Category Archives: Environmental justice

Andrés Soto letter: Not fooled by Big Oil and Big Rail

Letter to the editor, The Benicia Herald
[Editor: Note that letters do not appear in the online edition of the Benicia Herald.  Andrés Soto lives in Benicia and is well-known throughout the San Francisco Bay Area for his environmental justice advocacy and his mastery of the saxophone.  I particularly like Andrés’ focus on 19th century historical context.  – RS]

Not fooled by Big Oil and Big Rail

By Andrés Soto, July 23, 2015

Dear Editor:

Andres Soto
Andrés Soto

The recent phenomenon of transporting dangerous, volatile Bakken Crude by rail has created an opportunity for the American people to learn the true motives of Big Oil and Big Rail and what we as impacted communities can do about it.

Continuing derailments, explosions, fires and evacuations have shined the light on the Profit At Any Cost attitude of Big Oil and Big Rail. These industries grew up together in the late 19th century and led to some of the most egregious periods of income inequality, corruption and social conflict in US history.

Now these industries are asking us to trust them and allow them to bring Bomb Trains through our communities, putting our town’s economic viability at risk for a short-term economic gain. Exploding trains all over North America tell us a different story and we are not fooled.

Currently, the Valero Crude By Rail Project and the Phillips 66 San Luis Obispo Crude By Rail Project both put our town at risk for a catastrophe. Communities all over the country are standing up to oppose this high risk venture by Big Oil and Big Rail. Recently, the WesPAC Crude By Rail Project in Pittsburg, California removed the rail part of the project to make it a straight pipeline project.

Fracked Bakken Crude and strip mined Alberta Tar Sands Crude are just two of the Extreme Extracted Crude strategies by Big Oil to bring oil to market that would be better left in the ground. An intelligent global cooling plan to save our planet for future generations and all species requires the we leave the oil beneath the soil!.

Valero has already admitted it can and is bringing Extreme Crude in by barge to the Port of Benicia, thus it does not need the Valero Crude By Rail Project to be profitable. Therefore, it begs the question: Why would we, the people of Benicia, allow this project to proceed when it is just too dangerous?

Global warming is going to cause significant parts of Benicia to be underwater. Shouldn’t we be working on preventing that, rather than trying find ways to contribute to the problem?

We are the people of Benicia and our voices need to be heard! The Benicia Planning Commission and the Benicia City Council have a responsibility to listen to us and do what is in the best interests of ALL Benicians. Stop Valero’s Dangerous Crude By rail Project!!!

Andrés Soto
Benicia, CA

    Pittsburg CA: Suit claims EPA failed to investigate

    Repost from the Contra Costa Times

    Pittsburg: Suit claims EPA failed to investigate complaints of environmental discrimination

    By Bay City News Service, 07/21/2015 09:43:40 AM PDT

    PITTSBURG – A consortium of environmental groups sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for failing to investigate complaints of discrimination in the placement of power plants or hazardous waste dumps in various locations across the country, including two power plants in Pittsburg.

    The EPA has 180 days to respond to the complaints, but according to the suit, which was filed on July 15, the federal regulator has not responded to the complaints in 10 to 20 years in some cases.

    The suit includes allegations about facilities in Michigan, Texas, New Mexico, Alabama and California.

    In Pittsburg, the suit alleges that the local regulatory agencies — the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, the California Air Resources Board, and the California Energy Commission — discriminated against residents by locating two power plants in an already environmentally over-burdened area, according to Marianne Engelman Lado, a lawyer with Earthjustice, which is representing the plaintiffs.

    “This is in a community where people have high rates of asthma or cancer and they were concerned that these plants would add to that,” Engelman Lado said.

    Californians for Renewable Energy, or CARE, filed a complaint with the EPA’s Office of Civil Rights in April 2000 charging the local agencies discriminated against the predominantly nonwhite and low-income residents by failing to consider the additional environmental burden of the two new plants, the complaint alleges.

    Permitting for the plants, the Los Medanos Energy Center LLC and Delta Energy Center, continued and the plants were approved and went online in 2001 and 2002, respectively, according to the complaint. The EPA accepted the complaint in December 2001 but has yet to conduct an investigation into the allegations, despite attempts in 2006 and 2009 by CARE to prompt the federal agency to respond, the complaint alleges.

    In June 2002, the EPA classified Los Medanos Energy Center as being in “significant violation” of the Clean Air Act and over the last five years the facility has had to pay over $3,000 in fines for violating the act, according to the complaint.

    In the meantime, residents have been suffering the consequences, Engelman Lado said.

    “The plants are still standing and they’re polluting,” she said. “They’re emitting toxins and the community is living with that everyday.”

