Tag Archives: environmental justice

Norwich Declaration on Environmental Justice: Money can’t buy environmental justice

10 July 2013

THIS DECLARATION EMERGED FROM A WORKSHOP HELD AT THE UNIVERSITY OF EAST ANGLIA IN NORWICH, ENGLAND ON JUNE 20-22, 2013, ON GLOBAL ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE.

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Women’s march at the Rio+20 Earth Summit, June 2012. Women were marching against the Green Economy and the commodification of life.

WE, AN INTERNATIONAL GROUP OF ACTIVISTS, ACADEMICS AND RESEARCHERS, OBSERVE THAT ENVIRONMENTAL INJUSTICES ARE PROLIFERATING ACROSS THE GLOBE.

CASES OF ENVIRONMENTAL INJUSTICE ARE HOWEVER FREQUENTLY BEING ADDRESSED BY GOVERNMENTS, MULTINATIONAL CORPORATIONS AND MULTILATERAL INSTITUTIONS AS PROBLEMS THAT CAN BE RESOLVED THROUGH TECHNICAL OR MONETARY MEANS.

SUCH NARROW UNDERSTANDINGS OF ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE NORMALISE THE PERPETRATION OF INJUSTICE. INSTEAD WE BELIEVE IT IS ESSENTIAL TO ADVANCE AN APPROACH TO ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE FOUNDED ON FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLES OF CITIZENSHIP, POLITICAL AND CULTURAL RIGHTS, DEMOCRATIC DECENTRALISATION, RULE OF LAW, ACCESS TO DUE JURIDICAL PROCESSES AND TRANSPARENT, DEMOCRATIC AND ACCOUNTABLE GOVERNANCE.

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Filed under Carbon Trading, Climate Change, Climate Justice, Commodification of Life, Commons, Events, False Solutions to Climate Change, Forests and Climate Change, Green Economy, Greenwashing, Land Grabs, REDD, Rights, Resilience, and Restoration

Heat waves, as climate change increases, prove more deadly for poor, minorities

Note: Global Justice Ecology Project has always maintained that climate change has a disproportionate impact on people of color, Indigenous Peoples, people in the global south and other marginalized communities.  Unless we simultaneously address issues of racism, colonialism, patriarchy and economic domination while finding solutions to climate change, those solutions will only benefit the lives of the minority elite while the masses continue to suffer.

-The GJEP Team

By Lynne Peeples, June 7, 2013. Source: Huffington Post

Photo: EPA/Peter Foley

Photo: EPA/Peter Foley

Heat waves offer no dramatic images of flying debris or surging seawater. Yet each year torrid temperatures take more lives in the U.S. than tornadoes, hurricanes, floods and lightning combined.

The silent killer also discriminates, as low-income communities of color often start with poorer underlying health than other communities, and have fewer tools and resources to combat a heat that can be further intensified by their immediate environment.

“It’s a deadly mix,” said George Luber, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Climate and Health Program. “Those most vulnerable are those that incur the most exposure. And these exposures are going to increase in magnitude, and in frequency, with climate change.”

The annual death toll from extreme heat is already on the rise, according to a report released by the CDC on Thursday, with the number of heat-related deaths predicted to jump from the current annual rate of around 700 to between 3,000 and 5,000 by 2050.
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Biomass battle casts spotlight on environmental justice

By Josh Schlossberg, March 28, 2013. Source: Energy Justice Network/Biomass Monitor

Alison Guzman (center) and Lisa Arkin (left) of Beyond Toxics in Eugene, Oregon

Alison Guzman (center) and Lisa Arkin (left) of Beyond Toxics in Eugene, Oregon

Sometimes what seems like defeat in the short term can actually turn out to be victory in the long run. One such case involves the opposition to the construction of Seneca Sawmill’s biomass power incinerator in Eugene, Oregon. While the facility fired up its smokestacks for the first time in 2011, the effort to educate neighborhood residents about the health threats of the industrial polluter morphed into a powerful environmental justice movement in the low-income community surrounding the facility.

