In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

>> 129 5 Responsible Refiners Jack Stanley has been trying to build a refinery [in New Sarpy] since the midseventies. He has had a reputation of shortcuts and . . . it’s a long, convoluted history of layoffs, poor management of people, not good engineering, just poor practices. There’s a lot of horror stories, whether it’s fact or fiction, in the industry about some things that have happened in the past. —Jason Carter, Orion Refining, May 22, 2003 I lived on Apple Street when I was a kid, and I remember Good Hope [refinery]. . . . I was not too happy when I heard I was being sent here. But I thought that Valero could do it. That is, if anyone could do it, Valero could. —Ellen Williams, Valero St. Charles Refinery, February 10, 2006 As it happened, Orion and I moved out on the same day. On June 30, 2003, as I set out to drive back to California, the refinery that had been Orion became the Valero St. Charles Refinery, one of over a dozen facilities owned by North America’s largest refiner, Valero Energy Corporation. The change of ownership was a good thing for the community, Orion managers had assured residents at the previous month’s Community Advisory Panel (CAP) meeting. Valero was a big company with a lot of resources; it had allocated $400 million over the next five years for improvements to the facility. It had readily agreed to take over the home improvement loans, cash payments, beneficial environmental projects, and other community improvements that Orion had promised to residents and regulators, and, beyond that, it had a history of being very involved in the communities where its refineries were located. On my next visit to New Sarpy in February 2006, it appeared that Orion officials had been right. As I made the rounds of the St. Charles Terrace neighborhood, visiting with residents who had become friends over the course of Concerned Citizens of New Sarpy’s (CCNS’s) campaign, they 130 > 131 They weren’t true, long-term refiners in a big company that understood how those, what seemed to be small things, could have such an impact on a community. They had a tough start-up, they flared a lot, they didn’t have the resources to help them talk with the community, to understand that importance, you know, they were just about getting the refinery running so we can sell it and make a lot of money. It’s not that they didn’t care about the community. . . . I don’t think that’s, that there was some moral issue there with Orion, I never got that feeling. . . . They didn’t have this corporate culture that we, it’s just big value to be a positive influence in a community. Because refining was at the heart of Valero’s business, Williams went on to explain, the company was interested in having its St. Charles refinery become a model of “safety compliance, environmental compliance, and profitability. You know, those important things to Valero.” Those corporate values were backed up by technical competence, of course—in order to be a “positive influence” in the community, in Williams’s view, a refinery had to operate reliably, and operating reliably required good designs and good maintenance . But it was Valero’s values, more than the technical abilities or moral stature of any of Orion’s managers, to which Williams attributed New Sarpy residents’ new confidence in the refinery’s operations since Valero assumed control. In both community members’ and Ellen Williams’s accounts of the refinery ’s transformation, then, scientific authority and the morals or values of technical practitioners were tied together: where Ida Mitchell, having nothing to complain about in terms of Valero’s environmental performance, referred to the moral fiber of Valero’s manager in calling them a “different cut of people,” Williams talked about corporate values as central to the way she and her staff did their work. That technical and moral status would be associated is little surprise. Mid-twentieth-century sociologist of science Robert Merton posited the connection in his argument that the authority of scientific knowledge stems from virtues, among them skepticism and disinterest, internalized by members of the scientific community.2 More recent scholarship has demonstrated the connection through empirical case studies from a variety of historical periods, showing how scientific credibility hinges on the scientist’s moral standing as, for example, a “gentleman” in the seventeenth century or an “authentic” person...


Additional Information

Related ISBN
MARC Record
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.