News and updates from the Asian Pacific Environmental Network. Home of the Laotian Organizing Project (LOP) in Richmond and Power in Asians Organizing (PAO) in Oakland, CA.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

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APEN and Allies Accept Legislators' Invitation to Negotiate Refinery Expansion

On the heels of a major court victory for community groups, California Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Assembly Speaker John Perez have called all parties to Sacramento to settle this fight once and for all.

APEN, Communities for a Better Environment, and West County Toxics Coalition have accepted the legislators’ invitation. We look forward to getting back to the table and negotiating an agreement that protects the health of the community and gets our workers back to work.

The ball is clearly in Chevron’s court. It’s time for the company to step up and help make Richmond a cleaner, greener city with good jobs for all.

Senior scientist, Greg Karras extended the invitation once again to a Chevron representative on KQED’s Forum this morning. Listen here.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Community Wins Major Court Victory Against Oil Giant Chevron

Today, our community beat the odds. We stood up to oil giant Chevron, one of the world’s largest corporations, and won!

The California State Court of Appeals ruled against the expansion of Chevron’s Richmond refinery, citing violations of state environmental laws. They sent a strong message that big corporations like Chevron aren’t above the law. The court ruled that we, the community, have a right to know just how dirty the crude oil processed in this refinery will be.

It’s about time.

My name is Lena Phan and I’ve been in Richmond pretty much all my life. I was one of the many children who grew up in North Richmond. With its low income housing, it was our only option at the time.

Now, I work just blocks from the Chevron refinery. As I watch the fumes roll out of Chevron’s smokestacks, I vaguely remember having to “shelter in place” as a child during fires, explosions, and other emergencies, closing our doors and windows hoping not to breathe in the toxics. Can you imagine, growing up right next to a refinery that might spew toxics into the air at any minute?

It always seems to be our neighborhoods, low-income communities of color that suffer when big corporations want to build, expand, and pollute our cities.

Why is that?

Are we not knowledgeable enough? Is it because our parents came from other countries? Is it because we don’t speak English? Or is everyone just too busy working to put food on the table?

I don’t have all the answers, but I know that change is coming. In the past few years, I’ve watched as more and more of my friends and neighbors joined organizations like APEN and CBE. Together, we’ve called on our city council members, judges, and Chevron executives to do the right thing. To finally put the health of our children above the profits of big corporations.

My hope is that one day, Chevron will stop using jobs to hold our community hostage and actually help our communities become healthier. I want to look up into a beautiful blue sky, not incinerators of smoke or toxics from the refinery. I want our city to provide cleaner, greener jobs for my friends and family who are scraping by on unemployment in these tough economic times.

I know that Richmond can lead the way toward a greener, healthier economy for all of us. I want to see our city flourish, and realize its potential as the City of Pride and Purpose.

Today, we took an important step toward realizing this vision. As we celebrate tonight, let’s remember that this fight isn’t over yet. Richmond’s City Council may still vote to let Chevron process dirtier, heavier oil into Richmond. Now more than ever, we need to stay organized and vigilant.

So please join me in building a movement for green, healthy communities and good jobs by donating or volunteering by emailing today. Together, we can change our communities and our lives.

- Lena Phan


Monday, March 29, 2010

Contribute Now :: Make Farm's Dream a Reality!

“We can have a healthy community AND good jobs. You cannot choose one over the other.”

- APEN leader Farm (pictured to the left)

As a member of APEN’s Laotian Organizing Project (LOP), Farm stands on the front lines of a fight that affects all of us. Against incredible odds, she and her neighbors are trying to hold the line against one of the most powerful corporations on the planet and bring accountability to an industry that is one of the world’s largest contributors to climate change.

Farm is one of the true heroes in this campaign. Born in the mountains of Laos near the border of Thailand, Farm grew up in a small village of about 16 families. Farm came to the United States as a refugee in 1990 to live in Richmond, California. She never imagined that she would be a central figure in a global struggle to protect the health of her community and save the planet.

Farm is one of the many community members of LOP who are standing up to Chevron and telling Richmond’s City Council that good jobs and a healthy environment can and must exist side by side.