When Eugene-based Beyond Toxics (formerly Oregon Toxics Alliance) set out to question the “green” credentials of Seneca Sawmill’s biomass power plant in 2010—an 18.8 megawatt facility adjacent to the timber corporation’s existing lumber mill—they knew the deck was stacked against them. In a state where the timber industry still commands a great (some say disproportionate) amount of political influence, the organization wasn’t under any illusions that the corporation would voluntarily scrap its plans to profit off the sale of excess electricity to Eugene Water and Electric Board.

Surprisingly, despite Seneca Jones Timber Company’s dismal track record of clearcutting hundreds of thousands of acres of Oregon forests—including old growth—and dousing them with toxic herbicides—including in Eugene’s drinking watershed—few local or state environmental groups spoke out against the biomass incinerator.

In 2009, the Lane County Health Advisory Committee concluded that “biomass plants would add to our already overburdened air pollution problem in Eugene,” in a county that had been stuck with a “D” in air quality from the American Lung Association. This reality encouraged Beyond Toxics to zero in on the air pollution impacts of the proposed facility to the local community.
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Filed under Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Climate Justice, Ending the Era of Extreme Energy, False Solutions to Climate Change, Pollution, Youth

Within mainstream environmentalist groups, diversity is lacking

By Darryl Fears, March 24, 2013. Source: The Washington Post
Of at least 200 riverkeepers in the nation, Fred Tutman is the only one who's black.  "I do think we're invisible," he said.  "The [environmental] movement is inauthentic if it remains all white."  Photo: Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post

Of at least 200 riverkeepers in the nation, Fred Tutman is the only one who’s black. “I do think we’re invisible,” he said. “The [environmental] movement is inauthentic if it remains all white.” Photo: Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post

Fred Tutman was a lonely man when he picked up the telephone that day.He was the tough-talking protector of Maryland’s Patuxent River, a courtroom brawler who took on anyone who contaminated water, but he couldn’t shake a nagging hurt that he was nearly invisible within his own profession.
He called Marc Yaggi, director of the Waterkeeper Alliance in New York, last May. “Am I the only African American riverkeeper?”The answer was yes. Of at least 200 riverkeepers in the world, Tutman is the only African American.“We have a lot of work to do” in the area of diversity, Yaggi said in a recent interview. He said he has reached out to Tutman, who was certified by the alliance in 2004, “to try to figure out ways to increase our diversity.”But Tutman is not unique in his feelings of isolation. Minorities in the nation’s largest environmental organizations said in interviews that they feel the same way.

In fact, they say, the level of diversity, both in leadership and staff, of groups such as the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the Sierra Club and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation is more like that of the Republican Party they so often criticize for its positions on the environment than that of the multiethnic Democratic Party they have thrown their support behind. Continue reading

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Tire-burning power plants in Michigan prompt concerns

Associated Press, March 5, 2013. Source: timesunion.com

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Photo: Detroit Free Press, Kimberly P. Mitchell

Power plants in several Michigan cities are burning millions of tires each year to make electricity, prompting some pollution concerns as state officials and plant operators defend the practice.

According to plant operators, tire-derived power is cheaper and cleaner than burning coal or wood, the Detroit Free Press reported (http://on.freep.com/XJJkeE ). They say that they are keeping tires out of landfills and helping the state clean up dump sites.

Wyandotte’s municipal power plant creates electricity for about 10,000 households and 3,000 businesses. Two boilers run off natural gas and the third uses tire shreds and coal. According to officials, tires contain more energy than coal, pound-for-pound.

“We burn about 300 tons of fuel per day in this boiler. It generates less waste, lower emissions and more-efficient combustion,” said James French, the former director of the city’s power supply.

Some who live near the eight plants that burn tires to make power in Michigan, however, have challenged them because of pollution concerns.
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Burning issue: ‘Waste-to-energy’ plants take off in bid to cut garbage, fuel use

By Nate Seltenrich, February 11, 2013.  Source: The Daily Climate

Community activists rally against a proposed trash incinerator in Gonzales, Calif. Nearly 100 such projects have been proposed nationwide recently as states and communities struggle to reduce trash and find alternatives to fossil fuels. Photo: Greenaction for Health and Environmental Justice.

Community activists rally against a proposed trash incinerator in Gonzales, Calif. Nearly 100 such projects have been proposed nationwide recently as states and communities struggle to reduce trash and find alternatives to fossil fuels. Photo: Greenaction for Health and Environmental Justice.

