You are currently browsing the monthly archive for December 2013.

gcm-logoWhew, 2013 is just about over and looking back, Global Community Monitor has been busy!!

Check out our victories and accomplishments as well as some of the groundwork we’ve laid to move forward.

Victories

Buffalo, NY: Company Tried and Convicted for Environmental Crimes, Reduction of Cancer Causing Benzene

Tonawanda Coke and their Environmental Manager were found guilty of 14 acts violating the Clean Air Act in March.  This decision came almost ten years after a GCM Bucket Brigade training and air samples exposing benzene in the Tonawanda air. Through relentless activism by residents of Tonawanda, and the the Clean Air Coalition of Western New York, Tonawanda Coke will be $200 million in fines and cleaning up their act.

Chicago, IL: Community Wins Demands for Rail Yard Expansion

Environmental Law Policy Center (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.

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.  By the time we were installing the monitors, the City was reaching out to ELPC to set up a time to meet.

Scrap Metal Rule: Building On Metal Recycler Air Pollution Policy Victory

Due to GCM’s persistent efforts, and the release of our report – Green Industry? Under the Radar: Air Pollution from Metal Recyclers, the BAAQMD became the first agency in the nation to issue a rule to regulate toxic emissions from these facilities. The Air District estimates that these rules will reduce particulate matter emissions in the Bay Area by about 12 tons per year.

Train the Trainer: GCM has just begun a pilot “Train the Trainer” project with the Alaska Community Action on Toxics (ACAT) based in Anchorage, AK. GCM staff joined ACAT for a one day training in Anchorage and then ventured together to Nuiqsut, a small native village on the North Slope which is deeply entrenched in oil & gas development with no emergency response options for accidents.

Issues

With the expansion of the Panama Canal, a lot more traffic can be expected in our port communities, as well as communities living near freeways and transit hubs.  Many residents are concerned about the potential increase in diesel emissions, especially when so many are already overburdened by toxic air pollution.

Houston, TX: Partner organization Air Alliance Houston (AAH) has been a pivotal networking ally.  Our results demonstrate that the “official” State monitor for PM 2.5 do not represent the accurately PM impacts in the the Ship Channel and fall just below the Federal standard.  This monitor’s readings will determine if the Houston area is out of compliance and trigger a multi-million-billion dollar clean up.

Kansas: GCM conducted a training in Gardner, KS to collect baseline measurements prior to the completion of a huge new intermodal terminal which scheduled to go online in this community.

GCM also trained residents in Argentine/Turner area which is home to a huge existing intermodal terminal. Both communities are near Kansas City.

Plaquemines Parish, LA: GCM held a training in July. Plaquemines Parish Port is the gateway to the Ports of New Orleans and Baton Rouge and to all of the Mississippi River Valley export corridor. Two of the country’s biggest coal terminals are located at this Port.  We are partnered with the Gulf Restoration Network and the local Sierra Club Chapter.  One site is the Historic Freed Slave Community of Ironton.

Although the Keystone XL Pipeline is in the forefront of the tar sands debate, many US cities are already seeing heavy crude oil in their communities.

Mayflower, AR: EMERGENCY RESPONSE Tar sands Oil Spill

On March 29, Exxon’s Pegasus pipeline ruptured releasing 80,000 gallons of Wabascan (Alberta, Canada) tar sands crude, also known as bitumen, in Mayflower, a small suburban town outside of Little Rock. The pipeline carries tar sands from Alberta to Illinois to Texas via Arkansas.

GCM trained Faulkner County Citizens Advisory Group on the Bucket Brigade in 2012, after the spill, the Citizens group immediately went onsite and gained access for the first week-taking samples, documenting health symptoms and also getting sick.

Mobile 045Whiting, IN: GCM conducted a community training on fenceline real time air monitoring results in East Chicago/Whiting, IN, with long standing community partner, Calumet Project. This training is a direct result of the lawsuit with BP Whiting on their tar sands expansion in 2008.

Toledo, OH: GCM submitted comments Ohio EPA in June 2013 opposing BP/Husky’s tar sands expansion.  Following on the string of expansions of Midwestern refineries (BP Whiting, Marathon Detroit), a BP-Husky joint venture is pushing forward with a $2.5 billion expansion of its refinery in Toledo, Ohio to process tar sands crude oil.

