Billboard company refuses ad on risks of rebuilding Husky Refinery in Superior, Wisc.
Lamar Advertising Corp., one of the largest outdoor advertising companies in the world, has refused to run billboards in Superior, Wisc. critical of rebuilding the Husky Refinery and touting the benefits of green energy, Honor the Earth said in a news release.
An equipment failure resulted in an explosion and fire at the Husky Refinery on April 26, 2018. It injured 36 people and forced the evacuation of thousands of Superior residents, the Star Tribune reported.
“The evacuations were ordered because of concerns that a release of hydrogen fluoride (HF) from the refinery could produce a deadly gas cloud. … Under the worst-case scenario, up to 180,000 people in the region surrounding the Lake Superior port community could have been hurt or killed if the blast had compromised a tank of hydrogen fluoride that sat within 200 feet of the Husky fire, according to a report by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).”
Honor the Earth, a northern Minnesota-based Indigenous-led environmental justice non profit, called Lamar’s actions “an act of censorship and a denial of freedom of expression.”
According to its news release:
“We’ve worked with Lamar a number of times, and so we were really surprised when we found this billboard was a problem,” said Winona LaDuke, Honor the Earth’s co-founder and executive director. “Looking at its record nationally, however, it seems Lamar hides behind its claims that it has the prerogative which billboard messages it chooses to run or not
run. But I think it’s pretty clear that it selectively chooses to censor important social-political and environmental statements they don’t agree with.”
This is at least the fifth known rejection by Lamar, a publicly traded company, of so-called controversial and advocacy billboards around the country, including:
- An August 2020 denial of a Black Lives Matter billboard in Milwaukee, which the city’s Common Council called “highly disturbing.”
- Another August 2020 billboard in Boise — celebrating “Black & Brown Folks Built This Country / (And We’re Doing It Again) / Join Us Or Get Out Of The Way” — was pulled after being up for a day.
- A May 2017 denial of a PETA billboard in Baton Rouge, La., chiding Sea World for its treatment of Orca Whales.
- In 2009 in Birmingham, Alabama, … Lamar refused to sell ad space to an atheist that tried to put up an ad that said, “imagine no religion.” The reason for the refusal to sell ad space was that the General Manager of Lamar Advertising in Birmingham said, “It was offensive to me.”
Besides the environmental concerns raised by the billboard, the continued use of highly toxic Hydrogen Fluoride at the refinery, poses unacceptable health risks to the Twin Ports community, according to Health Professionals for a Healthy Climate, a coalition of over 500 allied health professionals from across the state of Minnesota, Honor’s release said.