The farm town of Gonzales, in the center of the Salinas Valley, has been known throughout its 140-year history as “Little Switzerland,” the “heart of the salad bowl,” and, today, the “wine capital” of Monterey County.

Now a proposal from a Canadian energy company could change Gonzales’ moniker yet again: It hopes to build a commercial-scale plant for harvesting energy from trash – the first of its kind in the United States.

The project’s future is decidedly uncertain. But roughly 100 similar proposals to turn trash to energy have cropped up nationwide the past six years, as local and state officials scramble to meet mandates to divert waste from landfills and find more renewable energy sources.

The Gonzales plan, led by Ottawa-based Plasco Energy Group, seemed like a sure thing until last fall, when a state board ruled that the technology cannot qualify as green energy because it does not operate with zero emissions, eliminating a financial incentive. The decision, while not necessarily enough to kill the project, may have alerted developers to steer clear of California, the nation’s largest and most lucrative renewable-energy market.
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BREAKING NEWS: Farm supporters lock down to giant pig, blockade Shell fracking site

January 27, 2013.  Source: Shadbush Environmental Justice Collective

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Bessemer, PA – This afternoon, residents of Western Pennsylvania and friends of Lawrence County farmer Maggie Henry locked themselves to a giant paper-mache pig in the entrance to a Shell natural gas well site in order to protest the company’s threat to local agriculture and food safety. The newly-constructed gas well is located at 1545 PA Route 108, Bessemer, PA , 16102, less than 4,000 feet from Henry’s organic pig farm.

The farm has been in the Henry family for generations and has been maintained as a small business despite pressure from industry consolidation. The Henry’s made a switch from dairy to organic pork and poultry production several years ago as part of their commitment to keeping the operation safe and sustainable for generations to come. Joining Maggie Henry at the well site are residents from other Pennsylvania counties affected by natural gas drilling and Pittsburgh-area residents of all ages who support Henry’s fight. Many are customers who buy her food at farmers’ markets and grocery stores who do not want to see the integrity of their food source compromised.

The Henry farm is especially vulnerable to the risks associated with fracking because it is located in an area riddled with hundreds of abandoned oil wells from the turn of the 20th century. According to hydro-geologist Daniel Fisher who has studied the area, “Each of these abandoned wells is a potentially direct pathway or conduit to the surface should any gas or fluids migrate upward from the wells during or after fracking.” Methane leaks from gas wells have been responsible for numerous explosions in or near residences in Pennsylvania in recent years. Migrating gas and fluids also threaten groundwater supplies, on which Henry and her animals depend for their drinking water. Last summer a major gas leak in Tioga County, PA caused by Shell’s own drilling operations, produced a 30 ft geyser of methane and water, which spewed from an unplugged well and forced several families to evacuate.
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After 46 days, Gulf Coast activists end hunger strike, express solidarity with Theresa Spence

January 16, 2013.  Source: Earth First! Newswire

Gulf Coast activists Diane Wilson and Bob Lindsey pictured here with Tar Sands Blockaders in Houston, TX after 46 days on a hunger strike to protest Valero’s involvement with TransCanada and their presence in the fence-line community of Manchester.

Gulf Coast activists Diane Wilson and Bob Lindsey pictured here with Tar Sands Blockaders in Houston, TX after 46 days on a hunger strike to protest Valero’s involvement with TransCanada and their presence in the fence-line community of Manchester.

Our friends at the Tar Sands Blockade have been working with anarchist community organizers in Houston’s toxic East End. Many Latin@ communities are being disproportionately effected by industry, a blatant example of environmental racism and classism.  The small Latin@ neighborhood of Manchester is completely surrounded by industry and their only park sits in the shadow of a Valero refinery emitting known human carcinogens like benzene, ethylene, 1-3 butadiene, etc.  Through projects based on mutual aid and solidarity organizers aim to amplify the voices of people in the community.  They have faced endless police harassment and intimidation.

