WHITING — Protestors expect more than 1,000 people, and maybe as many as 5,000, to rally outside the BP Whiting Refinery Sunday as part of a global “Break Free from Fossil Fuels” campaign taking place this month.

A rally and march to the BP Whiting Refinery will begin at 1 p.m. at the Whiting Lakefront Park, 1798 119th St., Whiting. Organizers intend to say “enough is enough” to petcoke, a byproduct of the oil refining process, and heavy crude from the oil sands region of Canada.

Environmentalists around the world have been organizing for 12 days in favor of transitioning to renewable energy and ending the use of oil, coal and gas as part of the “Break Free from Fossil Fuels” action. Other protests will take place outside the White House and Los Angeles City Hall.

“We need all this stuff out of our communities,” said organizer Sheilah Garland, with National Nurses United. “The big message is just we need a transition to clean energy and green jobs. We want to work with the workers and unions in these industries on the transition to green jobs.”

Participating groups include Honor the Earth, National Nurses United, Railroad Workers United, Black Lives Matter Gary, Southeast Side Coalition to Ban Petcoke, and the Flint Democracy Defense League.

The rally at the refinery on Lake Michigan’s southern shore is expected to be the largest “Break Free from Fossil Fuels” rally in the United States, Garland said.

“The communities of this country are at a tipping point,” she said. “We can no longer sit idly by while they’re polluting our planet. This is the opening salvo in a fight that’s going to take several generations. It’s about saving our lives and saving our planet.”

The refinery in Whiting has been the subject of previous environmental protests, including by Southeast Side Coalition to Ban Petcoke, whose activism against large open piles of powdery petcoke led BP to stop shipping it to Chicago. The refinery has also drawn the ire of protestors because it processes more crude from the oil sands of Canada due in large part to a $4.2 billion modernization project completed two years ago.

Last year, Reverend Billy and the Stop Shopping Gospel Choir, a New York City-based street theater activist group that was featured in the Morgan Spurlock-produced documentary “What Would Jesus Buy?” staged an exorcism in the hope of making the refinery more environmentally-friendly.

The refinery produces 430,000 barrels a day, supplying gasoline to most of the Upper Midwest. BP says it invested more than $1 billion in environmental improvements during the modernization project, including ones that reduced air emissions and removed sulfur from gasoline and diesel.


Business Reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.