Category Archives: Keep it in the ground

Orcem/VMT Letter: Environmental Misdirection

Repost from the Vallejo Times-Herald, Letters

Environmental misdirection

By Jeff Carlson, March 12, 2019 at 6:00 am

The corporate interests desperate to salvage an ill-conceived waterfront slag cement mill application, now staggering on its last legs under appeal, will attempt to pull off a sly last minute magic trick. Like most magic tricks, it relies on misdirection to draw the observer’s attention away from what they should really be looking at. Instead of talking about community values and our aspirations for the future character of our city for decades to come, the applicants want us to focus on the arcane intricacies of a technical environmental review process.

It’s a cynical calculated strategy designed to take a process intended to inform decision-makers and the public and turn it into an inaccessible debate among “experts” — impossible for the general public to follow or critically evaluate. Just check out the EIR analysis of traffic impacts from all the heavy diesel truck and crosstown freight train trips the project would generate at various intersections. See if you can make heads or tails of how they arrive at their numbers. Likewise for the modeling of the impacts to air quality from all the various pollutants the project would release. One more version of an environmental report and re-hash of emissions thresholds and mitigations adds nothing useful to the discussion, but the applicants are determined to create the illusion that the decision should hinge on nothing else.

The city staff who worked on this project application for years recommended that the permits be denied, not because the project crossed this or that threshold of significance in the environmental review, but because a heavy industry project in that location is fundamentally incompatible with the surrounding neighborhood land uses. The city commission primarily responsible for making rational decisions about land use compatibility and planning overwhelmingly agreed, and voted to deny the permits. The city’s general plan update process conducted at a cost of millions of dollars with broad public participation over a period of years resulted in a very different vision for a walkable connected waterfront, in line with the Bay Commission’s public access guidelines.

Why should we pay any attention to one more round of technical environmental analysis? If a deep-pockets corporation can pay experts-for-hire to come up with greatly improved numbers at this late date, it only goes to show what those numbers are really worth. It’s particularly galling after years of trying to avoid and game the environmental review process that the applicant’s would now so desperately cling to it as their last hope.

Former City officials and some members of the lead agency repeatedly demonstrated impermissible pre-approval of the project over a period of years prior to environmental review, beginning with the resurrection and transfer of a lease for public trust land with amendments that anticipate major impactful development. A one-vote majority of the Vallejo City Council colluded in secret with the applicants in a private planning initiative, and explicitly tied the goals of their ad hoc committee with approval of the project before even a first draft EIR was ready. CEQA requires that the public be allowed to evaluate and comment on an environmental analysis based on a stable project description. All the talk of trying to approve a final version of a radically altered project now without re-circulating a new draft EIR for public comment is not at all realistic and will never fly.

This decision is not about thresholds of significance or mitigation measures, it’s about what we value as a community and consider worth preserving and protecting. Residents in the proposed project impact zone already suffer some of the highest rates of pollution-related health effects in the state, including low birth weight babies and heart and lung diseases. No matter what a final EIR and the mercenary experts have to say, it won’t change the fact that instead of an accessible walkable waterfront, local residents would get heavy neighborhood truck traffic and another load of particulate and gas pollutants on top of the unfair burden they already carry.

Let’s ignore the magical misdirection and expert dog and pony shows masquerading as participatory public forums, and keep our attention focused where it belongs. The quality of economic development matters, and the old take-whatever-comes-along approach to city planning is completely irrational. The council is under no legal obligation to wait for another version of the EIR, and I’m sorry — the applicant’s fairness argument is laughable. This project was never worth anywhere near the resources and effort the city put into it, and the costs in terms of political division and acrimony continue to pile up. Time to pull the plug and turn out the lights on this magic show.

— Jeff Carlson/Vallejo
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    Local and Ecuador leaders protest at Chevron in Richmond

    Press Release from AmazonWatch

    Bay Area environmental and indigenous organizations join protest to call attention to Chevron’s key role in causing destruction to people and planet

    MAY 17, 2018, FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
    Tell Amazon.com to Protect the Real Amazon!
    AMAZON WATCH

    Richmond, CA – Indigenous leaders from the Ecuadorian Amazon joined Bay Area allies at Chevron’s Richmond Refinery on Thursday morning to call on California’s political leadership to phase out oil and gas production and processing in the state, including its importation of crude oil drilled in the Amazon rainforest.


