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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.


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.


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.


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.

By now most of us have heard about the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.

But how many of us know that tar sands is already being refined in US refineries?

Oil companies are bypassing the whole pipeline debate and bringing heavy crude in by rail.  And for communities living along those railroads, crude by rail can be disastrous.

Image from

On July 6, 2013 an oil train derailed in Lac Meganitic, Quebec.  All but one of the 73 cars was carrying oil, and five exploded.  The death toll from this accident is still rising as authorities continue to find bodies in the “burned out ruins”.   Read the rest of this entry »

This is a guest blog written by April Lane, a Bucket Brigade leader on the front lines in Arkansas.

oil spill 302On Friday March 29, 2013 an Exxon Mobile Pipeline ruptured sending oil some experts compare closely to tar sands oil through a subdivision in Mayflower, Ark. The pipeline blew at approximately 2 p.m. and was discovered by area residents soon after. The subdivision that sits right off of I-40, one of the busiest interstates in the state, never knew the pipeline was even there and it is just now being marked.This subdivision also sits just a creek and railroad track away from the Mayflower school. As the wave of oil made it through the subdivision it found a drainage ditch and then it hit the creek that runs down the side of the railroad tracks.  It ran to a pipe that goes under the interstate and comes out on the other side into Lake Conway and a wildlife habitat.  

Estimates are now saying that at least 10,000 barrels of heavy Canadian crude oil were lost in the incident. On Saturday, March 30th crews arrived from out of state to begin the clean-up. It was then that we learned that the pipe had leaked from 2 p.m. Friday until Saturday morning at approximately 3 a.m. oil spill 367The efforts were led by the county and state agencies at first and they had a lot of trouble getting the blockade to hold to keep the oil contained. Residents were evacuated but not everyone chose to leave. A few residents decided to stay and still reside inside the “hot zone.” Local teams have been working around the clock at the various places throughout this junction in town that this oil has popped out at.  But once you have walked the streets and surveyed the area in its entirety you can’t help but ponder, “how will they ever get it all cleaned up?” oil spill 379
Sunday, March 31st new wildlife effects were discovered surrounding the Lake. Ducks were found covered in oil. Some made it through but many did not and the window to helping the one’s that can be saved is closing rapidly. The total amount of wildlife that has been affected is still unknown and numbers continue to rise. More alarming than the loss of wildlife is that local residents have already begun to notice the effects. The first resident we approached on Saturday was one of the effected residents who chose to evacuate but only after her son began having wheezing, diarrhea and nausea from the fumes. Many residents outside of the hot zone in the surrounding neighborhoods that run next to where the spill occurred are experiencing symptoms. They describe the odor as being so strong that you can “cut it with a knife” and following the spill on Friday they began having a metallic like taste on their tongue and severe headaches followed by nausea. All of their questions have been left unanswered and the only answer they have received is that the air is safe.  Monday and Tuesday followed with an increased influx of companies and out-of-state license plates. oil spill 339

Today, our Attorney General Dustin McDaniel toured the area and described the neighborhood where the spill originated as a scene out of the walking dead. I would say I think it is clear to everyone that has walked the streets and the various locations surrounding the lake that this is an event that not only will take months to clean up but will also have an impact on the town of Mayflower and the residents that will ripple outwards 
into the surrounding areas that will last much longer than anyone is currently addressing.  However, the after-school sports practice involving 8 to 10 children practicing outdoors directly across the railroad tracks from where the spill occurred clearly emphasizes that appropriate measures to limit exposure to area residents are not yet being enforced to the fullest as to limit panic and further public outcry demanding answers and action.

oil spill 301


Is anyone paying attention here?!

Chevron’s Richmond, CA refinery has had two major accidents, sending thousands to local hospitals, in the past five years!

Currently, they are pushing plans through the City of Richmond’s permitting process to repair the crude unit that caused the fire on August 6, 2012, but it doesn’t seem that Chevron has any intention of following a City Council Resolution to use the highest standards and best technology in the repair.

And they’re planning to reopen this unit early next year?!

Turns out, Chevron claims that they are not ‘planning’ to increase production, therefore can forgo requirements to install the newest clean air technologies.  But- this poses a serious question.  Why wouldn’t a company want to install the best clean air technology?  Do they really not care about the health and safety of Richmond residents?

The Mayor of Richmond, Gayle McLaughlin, shares similar concerns over not ‘seeing the best available technology’.  She’s continuing to hold Chevron accountable by bringing about a resolution to City Council ensuring transparency from Chevron.

