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Richmond v Chevron: the California city taking on its most powerful polluter

Susie Cagle, THE GUARDIAN

The Chevron refinery that looms over Richmond, California, its muted orange tanks nestled into the scrubby low-slung hills above San Francisco Bay, is older than the city itself.

The refinery processes nearly 250,000 barrels of crude oil each day. When it “flares”, as it did more often in 2018 than in any other year over the past decade, dark smoke spirals up and across town in the bay breeze.

When it explodes, like it did in 1989, 1999 and 2012, the thick cloud is visible across the bay and beyond, a blot against the sky that ascends before falling and settling on everything within a multi-mile vicinity that is not covered, closed or sealed up.

A fire on 6 August 2012 sent more than 15,000 people to seek treatment for respiratory distress at local hospitals.

Richmond has long been known for the three Cs: crime, corruption and Chevron. You could also add coal to that list, which the Levin-Richmond terminal began exporting out of the city in 2013, along with coke, the petroleum-refining byproduct.

Despite its proximity to San Francisco and Silicon Valley’s wealth, Richmond’s median household income is below the California state average, with more than 15% of residents living in poverty. More than 80% of residents are people of colour. And Richmond children have roughly twice the rate of asthma as their neighbours countywide.

“It’s a textbook example of an environmental justice community,” said Matt Holmes, the executive director of the nonprofit Groundwork Richmond. “I think the whole country owes Richmond a debt.”

And the city is here to collect. Richmond may be a company city, but it is in open and sustained conflict with the industries that sustain it. Environmental justice activists here are fighting a multi-front war against the fossil fuels that gave the city life, but which, they argue, are also slowly killing it.

Read more at https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/oct/09/richmond-chevron-california-city-polluter-fossil-fuel

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BoDean asphalt plant moving to Windsor, with aim to convert Santa Rosa site to housing

Will Schmidt, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

The owners of a prominent asphalt plant in central Santa Rosa are planning to move their business to Windsor, laying the groundwork for affordable housing to replace an industrial operation that the owners acknowledge no longer fits into a neighborhood the city has targeted for dense residential development.

BoDean Co. founders Dean and Belinda “Bo” Soiland said their new, larger site in Windsor is better suited for continued industrial use than the current site south of West College Avenue, where the city has taken a stronger regulatory stance in recent years as complaints have mounted from neighbors.

Paperwork to build the new plant will be submitted to Windsor officials in July, Dean Soiland said. The Soilands had not finalized plans for their Santa Rosa property, though planning work there could proceed on a parallel track to development of the new Windsor plant.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/9658672-181/bodean-asphalt-plant-moving-to

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Neighbors sue to halt Safeway gas station construction in Petaluma

Yousef Baig, PETALUMA ARGUS-COURIER

A controversial Safeway gas station project is on hold pending approval of a city permit. Meanwhile, a group of residents that has filed a lawsuit to stop the east Petaluma project will likely seek a temporary injunction to pause work on the site while the case makes its way through the courts.

Save Petaluma, which is attempting to overturn the city council’s April 1 decision to deny an appeal and approve the 335 South McDowell Blvd. project, filed the suit in Sonoma County Superior Court this month, naming Petaluma as the respondent and Safeway as the real party of interest.

So far, Safeway has applied for a demolition permit for the current structure at the corner of the Washington Square Shopping Center, but the permit application is still under review, according to city officials.

Patrick Soluri, the Sacramento-based attorney representing Save Petaluma, said he will likely pursue an injunction to freeze construction efforts at the site until the case has been decided. Had Safeway been authorized and demolition had gotten underway, the corporation would have been protected under what’s known as a vested rights doctrine.

“We would seek injunctive relief if necessary to protect the citizens of Petaluma and also preserve the integrity of land-use and environmental decision-making in the city,” Soluri said in an email.

Read more at https://www.petaluma360.com/news/9625724-181/petaluma-reviews-safeway-gas-station

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Lawsuit launched to protect Sonoma County residents from airport lead pollution

Press Release, April 30, CENTER FOR BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY

Environmental groups filed a formal notice today of their intent to sue the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for failing to protect northern Sonoma County residents from deadly airborne lead emitted by planes using local airports.

California has repeatedly submitted air-permitting rules for northern Sonoma County that failed to include emission standards for lead, a deadly neurotoxin. Under the Clean Air Act the EPA is required to develop air-quality plans when states submit deficient plans. The plans are designed to help states keep their air pollution below federal limits.

