PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

April 23, 2014

Huntsman celebrates Earth Day with opening of new education center

Erinn Callahan
The Port Arthur News

PORT NECHES — Tucked away behind Huntsman Performance Products Plant on Spur 136 in Port Neches is a vast expanse of land where roseate spoonbill birds fly and alligators sun themselves — an incongruous sight juxtaposed against the refinery skyline behind the trees.

On Tuesday, Huntsman hosted an Earth Day celebration to mark the public opening of its new Environmental Education Center. The building is an extension of the Huntsman Wildlife Program, which partners with the Port Neches-Groves Independent School District to educate students about the importance of preserving the area’s wildlife.

 “This illustrates that industrial facilities and fragile ecosystems can live together in harmony,” Dan Kemp, director of manufacturing, said. “We sustain efforts focused on finding solutions that are good for the people, protect our planet and make a profit.”

Environmental specialist Marty Briggs has been involved with the Huntsman Wildlife Preservation since 1986. Today, the wetlands boasts 220 acres in addition to 12 five-acre plots for mottled duck nesting.

“This is probably one of the last strongholds of mottled duck nesting on the Gulf Coast,” Briggs said.

The refinery’s environmental specialists provide the three essentials — food, water and shelter — for the various species that make their home along the marshy wetlands.

“We’re doing what we can to sustain the shape it’s in right now,” Briggs said. “We don’t want it to deteriorate.”

Huntsman is heavily involved with many local conservation groups, and in 1995, the refinery began collaborating with woodshop and agricultural classes at PN-G ISD.

“Our kids are our next generation,” Briggs said. “If they are not taught the importance of preserving the area’s wildlife, it’s not going to be done.”

Jefferson County Judge Jeff Branick stopped by the celebration, held just 150 yards from his home. He commended Huntsman on making Jefferson County a more ecologically friendly place than the one he saw growing up in Port Arthur.

“When I was a little boy, you couldn’t catch a fish in the Intracoastal Waterway, and if you could, you wouldn’t want to eat it,” Branick said. “Now it’s some of the best fishing in the area.”

Email: ecallahan@panews.com

Twitter: @ErinnPA