Isn’t your family’s health more important than Big Oil profits?
Jess Dervin-Ackerman, August 27, 2014
For too long, the Bay Area’s five oil refineries have been polluting our air and water and pouring money into local politics to ensure they can continue their dirty, harmful practices. In the Bay Area alone, air pollution kills nearly 2,000 people each year.
We need the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (the body tasked with regulating the refineries) to take strong and bold action to protect our communities from the toxic air pollution spewing from these facilities. Send a message to the Air District Board supporting a proactive approach to regulating refinery emissions now!
The Chevron refinery in Richmond is one of the worst offenders; two years ago this month, a huge fire at the facility sent upwards of 15,000 Richmond residents to the hospital with respiratory problems. Right now, the Chevron refinery is emitting fine particulate matter that causes heart and lung disease—and the rules allow them to do it. We need stronger regulations that prevent toxic polluters from poisoning Bay Area families, as well as specific action to cap fine particulate emissions from the Chevron refinery.
“My poster focuses on a young girl holding a pinwheel, which alludes to wind turbines, while the sun behind her alludes to solar energy … She looks up from the precipice, wearing on her face the symbol of the march: a green heart,” Jean said about his design.
If possible, on September 21 travel to New York City and join tens of thousands in the People’s Climate March two days before the United Nations Climate Summit 2014….Or, join us here in Davis for exhibits, speakers, films, and actions. It’s a modest way to join with others across the nation to urge government leaders to support an ambitious global agreement to dramatically reduce global warming.
This is an invitation to change everything.
When Bill McKibben published “A Call to Arms: An Invitation to Demand Action on Climate Change” in the June 5th edition of Rolling Stone, he wrote this confident sentence under the title:
When world leaders gather in New York this fall to confront climate change, tens of thousands of people (and maybe you) will be there to demand they take action before it’s too late.
McKibben credits most of the world’s leaders with doing what most of us have done – the easy things – but they haven’t set the world on a new course. For example, President Barack Obama pushed through more demanding mileage standards for cars, but he’s also opened huge areas of our land to oil drilling and coal mining, making the U.S. the world’s biggest petro producer.
Here’s a portion of McKibben’s essay worth reading.
Like other world leaders, Pres. Obama tried, but not nearly hard enough. Consider what he told The New Yorker in an interview earlier this year: “At the end of the day, we’re part of a long-running story. We just try to get our paragraph right.” And “I think we are fortunate at the moment that we do not face a crisis of the scale and scope that Lincoln or FDR faced.”
We do, though; we face a crisis as great as any president has ever encountered. Here’s how his paragraph looks so far: Since he took office, summer sea ice in the Arctic has mostly disappeared, and at the South Pole, scientists in May made clear that the process of massive melt is now fully under way, with 10 feet of sea-level rise in the offing. Scientists have discovered the depth of changes in ocean chemistry: that seawater is 30 percent more acidic than just four decades ago, and it’s already causing trouble for creatures at the bottom of the marine food chain. America has weathered the hottest year in its history, 2012, which saw a drought so deep that the corn harvest largely failed. At the moment, one of the biggest states in Obama’s union, California, is caught in a drought deeper than any time since Europeans arrived. Hell, a few blocks south of the U.N. buildings, Hurricane Sandy turned the Lower East Side of New York into a branch of the East River.
And that’s just the United States. The world’s scientists earlier this spring issued a 32-volume report explaining exactly how much worse it’s going to get, which is, to summarize, a lot worse even than they’d thought before. It’s not that the scientists are alarmists – it’s that the science is alarming. Here’s how one Princeton scientist summarized the situation for reporters: “We’re all sitting ducks.”
The gap between “We’re all sitting ducks” and “We do not face a crisis” is the gap between halfhearted action and the all-out effort that might make a difference. It’s the gap between changing light bulbs and changing the system that’s powering our destruction.
McKibben claims people who work for environmental justice, labor unions, people in faith groups, students, and middle class white folks are all united in this cry to change everything. There are examples in history when large numbers of people took to the streets and they succeeded in changing the course of history.
Michael Brune, Executive Director of the Sierra Club writes, “This isn’t just about getting a bunch of people to New York to march for an hour then go home. This is about making sure that the tipping point in the fight to halt climate disruption tips in the favor of the average citizen and clean energy prosperity, and that the world’s leaders see that the support to do so has reached a level that can no longer be ignored.”
So take heart. If you can’t be in NYC, join the Davis climate movement on September 21. Go to www.yolanoclimateaction.org for updates on how to be part of the local action.
Our fight to stop the bomb trains traveling through our backyards
By Suma Peesapati, August 28, 2014
“This issue needs to be acted on very quickly. There is a very high risk here that hasn’t been addressed. We don’t need a higher body count before they move forward.”
It was a mark-my-words moment from National Transportation Safety Board Chairwoman Deborah Hersman at her farewell appearance before stepping down from the position in April.
She was speaking about the explosive growth of the use of unsafe tanker cars to haul crude oil extracted from the Bakken reserve in North Dakota and Montana to refineries across our nation. When involved in derailments, many of these cars carrying the highly volatile fossil fuel are vulnerable to puncture and explosion upon impact. They were the cars that were involved in explosions in Aliceville, Alaska, in November, Casselton, N.D., a month later and, of course, last summer’s horrific reckoning in Lac Megantic, Quebec.
Not two weeks after Hersman made her remarks, a train carrying Bakken crude derailed in Lynchburg, Va., igniting a roaring blaze and prompting the evacuation of the entire downtown. The tankers involved, however, weren’t the cars that the former chairwoman was warning about. They were a tougher, supposedly safer car tank car that the rail and oil industry is slowly moving toward adopting. It begs the question, though, are these newer cars going to be safe enough?
This question recently hit home when a local news station exposed a clandestine crude by rail-loading operation in Richmond, here in the Bay Area, that had been flying under the radar for months. After making a backroom deal with the local air district, Kinder Morgan secured approval to introduce this highly explosive fracked crude through urban Bay Area neighborhoods without any public notice or environmental review.
Within two weeks after the story broke, Earthjustice sued the air district and Kinder Morgan, demanding a full public airing of the project’s risks to public health and safety. A hearing on the merits of this case is scheduled for Sept. 5 in San Francisco Superior Court. While we await our day in court, Kinder Morgan is unloading its crude just a half-mile from Washington Elementary School, in a low-income community of color that the air district recognizes as already overburdened by the very same carcinogenic toxic air contaminants released by handling Bakken crude.
Piling on to this environmental injustice, this crude is being loaded onto tanker trucks that are not certified by California. Those trucks then travel on Bay Area roadways until this dangerous commodity reaches its ultimate destination — the Tesoro refinery in Martinez.
Tesoro Martinez is also accepting Bakken crude from similar rail-to-truck crude transfer operations in Sacramento, thereby compounding the risk of accident. With some of the most treacherous mountain passes in the country, and a dilapidated railway system that was never designed or upgraded to transport such dangerous cargo, these trains are ticking time bombs.
The anemic response from state and federal regulators has been disappointing. Fortunately, our state and federal environmental laws gives private citizens a voice demand more than “business as usual.”
Suma Peesapati is an attorney for San Francisco-based Earthjustice.