“The EPA needs to act expeditiously and develop new permitting rules that will protect our communities from the irreversible effects of lead poisoning,” said Caroline Cox, a senior scientist at the Center for Environmental Health. “Young children and pregnant women are particularly vulnerable to lead exposure and deserve regulations that provide the highest protections available.”

Lead pollution is a serious problem in northern Sonoma County, where several local airports, including the Sea Ranch, Healdsburg Municipal and Cloverdale Municipal, service small piston-engine powered aircrafts typically used for corporate and private travel. Such planes use aviation gas, the only remaining type of gasoline containing lead. According to the EPA, the more than 167,000 piston-engine planes in operation are responsible for nearly half of all lead emissions nationwide.

“There’s no excuse for allowing small planes to continue to poison Sonoma County’s air,” said Robert Ukeiley, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The EPA needs to take immediate steps to reduce the dangerous threats posed by toxic lead.”

A 2011 Duke University study reported that as far back as 2010, EPA research showed that “the lead in air surrounding airports can be inhaled directly, or the lead may be ingested by children after it settles into soil or dust.”

The Duke study found that higher levels of lead were detected in North Carolina children living within half a mile of an airport where planes use leaded gas. The study concluded there was a “significant association” between leaded aviation fuel and higher blood lead levels in children.

Lead is a heavy metal that can persist in the environment indefinitely. Continuous exposure causes it to accumulate in the body’s organs and bones. Short-term exposure to lead can result in abdominal pain, constipation, fatigue, headaches, irritability, loss of appetite, memory loss, pain or tingling in the hands or feet and weakness. Long-term exposure can result in kidney and brain damage, hypertension, impairments to the immune and reproductive systems and even death.

Lead poisoning is also a threat to wildlife. Northern Sonoma County is home to endangered steelhead trout, as well as protected coho and Chinook salmon, which rely on the Russian River to spawn. The successful recovery and health of the Chinook salmon is critically important to Southern Resident killer whales, which depend almost exclusively on the fish as their food.

SOURCE: https://www.biologicaldiversity.org/news/press_releases/2019/sonoma-county-lead-pollution-04-30-2019.php

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US cities burn recyclables after China bans imports

Oliver Milman, THE GUARDIAN

The conscientious citizens of Philadelphia continue to put their pizza boxes, plastic bottles, yoghurt containers and other items into recycling bins.
Fighting pollution: Toledo residents want personhood status for Lake Erie
Read more

But in the past three months, half of these recyclables have been loaded on to trucks, taken to a hulking incineration facility and burned, according to the city’s government.

It’s a situation being replicated across the US as cities struggle to adapt to a recent ban by China on the import of items intended for reuse.

The loss of this overseas dumping ground means that plastics, paper and glass set aside for recycling by Americans is being stuffed into domestic landfills or is simply burned in vast volumes. This new reality risks an increase of plumes of toxic pollution that threaten the largely black and Latino communities who live near heavy industry and dumping sites in the US.

About 200 tons of recycling material is sent to the huge Covanta incinerator in Chester City, Pennsylvania, just outside Philadelphia, every day since China’s import ban came into practice last year, the company says.

Read more at https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2019/feb/21/philadelphia-covanta-incinerator-recyclables-china-ban-imports

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New ARB report finds California regions are falling short on climate goals, as pollution from driving increases

CLIMATE PLAN

Top findings

Today’s report on those plans finds that regions have made progress in some areas, but not nearly enough to meet their goals:

1. Regions are not on track to meet their climate goals, not for 2020 or even for 2035.
2. Statewide, driving is increasing. The trend is going in the wrong direction — each of us is driving more, not less.
3. Not enough investment is going toward climate-friendly transportation — including walking, bicycling, and public transit — or affordable housing near jobs and transit.
4. Action is needed at every level of government — cities, counties, regions, and the state — to get on track.

“To reduce emissions, the most sustainable options need to be the most convenient,” said Ella Wise, State Policy Associate at ClimatePlan.

Today the California Air Resources Board (ARB) released a new report finding that California regions are not on track to meet either their 2020 or 2035 climate targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Additional action from every level of government is required, including more investment in sustainable transportation and affordable homes near jobs and transit. The report can be downloaded here.

Each metropolitan region in the state has a plan, required by law, to reduce emissions by reducing the need to drive. However, the report finds that regions are failing to deliver on their plans. Part of regions’ failure is due to challenges beyond their control, such as limited state funding and local land use decisions. But regions continue to invest in highways, which results in more driving, not less.

