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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

Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, Land Use, WaterTags , , ,

Op-Ed: Standing with the Standing Rock Sioux 

Adam Villagomez and Jenny Blaker, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

More than 500 people marched in silence through Santa Rosa on Dec. 4 in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux water protectors who have been putting their lives on the line at the Dakota Access Pipeline.

The vigil was timed to coincide with 2,000 veterans arriving at Standing Rock to act as nonviolent “human shields” for the water protectors, who had suffered a violent onslaught at the hands of the fossil fuel industry, with dogs, pepper spray, rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannons in sub-zero temperatures and militarized police from six states. There has been a massive groundswell of support for the water protectors in Sonoma County and around the world.

The tribe’s fundamental human rights and rights as a sovereign nation have been violated. As with so many other Native American tribes, they have been swindled, cheated and lied to for years with repeatedly broken treaties and forced displacement. In an egregious example of environmental racism, the pipeline was rerouted away from Bismarck, the capital of North Dakota, through Sioux lands, after Bismarck’s mainly white residents rejected it as a threat to their water supply.

A leak from the 1,200-mile pipeline, slated to pass under the Missouri River, would threaten the lives of millions of people downstream and thousands of acres of farming, ranch lands and wildlife habitat. For the Standing Rock Sioux, the Earth is their mother, and protecting her is a spiritual responsibility. The water is her blood and the streams and rivers are her veins. We and the generations to come cannot live without water, the water of life.

The unprecedented convergence of more than 100 tribes, with indigenous people and their allies from all over the world, unites the struggle for indigenous rights and sovereignty with the movement for environmental justice, the protection of the right to clean water and growing concern about climate change and the role of the fossil fuel industry.

Greenhouse gas emissions are escalating, and average world temperatures have been hitting record highs every year. According to climate scientists, using all the oil already available, even without exploiting new reserves, will start a cascade of repercussions that will threaten our survival. The oil needs to stay in the ground.

As protestors gathered outside Citibank in Santa Rosa, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers denied to Energy Transfer Partners the easement that would allow it to complete the pipeline. An environmental impact assessment will be required, with full public input and analysis. Cheers erupted, while in North Dakota veterans put down their helmets and riot shields to dance in celebration with their hosts.

In an unprecedented historic moment, veterans asked forgiveness of the tribal elders for the damage done to them throughout history.

But this is far from the end of the story. Energy Transfer Partners’ CEO Kelcy Warren and President-elect Donald Trump, who, until recently, held considerable assets in the $3.8 billion pipeline, are adamant that it will go ahead. The day after the Army Corps of Engineers made its announcement, Energy Transfer Partners began legal action to overturn it.

However, delays have already cost the company $450 million. The largest bank in Norway has withdrawn its assets. The Dakota Access Pipeline is contractually obligated to complete by Jan. 1, and if it does not, contractors could pull out, incurring further losses.

According to Lakota prophecy, a black snake will come to destroy the world. In the seventh generation, the youth will rise up to fight it. The pipeline is the black snake, and the youth are rising with extraordinary courage and determination.Now the black snake is wounded, but it is not yet dead and the fight to come may get even harder.
Adam Villagomez, a member of the Dakota Sioux/Chippewa, lives in Sonoma County and works at the Sonoma County Indian Health Project. He is part of a local group that took food and medical supplies to Standing Rock during Indigenous People’s Day. Jenny Blaker, a Cotati resident, is a member of Solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux of Sonoma County.
Source: Close to Home: Standing with the Standing Rock Sioux | The Press Democrat