    For more information contact:
    Moira Birss 1.510.394.2041 moira@amazonwatch.org
    Zoë Cina-Sklar 1.510.671.1878 zoe@amazonwatch.org
    Interviews, photos, and more information available upon request


    Gloria Ushigua and Manari Ushigua, leaders of the Sapara people, called attention to the impacts that the fossil fuel economy – including Chevron’s key role in causing destruction to people and planet. In addition to Chevron’s toxic legacy in Ecuador, the Sapara leaders and allies from Communities for a Better Environment, Green Action, and Bay Area indigenous-led organization Idle No More SF Bay outlined how California’s oil and gas extraction and processing is harming communities from the Ecuadorian Amazon to Richmond, California.

    The Sapara Nation of the Ecuadorian Amazon is recognized by UNESCO as an “Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity” because their language and culture are in danger of disappearing. There are about 500 Sapara people still living in their ancestral home, a large territory that is a critical part of the Amazonian ecosystem. However, Sapara territory – and the Sapara themselves – are in serious danger from oil drilling planned for two oil blocks that overlap with approximately 500,000 acres of their ancestral territory.

    Chevron refineries throughout California are the largest purchasers and processors of crude oil imported from the Amazon rainforest, as well as one of the state’s biggest overall polluters. A 2017 Amazon Watch report demonstrated that half of crude oil exports from the Western Amazon come to California, adding to the toxic impact of the California’s fossil fuel production and refining industry.

    Manari Ushigua Santi, Sapara Nation, said: “The possibility of oil drilling in our territory – something the Ecuadorian government is pushing – could be the end of the Sapara people, and certainly an end to our strong connection with the forest. After all, there are few of us, and we have seen the deforestation and cultural destruction already caused by oil drilling in other parts of the Amazon. Now that we know about the link between oil from the Amazon and California refineries, we know that the state government’s continued support of the oil industry also puts us and other peoples of the Amazon in danger.

    Gloria Ushigua Santi, Sapara Nation, said: “We are all fighting for our survival, to protect our little pieces of land. I have seen how destructive the fossil fuel industry is for California’s own communities. I don’t want our land to become polluted, like this land by the refinery. We call on California’s leadership to move quickly from an unsustainable reliance on a fossil fuel economy to a sustainable one based on renewable energy. Anything less puts the Sapara, the Amazon and other Amazonian indigenous peoples, California communities, and our entire global climate in danger.”

    Isabella Zizi, Idle No More SF Bay, said: “It’s important to be here today because it shows that the very resistance starts in our own backyards. It makes a direct connection to what is happening down in the Ecuadorian Amazon with our indigenous brothers and sisters and our relatives down there who are facing the same destruction and harms to their own people and that we can come together and unite and make change together and stand up to Big Oil.”

    Andrés Soto, Communities for a Better Environment, said: “I’m here today representing Communities for a Better Environment with our ongoing solidarity with Amazon Watch and the advocacy that connects the extractive activities in Ecuador directly to the refining activities in Richmond and the commonalities of not only health impacts but also political corruption. We need to link our resistance because we’re dealing with transnational corporations and so we also need to have a transnational resistance.”

    Leila Salazar-López, Amazon Watch Executive Director, said: “Continued oil and gas extraction in California – both on land and offshore – and its imports of Amazon crude is a significant obstacle to doing what science says must be done to prevent the worst outcomes from climate change: keeping fossil fuels in the ground.”

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      ALBANY NY: Break Free’ Protest Against Fracking, Bomb Trains

      Repost from DeSmogBlog
      [Editor:  See also Climate Activists Block Port Of Albany ‘Bomb Trains’ In New York, Popular Resistance.  – RS]

      “Whatever God May Bring”: Albany ‘Break Free’ Protest Against Fracking, Bomb Trains

      By Zach Roberts • Tuesday, May 17, 2016 – 11:39

      On May 14, thousands of people around the world joined together for marches, rallies and civil disobedience against dirty energy. While their specific causes may have ranged from stopping pipelines to preventing crude oil “bomb trains,” the unifying idea was to ‘break free’ from fossil fuels.

      According to organizers, 2,000 people attended the Break Free Albany rally that featured speeches from different groups, such as Iris Marie Bloom of Protecting Our Waters.

      As one of the final speakers at the rally she spoke about the Pilgrim Pipeline but in general the cause for the action, “We are all here to protect our climate, because the oil bomb trains are bad for climate, Bakken oil extraction is bad for climate… From the beginning — the cradle, the Bakken Shale, the tar sands — to the grave, Philadelphia refineries, other refineries, and the end use… we got to stop it all!”

      Moving from Lincoln Park, the rally took to the streets in a planned march to the Port of Albany.

      The first stop along the way was a low-income housing development which shared a back yard with a defacto “bomb train” parking lot. According to activists speaking at the protest the oil cars sit and idle for hours within yards of children’s bedrooms. The road that the marchers were standing on and blocking was also an oil transportation route used regularly by trucks to get to and from the port.

