis aadoopowin (Grandmother’s Table), Occupy Twin Ports, Twin Ports Action Alliance, Superior Refinery Disaster Info, Sierra Club Duluth Clean Energy Team, and Northwoods 350.
The event was attended by a small but dedicated group of concerned community members who resolved to continue the fight against Husky.
The next day, on April 27, coalescing with the Green New Deal summit in Duluth, an anti-Husky rally was organized by Northwoods 350 and Honor the Earth. The event was supported by Lake Superior Socialist Action, DSA, MPIRG, and many other groups that built the previous day’s event.
The event had 40-50 people and included Winnoa LaDuke and speakers from DSA, Socialist Action, and the Anti-Colonial Land Defense. A member of Socialist Action was interviewed by the local media. Many SA signs were abundant amongst the crowd.
Then the rally was transported to the Husky Refinery for a photo op and for environmental activists to discuss the continued dangers of the refinery, HF, and to organize for further action. Local security and Superior police observed the rally closely. No to Hydrogen Fluoride in Superior!