Monday, July 19, 2004


Yahoo! News - Man Sought for Photographing Texas City Refineries

Mon Jul 19, 2:59 PM ET

HOUSTON (Reuters) - Law enforcement officials said on Monday they are looking for a man seen taking pictures of two refineries in Texas City, Texas.

Texas City, located on the Texas Gulf coast about 30 miles south of Houston, has three refineries including the largest U.S. plant operated by BP Plc., which is the third-largest U.S. refinery, processing 470,000 barrels of crude oil per day.

The man, described as white with dark hair, was seen taking pictures outside the refineries, all located on the same highway, at about 5 p.m. CDT on Saturday, said Bruce Clawson, emergency management and homeland security director for Texas City.

While it is not illegal to take pictures of a refinery from a highway or street, officials would like to talk to the man to find out his reason for taking the photographs.

"This is based on the idea that al Qaeda does its homework," Clawson said. "That's not to say we don't have enough home-grown idiots already who might want to do something."

The man was seen driving a white van.

Valero Energy Corp. operates a 243,000 barrel per day (bpd) refinery in Texas City. Marathon Ashland Petroleum LLC, a joint venture between Marathon Oil Corp., and Ashland Inc., operates a 76,000 bpd refinery in Texas City.

The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation has repeatedly warned refiners that they are possible targets for would-be terrorists. U.S. refinery security officials say their security guards regularly report people observing or taking pictures of refineries.

During the Independence Day holiday, ExxonMobil Corp. tightened security at the largest U.S. refinery, the 538,000 bpd plant in Baytown, Texas, 30 miles east of Houston, because of general warnings about possible terrorist activity.

A guy took pictures of a place that it is legal to take pictures of, from a place that it is legal to take pictures from, and that is readily viewable from any freakin' spot along the highway, and yet there's something suspicious about a white guy with dark hair in a white van taking pictures of it?

At least there's mention of "home-grown idiots" this time around. Still, as someone with an amateur interest in photography, it's troubling that anyone who just wants to quietly pursue a hobby is going to be harassed like this.

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