Benicia, CA: GCM is working with local community group Good Neighbor Steering Committee and the Natural Resources Defense Council on stopping tar sands from being brought in by rail to Valero oil refinery in Benicia.

Pittsburgh, CA: GCM staff is working with the newly formed Pittsburgh Defense Council to counter  the WesPac Energy oil terminal and transfer station. WesPac Energy-Pittsburg LLC plans to turn a 125-acre area of industrial land near homes by the Pittsburg Marina into a facility to unload crude oil from ships and rail cars, store it in giant round tanks, and then send it through pipelines to local refineries. Under the revised plan, it will be possible to offload an average of 242,000 barrels a day of crude oil or partially refined crude oil from both ships and rail cars.

Well, this is just going to have to be a surprise for next year.  Get ready, it’s going to be a big one!!

And Just a Few More – By Location

Bay Area

Body Burden: GCM is continuing work on this study, despite delays. Since May 2013, we have 12 families consented to participate in the project, have taken 11 questionnaires, four wipe samples at the participants home and five blood samples.  Samples will be tested for the same heavy metals we documented in the air, to determine just how impacted nearby neighbors may be.

Richmond: GCM signed a contract with the city of Richmond to advise on the Community Air Monitoring as a direct result of the Chevron fire on August 6, 2012. Chevron is installing real time air monitoring equipment with Argos Environmental.

GCM is advising on locations of monitors, community engagement on how to use the information and overall emissions reductions. You can check it out here.

Central Valley

Arvin: In September GCM has closed an active two year project with the town of Arvin and the Committee for A Better Arvin and Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment. During the past two years, the Committee have recorded 440 pollution incidents, taken 15 bucket air samples and 20 particulate matter samples. Results show elevated levels of hydrogen sulfide and diesel. GCM has also worked to pilot a new ozone monitor in this ozone impacted community.

All groups will continue to engage with the Air District, County Supervisors and EPA on air quality issues related to the Community Recycling (composting) facility in nearby Lamont.  GCM has worked with CRPE and CBA to establish a new working relationship and to begin another year long project. Additionally, GCM expanded our team and hired Gustavo Aguirre Jr. as the Central Valley Organizer.

International

GCM continues to develop projects with international partners in China, Jamaica, Mexico, Egypt, Philippines, and Chile.

India: GCM organizational partner Shweta Narayan from Chennai, Tamil Nadu in Southern India visited the US.  Community Environmental Monitors continue to work around cement kiln incinerators throughout the country.

You can listen to an interview with Shweta and Denny on this podcast by Annie Leonard, Story of Stuff as part of a series on “Good Stuff”:

 

 

US Fencelines, ongoing technical assistance

New Mexico: GCM is partnering with the Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP) on a statewide initiative. To date New Mexico and Navajo nation leaders have taken samples including:

  • Seven bucket samples documenting the fingerprint of asphalt operations and sixteen particle and diesel samples exposing elevated exposure to the idling trains in the San Jose neighborhood of Albuquerque.

  • Over 40 particulate matter samples documenting the dust levels from the BHP coal mine on the Navajo nation reserve. These samples have consistently shown levels higher than the World Health Organization (WHO) 24 hour health based guidelines for PM 10. Further testing on crystalline silica from coal is being conducted.

  • Taken seven bucket samples in Mesquite. These samples gave solid evidence that Helena Chemicals operations are not limited to their property and are over flowing into the community.

Delaware: GCM continues to work with community partners and the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control.

Claymont: Is on the fourth year of their air monitoring work focused on Evraz Steel. Evraz has installed a portion of the environmental controls to reduce emissions at the facility.  Recent samples and complaints demonstrated that dust problems continues to be serious and led to further enforcement actions against the facility.

Delaware City: GCM conducted a follow up training in Delaware City around the PBF Energy refinery on particulate air monitoring.

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ImageOn Friday Dec. 6th, Kern County Superior Court Judge, J. Eric Bradshaw, ruled against Kern County, CA and its residents, in favor of Community Recycling and Resource Recovery.  The facility can continue operations as usual and is no longer responsible for a $2.3 million fine in connection with the deaths of two workers in 2011.

The two young workers were killed from hydrogen sulfide exposure while working at the facility on Oct. 12, 2011.  Over a month later, on Nov. 15, 2011 the Kern County Board of Supervisor levied the $2.3 million dollar fine and revoked Community Recycling’s operating permit.

