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Each year in April, near Earth Day, Bay Area environmental health and justice advocates converge on San Francisco’s Opera House and City Hall to celebrate the Goldman Environmental Prize. The anticipation starts days in advance with media and parties celebrating the year’s winners. The award includes $175,000 cash prize, and inclusion in a group that lists some of the most tenacious, hardest working, and strategic grassroots activists in the world.
Six individuals are awarded each year from six continents. Prizes are awarded to grassroots activists that have achieved “sustained and significant efforts to protect and enhance the natural environment, often at great personal risk.”
This year marks the 25th Anniversary of the Goldman Prize.
This year we are excited to join in the celebration with Desmond D’Sa fromDurban, South Africa. Desmond’s work over the past two decades with the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA) has been relentless in their efforts for clean air and a healthy community.
Desmond, with SDCEA and local, regional and international partners, has won clean air agreements from large refinery neighbors, closed a local dump, was a point person for COP 17 protests and is now leading the charge against the Durban Port expansion. Desmond is full of stories of struggle and victory, and none is more shocking than when a pipe bomb was thrown and exploded at his home during intense campaigning against the refineries.
Desmond was active with Global Community Monitor in the international (anti-) Shell Coalition. As part of this coalition, Des visited County Mayo, Ireland to support Willie Corduff and the Rossport community in the struggle to keep Shell off their farm and community lands. Desmond also visited Richmond, CA in 2011 in support of the community living in the shadow of Chevron.
As a nominator, Global Community Monitor is proud to be associated with the prize winners and the communities they represent. GCM has led and participated in several nominations of Goldman Prize Winners. The Prize is a rare moment for everyday leaders to get the recognition that their sacrifice and persistence deserves.
GCM continues to celebrate Bucket Brigade Leaders Bobby Peek, Durban, South Africa (1998); Margie Richard, Norco, Louisiana (2004); Willie Corduff, County Mayo, Ireland (2007); Hilton Kelley, Port Arthur, Texas (2011) and Dimitry Lisitsyn, Russia (2011).
While the Prize is an amazing recognition, it does not stop the environmental crimes and problems in these communities around the world. Like Desmond, Bobby, Margie, Willie, Hilton and Dimitry, they go on to live another day and fight another fight.
Given their track record, a fight they just might win.
On March 27, 2014, Global Community Monitor, The Center for Race Poverty and the Environment, the Central California Environmental Justice Network, and The Committee for a Better Arvin submitted the following letter to the Kern County Environmental Health Department and the Department of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources in response to a pipeline leak that was discovered on March 18, 2014.
This leaking pipeline was under a residential block of Arvin. It’s unclear how long the pipeline had been leaking, but some residents have claimed to have been smelling gas, in their homes, for at least four years. Residents have questions and we have yet to hear back from either agency.
March 27, 2014
Dear Mr. Constantine and Mr. Nechdom,
Eight families on Nelson Court in Arvin, California (Kern County) were evacuated on Tuesday, March 18, 2014. Residents were unclear and uninformed of the level of danger that the Petro Capital Resource’s leaking gas pipeline was causing.
The Arvin Bucket Brigade, a joint project with Global Community Monitor, Committee for A Better Arvin and Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment, were contacted by Nelson Court residents. The air monitoring team took an air sample at 6:50 pm on Tuesday, March 18, 2014.
The air sample contained over twenty chemicals including elevated levels of cancer causing benzene and a mix of total volatile organic compounds (VOCs). The level of total VOCs in the sample collected at 6:50 p.m. on Tuesday, March 18th at 1312 Nelson Court in Arvin is 13 times higher than the levels the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) scientists have associated with adverse health impacts.
Residents have noticed chemicals odors for several months and have had varying health effects including nose bleeds, coughs and headaches. A pregnant mother passed out. These health effects show a strong correlation with VOC exposure.
Nelson Court and Arvin residents have many questions about this gas leak and the emergency evacuation:
1) How do you determine it is safe to return to my home? Will there be chemicals in my home?
2) How will Petro Capital Resource’s be held accountable for this leak?
3) How did the County determine that an emergency evacuation was needed at 7 pm March 18, 2014?
4) How many more pipelines like this exist in the area?
5) How will you keep these pipelines from leaking?
Our team will be following up with your office to discuss the air monitoring results, attached to this letter.
For clean air and healthy communities,
Jessica Hendricks, Global Community Monitor
Juan Flores, The Center for Race, Poverty & the Environment
Sal Partida, The Committee for a Better Arvin
Cesar Campos, Central California Environmental Justice Network