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One of the big reasons why we, the strong Environmental Justice activists that we are, missed this is because the Central Valley is primarily comprised of multiple environmental justice communities. Often times these are marginalized, low income communities off of the beaten path of our usual day-to-day lives, that are bearing the vast majority of the burden associated with our heavily industrialized society. These are the sacrifice zones, where we send our hazardous waste and where the oil is refined to power our homes.
The problem here, is that there are beautiful and diverse communities living in these sacrifice zones. The communities are home to families, with children and grandparents; they include vast resources, like fertile farmland; and like almost like every place in the world, they have a lot to teach us. When the big corporations write them off as collateral damage, it is a grave injustice for the people that live there and an immense disservice to us all.
The reason we missed this is because this proposed coal plant is slated for a sacrifice zone, a place where many corporations want us not to see, in hopes that the land and even the people will be forgotten about, and they can continue with business as usual.
The solution, is to empower these communities, raise their voices of concern high and stand in solidarity with our fellow human beings. We need to demand that human lives be prioritized over corporate profits and collectively call for safe business practices, no new sacrifice zones and NO NEW COAL PLANTS!
Yep, it’s 2013 in California- a state usually thought of as one of the most progressive in the country, yet there are plans (the temporary permits have already been issued) to build a brand new coal plant in California’s Central Valley.
For the non-Californians out there, the Central Valley is a much different place than the well-known cities, like San Francisco and Los Angeles.
California’s Central Valley has some of the worst air quality in the country, a severe lack of water and is often referred to as America’s Bread Basket. This facility would further exacerbate the troubling trend in air pollution, it’s expected to use at least 4,600 gallons of water every minute and farmers are outraged at the potential toxic emissions, which could cover their livelihood with mercury. And when we’re talking about “one of the most productive agricultural regions in the world” we’re not just talking about putting a few family farmers out of business.
So obviously, residents in California’s Central Valley are pretty concerned about about the proposed facility, for obvious reasons, primarily because it’s just a terrible idea.
Not only is coal a major contributor to climate change, the entire life-cycle of coal power drastically increases particulate pollution within the communities living near these dirty coal operations. It’s estimated that 24,000 people die prematurely, each year, from pollution associated with coal fired power plants.
So- how did we miss this?!
The short answer it that it’s not being referred to as a coal plant.
The Hydrogen Energy California (HECA) plant is slated for construction in Kern County, California and has even cleared the initial hurdles, receiving a draft air permit from the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District (SJVAPCD). The idea is that this plant will accept petroleum coke and coal, 300+ truckloads daily, and turn it into hydrogen fuel. Ta-da, you have a brand new clean energy plant in California!
Isn’t this the same business practice that Stringer Bell used to sell drugs on the streets of Baltimore in The Wire, or more applicable the same strategy used by oil companies to market tar sands crude as ‘clean energy’? It’s simple, if your product has a bad reputation in the public market, change the name.
And, coal has one of the worst reputations.
But- stay tuned for the long answer…………..