• Chevron has dominated Richmond’s skyline for 100 years, pumping billions of tons of toxics into our backyards and our children’s bodies. The effects have been disastrous. Richmond’s asthma rate is now twice as high as the rest of Contra Costa County.

• Last year Chevron pushed through a faulty Environmental Impact Report (EIR) that allowed them to start construction on a project to refine heavier, dirtier oil, and that adds even more greenhouse gasses that contribute to climate change.

• APEN, West County Toxics Coalition and Communities for a Better Environment sued the city for approving the project; and won.

• On July 1, Contra Costa County Superior Court Judge Barbara Zuniga ordered Chevron to halt its Richmond refinery expansion until a new, valid EIR is completed. Judge Zuniga concluded that Chevron failed to disclose whether their refinery expansion would enable them to refine heavier, dirtier oil than what they currently process – leading to increased pollution for Richmond residents and workers, and increased health problems.

Chevron appealed the judge’s finding. We are now fighting the appeal, and getting ready to bring more Richmond residents into the struggle. The city council needs to know that Farm’s dreams of “affordable housing, a sustainable community, good education, and jobs for all” belong to all of us and are attainable.

Unfortunately, Chevron is using their enormous wealth and influence to create a wedge between jobs and the environment in the media, pitting construction worker’s need for work in a bad economy against the community’s need to breathe.

But we know that a healthy community needs both.

APEN believes that we have the power, right here in Richmond and the Bay Area, to say NO to increased dependence on oil and YES to a green and healthy economy. We know that a healthy economy means good jobs and clean air.

Can you help make Farm’s vision a reality, by donating in this critical moment? We are raising $15,000 to mount a media campaign that will make sure to have Farm’s story and the stories of Richmond Residents out in the public. Will you contribute to help make this a reality? I’m asking you to contribute to the campaign with a tax-deductible gift of $50 or more. Thank you for all your support of APEN and Richmond community members.

With high hopes and justice,

Roger Kim

Executive Director

P.S. You can view some local and national news articles about the lawsuit here. You can also find more on our website. Your support will take us one step closer toward victory.

Please Donate

Friday, March 5, 2010

Chevron Campaign Update

On Tuesday February 23, APEN, CBE, and West Toxics Coalition went to the California Court of Appeals to ensure that Chevron does not expand their facility without real safeguards for the community's health and the creation of cleaner jobs. The court room was packed, among those standing to witness were 35 coalition members. Check out the video on CBS 5. We do not expect to hear anything until sometime between March 23 and the end of April. Please support us by signing up to be a volunteer or a monthly donor! 

Background and Updates:

In June 2009 Contra Costa County Superior Court ruled that the Environmental Impact Report for a planned expansion of Chevron's refinery in Richmond, CA should have addressed whether the project would allow Chevron to process dirtier oil, disclose the harm that pollution will have on Richmond residents, and methods for mitigation of increased greenhouse gas emissions. On July 1, Judge Zuniga ordered that the expansion project be put on hold until a new, valid EIR is prepared and approved.

Mediation talks February 2009 convened by Assembly Speaker Karen Bass and Senate Pro Tem Darryl Steinberg fell through - Chevron declined to participate.

Attorney General Jerry Brown's alternative proposal, crafted with the support of community residents, community groups  and other stakeholders, would permit a refinery expansion if there are strong health and greenhouse gas mitigations.  Our coalition and this alternative proposal have received the endorsement of key groups including SEIU 1021, Richmond Chapter and the American Lung Association - California.  However, Chevron declined to use this proposal as a vehicle to restart negotiations.

We can't wait any longer for clean air, good jobs, and a healthier Richmond!  Richmond residents have long suffered increased rates of ailments such as asthma, other respiratory diseases and cancer, that have been linked to exposure to chemicals commonly emitted by refineries. In 2009 the State of California released figures that showed Chevron's Richmond refinery was the single largest industrial emitter of greenhouse gases in the State.  We need good jobs for Richmond residents to transition us to solar energy and a healthier future.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Community Announces Support for Proposal for Clean Air, Good Jobs, and a Healthier Richmond!