      Carolyn McLaughlin, president of the Albany Common Council, demanded that people in Washington listen to the marchers:

      “We have to make sure the black wall of environmental injustice does not return down here to Ezra Prentice… the people of Ezra Prentice and all along these tracks deserve better, we demand better, we will not take no for an answer.”

      Moving parallel to the tracks, the march moved to its final destination, a road crossing that allowed the activists to set up a stage and prevent railroad cars from passing through. Music, dancing and speakers filled the small stage, along with an amplified audio set-up powered by a solar panel.

      Finishing out the evening’s speakers was actor and activist James Cromwell who spoke to DeSmog:

      “Even though we have a ban on fracking in New York, the governor and the legislators didn’t see fit to ban the use of fracked products. So now what we have is the build-out of hydrofracking infrastructure, pipelines, compressors, metering stations. This commits us for the next 30 to 40 years to fossil fuels. It cannot happen, we will not have a planet.”

      Actor James Cromwell is a long-time activist, but it wasn’t until he move to Upstate New York that he got involved in the fight against fracking. In an interview with DeSmog, he called for the Governor of New York to end fracking infrastructure that still runs throughout the state. © 2016 Zach Roberts

      To the march organizers’ surprise, the Albany police allowed the activists to stay long past their agreed upon permit — refusing to arrest anyone for occupying the tracks.

      So the Break Free organizers decided to try to build an encampment. Immediately they set to work getting rope, tarps and other necessities like cinder blocks to make large tents for people to stay under as the weather forecast called for heavy rain.

      The police allowed the now occupiers to build their tents with many warnings that any ‘structure’ would be taken down. 15-minute warnings expanded as organizers negotiated with police — but the police were standing firm.

      Joking with one of the cops, I asked: “You’re just waiting until the rain starts to take the tents down… aren’t you?” The officer responded with a smirk, “Whatever God may bring.”

      God brought torrential rain and wind.

      And then the police swooped in. With activists singing and locking arms, the police aggressively, but with care not to harm anyone, ripped the tarps from their place and hauled them off in vehicles so that they couldn’t be used again.

      Activists lock arms to protect the poles that hold up the tent from police. The Albany Police would go around this and just cut the ropes. © 2016 Zach Roberts

      Thankfully for the protesters, the rain slowed soon after, and conversation turned to figuring out next steps. After a time debating specifics, it was decided that they would stay and try to make it through the night without tents, laying on the railroad tracks with only cardboard and tarps to cover them from the weather.

      By the time I left at 11pm, they were still there, sending out parties to gather supplies of dry clothing, food and whatever else they might need to make it through the night.

      Photos from the Albany #BreakFree protest


      Within view of the Capitol, climate activists call for a clean energy future — ending fracking, stopping pipelines and much more. © 2016 Zach Roberts


      Activists write phone numbers on their arms so they can call for legal support if they are arrested. © 2016 Zach Roberts


      Local Albany activists and organizers joined in with the Break Free march, calling for cleaner air in their communities.  © 2016 Zach Roberts


      Clara Phillips, an Albany native, was marching for an end to the “bomb trains” that are causing air quality problems in her community. © 2016 Zach Roberts


      A banner drop along one of the main highways that run through Albany reads “Health and Safety Matter.” This was just one of several that took place around Albany. © 2016 Zach Roberts


      Founder and Director of AVillage, Willie White, speaks to the Break Free marchers in the Ezra Prentice neighborhood. © 2016 Zach Roberts


      Co-Founder of Upstate New York Black Lives Matter, Taina Asili, sang a moving song “And We Walk” to the crowd blocking the road in the Ezra Prentice neighborhood. © 2016 Zach Roberts


      Willie White leads the march along a road that runs parallel to the railroad tracks that oil train cars often run. © 2016 Zach Roberts


      Canada Pacific put up temporary fences to block the protesters from going any further along the tracks, so the protesters decided to use it as a gallery for their posters and banners. © 2016 Zach Roberts


      Break Free organizers and protesters begin planning for their night stay on the railroad tracks. © 2016 Zach Roberts


      Volunteers risk injury setting up ropes that run across the tracks to lay tarps over to form a tent. © 2016 Zach Roberts


      The tents are up – but not for long. High winds later caused the activists to double up some cinderblocks for weights. © 2016 Zach Roberts


      Albany Police take the remnants of the tents back to their cars, so that they can’t be used again. © 2016 Zach Roberts


      Break Free organizers and activists form a circle in the rain making plans for the rest of the night.  © 2016 Zach Roberts


      Albany Police give the activists space as they settle in for a cold wet night. © 2016 Zach Roberts

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