    Engelman Lado said it’s clear the EPA has violated the law, and she’s hoping the lawsuit will result in the EPA completing their investigation.

    Engelman Lado added she’s confident that when the EPA does complete the investigation, it will make findings of discrimination.

    “We would hope, whether through a court order or by sitting down at the table, we could bring resources to bear to say, ‘What can we do to help these communities who are suffering from a lack of infrastructure or resources,'” she said.

    That could take the form of more monitoring, infrastructure to mitigate some of the negative impacts of the power plants, or more extensive buffers between the community and the plants.

    A representative from the EPA did not return a request for comment.


      Oil trains in California risk to minorities, poor, report says

      Repost from

      Crude oil trains in California risk to minorities, poor, report says

      By Bob Downing, June 30, 2015

      From ForestEthics today:  Highest Threat from Oil Trains in California Aligned with Race and Income: New Environmental Justice Report Links Dangerous Rail Routes with Census Data

      [Oakland, CA] Public interest groups today released the Crude Injustice on the Rails report evaluating the disparate threat to people of color and low-income communities from explosions and pollution from crude oil trains in California.

      The groups ForestEthics and Communities for a Better Environment evaluated oil train routes and US Census data to determine who was at greatest risk from pollution and potential oil trains derailments and explosions, like the fatal July 2013 Lac Megantic oil train disaster.

      “It’s simple, oil trains contribute to environmental racism in California,” says Nile Malloy, Northern California Program Director, Communities for a Better Environment. “Environmental justice communities like Richmond and Wilmington that already live with the highest risk are hardest hit. It’s time for a just and quick transition to clean energy.”

      The groups report that Californians of color are more likely to live in the oil train blast zone, the dangerous one-mile evacuation zone in the case of an oil train derailment and fire. While 60 percent of Californians live in environmental justice communities – communities with racial minorities, low income, or non-English speaking households – 80 percent of the 5.5 million Californians with homes in the blast zone live in environmental justice communities. Nine out of ten of California’s largest cities on oil train routes have an even higher rate of discriminatory impact than the state average. In these cities, 82–100 percent of people living in the blast zone are in environmental justice communities.

      “The maps paint a scary picture of who lives with threat of explosions and the health risks from pollution and disruption from dangerous 100-plus car crude oil trains,” says Matt Krogh, ForestEthics extreme oil campaign director and one of the authors of the report. “In California you are 33 percent more likely to live in the blast zone if you live in a nonwhite, low income, or non-English speaking household.”

      The groups recommend immediate federal, state and local action to address this environmental discrimination, including a moratorium on oil imports into the state by rail, and action by the state attorney general, US EPA Office of Civil Rights, and US Department of Justice to enforce federal and state laws.

      “Oil trains are a threat to our communities and to our climate — but the threat is not evenly shared,” says Todd Paglia, ForestEthics executive director. “The Crude Injustice report shows that in California people of color are the most exposed to these dangers demonstrating another area where our nation’s past and current challenges on issues of race show up loud and clear.”

      “Our communities are working to build healthier, greener and thriving communities,” says Alicia Rivera, Communities for a Better Environment Los Angeles organizer.  “Crude by rail is another deadly threat to our families.  This is why we are joining across communities to demand environmental rights along the rails, on July 11th,” Rivera said.

      July 6-11 ForestEthics, CBE, and other groups are coordinating the Stop Oil Trains Week of Action with more than 100 events across the US and Canada.

      The report, Crude Injustice on the Rails: Race and the Disparate Risk from Oil Trains in California, is available in English and Spanish at:


      ForestEthics demands environmental responsibility from government and the biggest companies in the world. Visit our to see if you are one of the 25 million Americans who live in the dangerous one-mile oil train evacuation zone.

      CBE works to build people’s power in California’s communities of color and low-income communities to achieve environmental health and justice by preventing and reducing pollution and building green, healthy and sustainable communities and environments.

      Repost from ForestEthics

      Crude Injustice on Rails in California

      By Eddie Scher, Monday Jun 29, 2015

      Environmental Injustice on RailsPublic interest groups today released the Crude Injustice on the Rails report evaluating the disparate threat to people of color and low-income communities from explosions and pollution from crude oil trains in California.

      The groups ForestEthics and Communities for a Better Environment evaluated oil train routes and US Census data to determine who was at greatest risk from  pollution and potential oil trains derailments and explosions, like the fatal July 2013 Lac Megantic oil train disaster.

      REPORT: Crude Injustice on the Rails: Race and Disparate Risk from Oil Train in California

      REPORTE: La Cruda Injusticia de los Carriles: Raza y el Riesgo Desproporcionado de los Trenes Petroleros en California

      For more information about the environmental justice impacts on Latino and low-income communities of color in California blast zones, contact Communities for a Better Environment.