Read more at https://www.climateplan.org/new_report_california_regions_falling_short_on_climate_driving_increases

Posted on Categories Air, Land UseTags , , , Leave a comment on Santa Rosa asphalt plant wins final round in prolonged court fight

Santa Rosa asphalt plant wins final round in prolonged court fight

Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

A judge this week blocked Santa Rosa officials from requiring an asphalt plant to get a use permit for equipment installed more than a decade ago.

The city has long maintained the BoDean Co. did an array of work at its Maxwell Drive facility between 2005 and 2007 without the proper permits.

BoDean officials have countered that their special status as a facility that predates and is therefore exempt from current residential zoning code meant they either didn’t need any permits for such work, or didn’t need the more in-depth use permits. Such permits require a prolonged process that can involve hearings before the Planning Commission and restrictions on uses of the property.

This week, however, Sonoma County Superior Court Judge René Chouteau, a former city attorney, sided with BoDean, ruling that the asphalt plant, which has been operated continuously since the 1950s, had vested rights that the city needed to respect.

Read more at http://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/8526921-181/santa-rosa-asphalt-plant-wins

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Banned ozone-harming gas creeps back, suggesting a mystery source

Henry Fountain, THE NEW YORK TIMES

Government scientists have detected an increase in emissions of an outlawed industrial gas that destroys ozone, potentially slowing progress in restoring the atmosphere’s protective ozone layer.

The scientists say that the increase is likely a result of new, unreported production of the gas, known as CFC-11, probably in East Asia. Global production of CFC-11, which has been used as a refrigerant and in insulating foams, has been banned since 2010 under an environmental pact, the Montreal Protocol.

The protocol was adopted in the late 1980s in response to studies that showed CFC-11 and similar gases, collectively known as chlorofluorocarbons, depleted atmospheric ozone. A layer of ozone in the stratosphere helps filter ultraviolet radiation from the sun that can cause skin cancer.

Read more at https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/16/climate/ozone-layer-cfc.html

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German court rules cities can ban diesel cars to tackle pollution

Kate Connolly, THE GUARDIAN

Millions of heavily polluting vehicles could eventually disappear from roads across Germany after its top administrative court ruled that cities have the right to ban diesel motors in an effort to improve deadly air quality levels.

Tuesday’s historic decision potentially affects an estimated 12m vehicles and has delivered a heavy blow to Europe’s largest car market, while being celebrated by environmental campaigners.

Germany’s highest administrative court in Leipzig ruled in favour of upholding bans that were introduced by lower courts in the cities of Stuttgart and Düsseldorf, two of the most polluted German cities, after appeals were lodged by the states of Baden-Württemberg and North Rhine-Westphalia.

The Leipzig court ruling in the case, which was originally brought by the environmental groups Deutsche Umwelthilfe (German environmental aid or DUH) and ClientEarth, paves the way for cities across Germany to follow suit.

“It’s a great day for clean air in Germany,” Jürgen Resch, of the DUH, said.

Read more at https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/feb/27/german-court-rules-cities-can-ban-diesel-cars-to-tackle-pollution

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Want cleaner air? Try using less deodorant

Kendra Pierre-Louis and Hiroko Tabuchi, NEW YORK TIMES

The deodorants, perfumes and soaps that keep us smelling good are fouling the air with a harmful type of pollution — at levels as high as emissions from today’s cars and trucks.

That’s the surprising finding of a study published Thursday in the journal Science. Researchers found that petroleum-based chemicals used in perfumes, paints and other consumer products can, taken together, emit as much air pollution in the form of volatile organic compounds, or V.O.C.s, as motor vehicles do.

The V.O.C.s interact with other particles in the air to create the building blocks of smog, namely ozone, which can trigger asthma and permanently scar the lungs, and another type of pollution known as PM2.5, fine particles that are linked to heart attacks, strokes and lung cancer.

Smog is generally associated with cars, but since the 1970s regulators have pushed automakers to invest in technologies that have substantially reduced V.O.C. emissions from automobiles. So the rising share of air pollution caused by things like pesticides and hair products is partly an effect of cars getting cleaner. But that breathing room has helped scientists see the invisible pollutants that arise from a spray of deodorant or a dollop of body lotion.

Read more at https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/16/climate/perfume-pollution-smog.html