 

Apparently, “the decision by Kern County Supervisors to quickly close down a Lamont-area composting facility after the deaths of two men violated due process” according to the Bakersfield Californian.

Two young workers were killed from hydrogen sulfide exposure while working at the facility on Oct. 12, 2011.  Over a month later, on Nov. 15, 2011 the Kern County Board of Supervisor levied the $2.3 million dollar fine and revoked Community Recycling’s operating permit.  Although it’s important to respect due process, how long can we be expected to wait on it while many more young workers’ lives may be at stake?  Especially considering Cal-OSHA findings, that five times, between Oct. 12, 2011 and Nov. 15, 2011, the company violated an agency order that no one come within six feet of any openings or entries to the site’s storm drain system, where the two brothers were found unconscious.  Does the time required for due process put more workers and community members at risk? 

It’s becoming more and more apparent that this facility is not operating in the safest manner and does not want to cooperate with the agencies or elected officials.  “The bottom line is, I just can’t believe this company anymore” according to Kern County Supervisor, Mike Maggard.  So how can we ensure the safety of the workers and the community?!  Sal Partida, the President of the Committee for a Better Arvin has a great point, “These innocent people, they had no idea that they were going to go to work that day and die,” and yet the risk still isn’t eliminated.

The Committee for a Better Arvin, in collaboration with Global Community Monitor and the Center for Race Poverty and the Environment, have been collecting air samples near the facility with the Bucket Brigade.  Sample results continue to show a presence of hydrogen sulfide, the same deadly gas that killed the two workers.  This gas is not only a danger to the workers, but the samples confirm that that same gas is escaping from the facility into the community and putting the residents’ health at risk.  

Long-term exposure to hydrogen sulfide is associated with an elevated incidence of respiratory infections, irritation of the eye, nose and throat, coughing, breathlessness, nausea, headache, and mental health impacts, including depression.

Yet, the facility can continue business as usual and is no longer responsible for the $2.3 million fine, because of due process.  One month is not an adequate amount of time for the company to defend itself for killing two workers, violating OSHA orders and repeatedly misleading the Kern County Board of Supervisors?  Case closed?!?!

Well not exactly, considering we’ve got a pretty fierce group of activists in the region.  After taking a few days to lick our wounds, we dusted ourselves off and got back to work.  If the County has a “lots of options” we’ll be there, expressing our concerns and fighting for justice.  Where is due process for the two workers that were killed at the facility?  Is there one set of rules for the corporations and a different set for the workers and community residents?

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We’ve all been warned, “Don’t eat the yellow snow.”

Well in Nuisqut, Alaska the snow is yellow for a whole different reason. One that is even worse than what you were originally thinking.

Nuisqut is a small village, inhabited mostly by Alaskan Natives, on the North Slope of Alaska.  It has a population of a little over 400, and the majority of folks are Native Alaskans, living off of the land according to traditional customs.  

However, oil and gas extraction is not part of that heritage.  

The native village is sandwiched between two ever-expanding oil and gas extraction fields, both of which are suspected to send toxic pollution into the village.  In the winter months, residents routinely report seeing a yellow haze in the air that falls to the ground and turns the snow yellow.  

Unfortunately, yellow snow in Nuiqsut, Alaska is more than just “watch out where the huskies go”; yellow snow is toxic pollution.  

Obviously, no one is eating any snow when the yellow haze falls to the ground, but toxic pollution in native villages is hard to contain when the majority of the population lives off of the land.  Have the caribou ever heard Frank Zappa’s warning?  What about the wolverines and polar bear?  And what effect do those chemicals have on the people when, according to tribal traditions, that meat is consumed?  Not to mention the health impacts when the yellow haze is inhaled or the effect on the ground water.

Maybe this is why it is so important for Global Community Monitor staff to travel all the way to the North Slope of Alaska to train the residents on citizen based monitoring through the Bucket Brigade.

Nuiqsut residents have no intention of shutting down the oil and gas fields.  They just want open lines of communication between themselves and the oil and gas companies.  They want to know when an accident occurs.  They want an emergency plan in place to ensure their children will be safe.  They want to ensure that the air, water and food that their families consume is safe.

So let the Bucket Brigade begin and with hard work, hopefully the residents of Nuiqsut, Alaska will be able to enjoy clean white snow again.