Gulf Coast activists Diane Wilson and Bob Lindsey engaged in a 46 day hunger strike to call attention to Valero’s involvement with TransCanada and their presence in the community of Manchester.  After ending their strike they made the following statement:

On November 29th, 2012 in protest of Valero’s involvement with the KXL pipeline we locked our necks to industrial trucks just outside the Valero refinery. We were arrested and immediately began a hunger strike in solidarity with the struggling people of the community of Manchester. We demanded that Valero not only cease all business with TransCanada but vacate the Manchester neighborhood that they have exploited for decades.

In Houston’s toxic East End, home to the largest petro-chemical complexes in North America, marginalized communities of color are forced to breathe poisoned air. The small Latin@ community of Manchester is the most polluted neighborhood in Texas and Valero is responsible for most of the pollution. Instead of working to reduce emissions, Valero plans to bring tar sands to Texas through the KXL, further denigrating the air, water, and environmental quality of local communities. Children here are exposed to 8 different cancer causing toxins at all times, homes are encapsulated by huge industrial storage tanks and the Valero refinery billows poison on top of the community’s only park. What is happening in Manchester is a living case of environmental racism and classism.

We stand in opposition to TransCanada and their Keystone XL Pipeline as well as all corporations and entities that profit from the direct suffering of others. After 46 days on hunger strike our bodies are weak and our health has rapidly declined. We knew that our demands were lofty and that we would not destroy our enemies with one fell swoop. By putting ourselves at risk of death we intended to expose that Valero, TransCanada and all other industries who promote the practice of profits over people do not care whether we live or die. The people of Manchester already know this. The people of East Texas already know this. The indigenous peoples of the Athabasca region already know this. We hope that you too now know this. Direct Action is the only way to stop Valero, TransCanada and all other corporations that commit unconscionable acts of greed.

Tar sands are being mined along the Athabasca River in Canada, in the heart of the boreal forest and one of the worlds most significant wetlands, just 70 miles away from North America’s largest freshwater river basin, a critical habitat for many species. Not only does this threaten delicate ecosystems but the homes and ancestral land, cultural heritage, and way of life of indigenous communities. The mining of carcinogenic bitumen is powered by gas obtained from hydraulic fracturing, a practice which can NOT be done safely and must be stopped at all costs. This is NOT a debate.  We recognize that elected officials have failed to protect people, animals, and the earth from tar sands exploitation, which is the most ecologically destructive project on the planet. These officials have been supportive of the extraction industry carrying out these egregious acts, and they are responsible for this system of exploitation.

We stand in solidarity with the Unist’ot’en Camp, the Idle No More movement and Chief Theresa Spence who is now on the 36th day of a hunger strike. They  have become catalysts for resistance to the destruction of the earth and struggle against the colonization of it’s inhabitants, a battle that indigenous communities have fought for over 500 years on this continent. We call out to all sentient beings to decolonize immediately.

We also send a special message of solidarity and appreciation to our dear personal friend, Start Loving. Start began hunger striking 11 days ago in support of us and in solidarity with Chief Theresa Spence.

Tar Sands Blockaders have been engaged in an ongoing series of aerial blockades in East Texas to physically stop the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline. TransCanada has terrorized the lives and homes of families all along the pipeline route with complete disregard for natural habitats and wildlife.  They have hired local police as armed thugs to torture blockaders and their allies and used their corporate dollars and fancy lawyers to intimidate and muscle ordinary folks, including farmers struggling to survive in a world of factory farming and genetically modified crops.

We are ending our hunger strike so that we may continue on in lifelong resistance and opposition to the most essential struggle we face as human beings, the struggle to protect what is left of our ravaged earth. Through systems of mutual aid and solidarity we will move forward to create an environment in which resistance can be cultivated and direct action becomes the natural and immediate reaction of all people in the face of exploitation and oppression. We stand in solidarity with the Tar Sands Blockade who have reminded us all that we must have immediacy in our actions and fight ceaselessly for the earth, it’s creatures and all of our fellow human beings. We will never surrender. In the strength of unity we will fight on.