On Tuesday February 2nd over 90  Richmond community members and allies came out to make their voices heard at the City Council meeting. APEN and allies gathered to let City Council members know that we support Attorney General Jerry Brown's proposal for a cleaner and healthier Richmond! You can see the clip on Channel 5 CBS News here. The proposal has 4 key components that we fully support, it will curb air pollution, provide good jobs, reduce greenhouse gases, and promote climate solutions!

What's at Stake

We need to protect the community from health and environmental hazards by not locking in another generation of toxic pollution.  We need to invest in green infrastructure for the communities most overburdened by toxic public health hazards – low-income communities of color.  The Chevron Refinery Expansion project has state and national ramifications far beyond Richmond.  That is why we support this alternative proposal, to ensure that Chevron is accountable for reducing local pollution and investing in a healthier tomorrow.  The Attorney General’s proposal is an important start in finding a resolution to this landmark case.

Listen up Chevron this Proposal is good for Richmond!
It will:

Curb Air Pollution:
Chevron would have to replace their outdated boilers built in the 1930's and 1940's, and install the sort of flaring prevention equipment that is already in place at the Shell refinery in nearby Martinez.

Good Jobs: Chevron would increase onsite renewable energy and energy efficiency and the proposal would create more and greener jobs by requiring installation of solar energy.

Reduce Greenhouse Gases and Promote Climate Solutions: The proposal would improve energy efficiency 20% by 2020 which would reduce pollutant emissions at the refinery by burning less fuel per gallon of gasoline and other products made. It would also expand renewable energy sources as on- & off-site solar, which would help jumpstart the sustainable energy solution to global warming.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Out of Carbon, Some Diamonds

Upon leaving Copenhagen, the city that had its heart set on a UN climate treaty, white snow & gray footprints of the world dust the streets. With our enormous carbon+ history already well in motion, I think what's next is that we apply the force necessary to make diamonds. So here are 3 diamonds in the rough...

1. hope = social movements
As government negotiations fail (duh!)-- as they always fail us in our country, our Congress, our City Council meetings-- hope always comes from the outside, the social movements. I have faith in our social movements emerging & exploding when there's a need. The ingredients are already there. We're just waiting for the occasion & the cook. Well, let's have that party-- the parallel party to the Conference of the Parties (COP) of these climate negotiations. I've seen its beginnings at the 12/13/09 Peoples Assembly inside the KlimaForum. That room of a thousand Global South & North allies, that opened with darkness & soon lit with walking candles, followed by word after word of our common struggles in different places. We too see our "common but differentiated responsibilities". We know that the climate crisis is a systemic issue that needs a systems change. We are already building that new world and we don't need to wait for our elected governments to lead the way.

2. US leadership = what we practice on the ground, replicated upward
What we know best is what we've done ourselves. If the US can experience how our grassroots solutions work, then I think we have a better chance of getting them to lay that out on the negotiations table. I felt that the breakthrough in our US CJ grassroots delegation strategy session came when we said that we've already begun to transform our communities: turning just transitions of polluting facilities into green jobs, directing energy stimulus funds to rehabilitate public housing & schools, practicing indigenous farming that feed & cure our folks, & more. We are already in motion! Imagine these local transformations replicated across cities, our country & around the globe. Now that sounds like the other world that's possible!

3. yes we can be fast!
Given skilled organizers focused on a single effort, from seed to fruit only took 3 days! Monday's idea of a US grassroots climate justice letter to Obama that we could rally around, materialized with a kick-ass letter (refined by many) & a powerful press rally infront of the US Embassy by Thursday. Now that's fast! Yes, having 10+ organizers staying in the same house for a week, open to coordination & willing to throw down, is the kind of movement house that makes things happen fast. We need to keep practicing it. I'm now a believer (tho a skeptic at first). Yes we can toss the notion that it takes a long time to get stuff done. Yes we can be fast. The times are urgent & I now see we can rise to the occasion!

Check out this video of our US Embassy action: