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Thought we could get through this year’s Earth Day without an environmental disaster?  Me, too, but unfortunately that doesn’t seem to be the case.

Late in the evening on April 19, 2011, an explosion occurred at a Chesapeake Energy well in Bradford County, Pennsylvania.  According to the Huffington Post, “The well blew near the surface, spilling thousands and thousands of gallons of frack fluid over containment walls, through fields, personal property and farms, even where cattle continue to graze.”

Anyone else feeling a flash-back to last year’s Deep Water Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico?  The destruction has an eerily similar tone.
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Usually when you read a news story about the environment, the great conflict takes center stage – jobs versus the environment, community members versus corporations, health versus toxics. That’s why I was shocked (and heartened) by the recent article in the East Bay Express, The Recycler Relocation Project.  Of course, the article includes statements from a wide range of individuals – from corporate executives and a city-wide developer to community members and environmental justice organizations.  But the thing that’s so interesting about this story is that everyone is pretty much agreeing with each other: The two metal recyclers, currently located in residential areas of West Oakland, would be better suited at the old Oakland Army Base next to similar heavy industry.
The community has carried the pollution burden too long, the recycling facilities want to expand their business and the developer sees great opportunity in it.  What’s groundbreaking here is that there is a clear and feasible win-win solution for residents and industry.  Additionally, the move will stimulate new economic development that will benefit the entire city.  The expansion of the recycling industry will create more jobs and the vacated land that the recyclers currently occupy could be ideal for small businesses serving the neighborhood.

The problem here is that this isn’t a new idea.  It has actually been discussed by City Council for years.  And, if you’ve been following along, West Oakland already agreed in Jean Quan’s Town Hall meeting back in early February.  Yet, progress continues to move very slowly in order to come to a decision on the issue.

Ultimately, it’s going to come down to us, the people with a broader vision, to tell the City Council our concerns and press for urgency.  We need to come together on the issue and unite with other Oakland residents to show the City Council how important this relocation is.  So sign the petition, get your friends and neighbors to do the same, and let’s create win-win story we all want to read about.

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