In Solidarity,

Diane Wilson, lifelong Texan, grandmother, 4th generation shrimper and co-founder of Code Pink, The Texas Jail Project, Texas Injured Workers, and the Injured Workers National Network

Bob Lindsey, 5th generation Texan, US Navy Veteran and the San Antonio Bay Waterkeeper

 

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Filed under Actions / Protest, Climate Change, Climate Justice, Ending the Era of Extreme Energy, Idle No More, Oil, Tar Sands

Error, bias in New York Times article on Richmond and Chevron

Note: On January 3, Climate Connections ran a New York Times article titled, ‘Together, a century, city and oil giant hit a rough patch‘.  The article outlined the tumultuous relationship between the toxic Chevron oil refinery in Richmond, California and the local community and environmental justice advocates.  GJEP recently received this response (below) to the article from the Richmond Progressive Alliance, including corrections to several erroneous and biased statements.

-The GJEP Team

January 7, 2012.  Source: Richmond Progressive Alliance

The New York Times ran a large national article describing the relationship between Chevron and Richmond.  For a newspaper with a reputation for fact checking and bias-free reporting the Times story was notable. For example it repeated the Chevron myth that the City had blocked the expansion project when in fact it had approved that project. Letters were sent to the Times to correct the story but to date, none have been printed.  Here is one:

I live in Richmond, California, which explains my concern with Mr. Onishi’s, “Together a Century” story. Facts are wrong. Chevron is NOT the city’s largest employer, a myth perpetuated by its p.r. staff, but we are proud of Kaiser Permanente, an innovative program established for workers’ health.

Embellishments show bias – “left-wing anti-corporate activists…” Actually a diverse group of ordinary citizens went door to door over a period of 8 years to persuade neighbors they didn’t have to accept Chevron’s surrogates.

Missing facts would provide context like Chevron’s property tax appeals asking for a $150 million in refunds.

The first paragraph reveals all. Chevron is the fifth richest corporation in the world and, after 100 years, we are still awash in poverty and elevated childhood asthma rates.

Onishi sees Chevron’s despotism as normal while we who vote to control our own destiny are “seizing power??” Does Onishi have a problem with the concept of democracy?

Additional comments from Bay Area activist David Solnit:

NYT says: “Richmond has blocked Chevron’s plans for a major upgrade that the company says is essential to the refinery’s future.”

Actually the City Council, by a one person majority (when Chevron still had a majority) cut a backroom deal and did vote for it after the planning dept opposed it. Chevron continues to lie and calls retooling for heavy, dirty crude such as tar sands, an “upgrade.” I think Richmond is the only city in the country/world that has blocked a refinery expansion for tar sands-type heavy, dirty crude.

NYT says: “Then in the 1990s, transplants from nearby Berkeley and San Francisco began gravitating here, drawn to Richmond’s affordable rents and adding a radical tinge to the city’s traditionally moderate Democratic leanings.”

Richmond born and raised Henry Clark, the city’s first environmental justice leader in the 1980′s, came out of one of the city’s two chapters of the Black Panther Party (the city is traditionally progressive, not moderate, and its Democrats back Chevron) and many of the other local activists are life-long or longtime residents. What’s new is that City Council for the first time in 100 years is now more reflective of the people than of the Chevron/Chamber of Commerce/Police-Fire/Labor Council/Democratic power elite.

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Shell Chemical equipment failure causes flame and flares in St. Charles

By Juliet Linderman, December 3, 2012.  Source: The Times-Picayune

Photo: Diya Chacko/nola.com

Photo: Diya Chacko/nola.com

For more than 30 hours, Shell Chemical, located on the Motiva Enterprises campus in Norco, has been experiencing elevated flares, shooting flames and leaking thick black smoke into the air above St. Charles Parish. According to a report submitted to the U.S. Coast Guard National Response Center, the plant is releasing unknown amounts of hydrogen sulfide, butadiene and benzene, a known carcinogen.

Shell Chemical reported the incident to the NRC at approximately 8 am on Sunday, Dec. 2, citing no deaths or injuries associated with the accident.

According to Department of Environmental Quality Press Secretary Rodney Mallet, an unknown unit within the plant sustained damages, and Motiva has opted to send the chemicals typically routed to the damaged unit to a flare to be burned, rather than shutting the unit down altogether and rebooting it. The quantity of chemicals being funneled to the flare, as well as anticipated emissions, are unknown at this time. Neither DEQ nor NRC has specified whether the material is coming from Shell Chemical or Motiva.
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