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Well, just after posting our Englewood Deserves a Fair Deal! blog last week, the community members met with the railroad company and the City of Chicago and reached a fair deal!

ELPC negotiated with Norfolk Southern railroad and the City of Chicago for diesel pollution reductions, new green space, sustainability efforts and job training.

Image from SustainableEnglewood.org

“The priority of Sustainable Englewood Initiatives was to make sure this project would not harm our community’s air and cost us more green space,” said John Paul Jones, Co-Founder of Sustainable Englewood Initiatives. “This agreement will put Englewood on the map as a place where the community stood up, the City listened, and the railroad came to the table to find a better way.”

ELPC, Sustainable Englewood Initiatives (SEI), Northwestern University Environmental Law Clinic and other community partners have successfully negotiated a fair deal to reduce air pollution and increase parkland with the rail yard expansion in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood.

When asked, the majority of the groups think that the monitoring played a huge role in pushing the City and Norfolk Southern to come to an agreement. ELPC had sent the whole Chicago Plan Commission a letter as soon as we had an agreement with GCM, indicating that we were going to do monitoring.  By the time we were installing the monitors, the City was reaching out to ELPC to set up a time to meet.

Bravo to all for achieving this victory for clean air and better public health in Chicago and its Englewood community!  We can all breathe a little easier now, knowing that the air pollution will be reduced for Englewood residents.

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Image from dnainfo.com

This community is on the frontlines of a huge Environmental Justice battle and we’ve armed them with Buckets!

Last week GCM traveled to Chicago to launch a brand new Bucket Brigade, in collaboration with Environmental Law and Policy Center and Sustainable Englewood, to monitor diesel emissions in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood.

Englewood is no stranger to Environmental Injustice.  When residents found out Norfolk Southern was planning on nearly doubling the size of its rail yard, expanding it by 85 acres, they knew it was time, yet again, to get organized.

Exposure to diesel exhaust can have immediate health effects. Diesel exhaust can irritate the eyes, nose, throat and lungs, and it can cause coughs, headaches, lightheadedness and nausea. In studies with human volunteers, diesel exhaust particles made people with allergies more susceptible to the materials to which they are allergic, such as dust and pollen. Exposure to diesel exhaust also causes inflammation in the lungs, which may aggravate chronic respiratory symptoms and increase the frequency or intensity of asthma attacks.

So, what does the community want?  A fair deal for Englewood residents!  This community is tired of being dumped on by Norfolk Southern and the city of Chicago.

On September 12, 2013 Englewood residents met with staff members of ELPC and GCM to lead a tour of the community.  This neighborhood was hit hard by the recession. When home prices dropped, the rail company, Norfolk Southern, began buying up properties and bulldozing the historic homes.  It was only after Norfolk Southern was exposed for this apparent landgrab, that they came clean with the community residents that they had in fact already been in discussion with the City on the expansion.   

That landgrab left the community virtually barren.

Many families were pressured to leave their homes.  Schools closed and homes were bulldozed.  The parks once filled with children’s laughter are

now overgrown and covered in diesel soot.  A once vibrant community is gone, except for the handful of residents refusing to leave the only place they know as home.

The residents showed us the schools, the library, parks and the rail yard.  We watched as work crews finished up the

While the community has accepted the rail yard expansion, they simply want to ensure their quality of life and a safe place for them to live.demolition of a home well over 100 years old and we were detoured around road crews upgrading railroads.  

The next day, over a dozen people came out to attend the training on how to collect their own air samples and use them as an organizing tool.  They wanted to know how and when to operate the equipment, how they can be the most effective and what they can get out of it.

GCM shared success stories from other communities and outlined the Bucket Brigade project.  The ELPC helped the community map out their community and identify ‘hot spots’ to place the monitor. 

Then each community member had a chance to practice setting out the monitoring and programming it to run for 24 hours.  Afterwards we all went over quality control and quality assurance as well as the final paperwork for documenting weather conditions and shipping the samples.  We all went back into the neighborhood to retrieve the sample set out the previous day.

Now Airhugger readers, you better pay close attention here, because this is a hot project.  We’ve decided on an aggressive two month sampling plan to get all the data in on time.  We need to make sure Englewood gets a fair deal from Norfolk Southern and you can stay up to date on this project at gcmonitor.org

 

2011IndiaConfJessicaWhile GCM focuses on clean air, we are about people: the fenceline neighbors, our generous donors, and our staff.

So for this AirHugger post, we want to highlight on of the key individuals that is GCM: Jessica Hendricks, Program Manager.

She’s also a regular voice here on AirHugger!

1) You have a strong background and interest in social justice work. What drew you to work with GCM?

JH: I’ve always been committed to social justice issues but know environmental issues are crucial for my generation.

GCM offers the perfect mix of human rights, social justice and environmental issues.

We’re not just talking about composting at home and using energy efficient light bulbs –we are holding huge corporations responsible for their impact on the environment as well as community health. Should companies actual profit off of the health of their neighboring community members?

2) What has been the wildest experience as a GCM trainer?

JH: Wyoming!!  The community members we’re working with continue to blow my mind.  These folks are the complete opposite of what you’d imagine an environmentalist to be.

Many are ranchers wearing cowboy hats and own multiple weapons – shotguns, rifles, handguns, knives, etc. – and they’re all over the place: one in the truck, one under the bed, one by the door.

I had to take a moment and realize I’m not in California anymore. On top of that they make jokes about who didn’t wash their hands after castrating a bull.

Yet, one of the community leaders (gun, cowboy hat and all) teared up when thinking about the fracking well that has just been drilled at the spot where he proposed to his wife.

I realized that these issues we’re working on cross a lot of boundaries.

We’re not just a Bay Area environmental group. We’re part of something bigger. Something that greatly impacts the health and safety of everyone’s health.

Normally when we ask for health impacts from community members, we get things like sore throats, burning eyes, etc.  In Wyoming, we’ve got seizures, brain damage, fainting, growths/lumps.  The whole thing was so real that it was almost surreal.

I knew at that moment that, there is nothing else I could be doing right now, nothing that is more important.