KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Attorney General Chris Koster and the Department of Natural Resources have failed Kansas Citians by refusing to meet with them about a gas leak in a neighborhood in the eastern part of the city, Rep. Brandon Ellington said Friday.
Across from a gas station that Ellington and residents say has been leaking gas that has sickened the people of the predominantly black neighborhood, Ellington said the response from Koster or DNR would probably be faster and more thorough if it was a richer, whiter neighborhood.
“They seem like they have no concern for people in this area,” Ellington said. “I don’t think we would have had to call a press conference to talk about why the attorney general and the Department of Natural Resources is refusing to show up to talk to people that are dying.”
Koster’s office quickly put out a statement refuting Ellington’s claims that they or the Department of Natural Resources was refusing to meet with the area’s residents.
“Representative Ellington appears to be unaware of the facts,” a statement said. “Representatives of the Attorney General’s Office have visited the site and met with constituents on two separate occasions to discuss the suit, including Attorney General Koster’s in-person visit in early September 2015.”
The statement also said that the office wanted to wait to meet with constituents until after certain motions pending in the lawsuit were ruled on by the court.
“They responded to my office by saying they’re not going to show up,” Ellington said in response to the attorney general’s office’s statement. “That’s not an adequate response. When you ask for a town hall meeting, to have attorneys come down here and tell us what they can discuss, and if they can’t disclose that you tell people, ‘I can’t discuss that because that’s part of a lawsuit.’”
The situation dates back to as early as 2006 when gas began leaking from underground tanks at Inner City Oil, Inc., a gas station owned by Zill LLC. Last year, DNR confirmed that a gas leak had come from the gas station, located at 3816 E. 31st St. The attorney general has since filed a lawsuit against Zill.
But the neighborhood’s residents, many of whom were in attendance at the press conference, remain upset with the situation and as they were talking to reporters, gas could be smelt coming from grates along the sidewalk. Ellington said they are concerned that despite the DNR investigation, there was still concern from the neighborhoods about an ongoing leak and health risks in the neighborhood.
“I don’t want to talk to Mr. Murphy and he tells me there’s still gas coming out,” he said. “I don’t want to talk to Byron and the business owners over here and they tell me how hard it is to do business because customers have to come in here and be contaminated.”
He also called out the state’s elected officials, including Koster who toured the area with U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Kansas City, last year.
“I want the government to do their job and protect the people in which the have been elected to represent. That’s what I want.”
He said he has not yet gone to the federal government and the EPA about the incident yet, but said he’s considering it now that there won’t be a meeting with the people.