Yet, Chevron continues to spin the story, blaming the community residents for the delay in repairs at the Richmond Refinery.  Something many community residents have seen many times before.

Chevron has been polluting the City of Richmond, and surrounding areas, for decades.  They’ve shown time and time again that they do not properly maintain their facility and they consistently lie to the residents, City Council and the BAAQMD.  For Chevron to defy the Richmond City Council is just Chevron doing business as usual.


Rage poured out of residents’ pores and mouths on Tuesday night  in Richmond.

Almost 500 people packed the town’s Civic Center for the Chevron hosted town hall meeting in response to the huge fire at the refinery on Monday night.

The evening,coincided with National Night Out-a major event in Richmond, began with a rally outside organized by Asian Pacific Environmental Network. Richmond’s Green Mayor, Gayle McLaughlin, spoke at this rally, reminding all that economic and environmental justice were key issues for Richmond.

The Cast of Characters
The town hall meeting inside included information about shelter in place and a small postcard was passed out with key numbers-like the claims hotline, odor lines and police.

The meeting was moderated by Joan Davis, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Richmond Community Foundation, an organization that is rumored to receive a significant amount of funding from Chevron. Her presence was unusual and condescending. She began by having each panel member give a short presentation on their role in the fire and the emergency response after, the panel included:

Nigel Hearne, Chevron Richmond refinery General Manager

Randy Sawyer, Director Hazardous Materials Division, Contra Costa Health Services

Bill Lindsay, Richmond City Manager (why wasn’t the Mayor invited on the panel?)

Dr. Wendel Brunner, Contra Costa Public Health Director

Katherine Hern, Contra Costa County Senior Emergency Planning Coordinator

Jeff McKay, Deputy Air Pollution Control Officer, Bay Area Air Quality Management District

Hearne expressed a sincere apology and accepted full responsibility for the fire at the refinery. However, he was unwilling to provide details about the substances burned in unit 4, he described it as a “diesel like” substance.

Hearne was unwilling to provide information about his annual salary. Hearne is a strategic leader for Chevron, formerly the operations manager at their beloved and touted El Segundo Refinery in Southern California.

Randy Sawyer was booed almost as much as Hearne. He provided no tangible information about what materials may have been in the air or what people were being exposed to. Residents felt the emergency response was inadequate-with a delayed siren and some that are registered did not receive calls about the impending danger.

Dr. Wendel Brunner was mildly feisty. He was the first person to discuss health effects from the smoke’s particulate matter. Brunner informed the crowd that as of 5 pm Tuesday, 949 people had reported acute (asthma attacks, burning eyes, burning nose and throat) health symptoms at the two area emergency rooms.
Read the rest of this entry »


Chevron lit the northern California bubble on fire on Monday night with a blaze that lasted for hours. More than three hours later, there is no information available to area residents about why Chevron is on fire and what we are breathing.

Chevron representative Nigel Hearne does not know anything
photo from

Diesel fuel leak? Chevron representatives (Nigel Hearne, great accent) have no idea how this fire happened. They are providing no information about the chemicals that may be present in the air.

While Chevron stammers and stumbles at the press conference, residents are filling up area hospitals with reports of breathing problems. Unfortunately, like the 1999 and 2007 fires, the information about health effects will not come out until after the fire-it could be weeks, possibly months.

Have no fear-the Bay Area Air Quality Management district, our local EPA, is on the scene (snicker). Global Community Monitor has long advocated for real time air monitoring and for regulators to own equipment for emergencies-like a fire. Yet, no information has been shared with the public.  Chevron promised the City of Richmond several years ago they would install a state of the art real time fenceline monitor system, similar to Valero and Conoco Phillips,  in return for a tax deal.  While Chevron has enjoyed several years of the tax deal, they have failed to install the system.

Some news reports cited environmentalists’ and community residents’ challenge of the Chevron modernization in 2008 as a possible reason why the fire is happening.

However, these news reports failed to take into consideration that Chevron wanted to do more than modernize-they wanted to expand so that they could process heavier crude oil-Canadian tar sands. Tar sands oil would bring more accidents and emissions.

For now, families are still reeling from a stressful night, people are recovering from trips to the hospital and we are all bracing for the increased cost at the pump.

Recently, there was a victory for environmentalists and anti-Tar Sands activists.  Instead of letting the big oil companies push the permit through, President Obama and the State Department sent the Keystone Pipeline proposal back for a thorough independent re-review.  Now, the Keystone Pipelineis back on President Obama’s desk for immediate decision.  We sent a clear message to the White House so what’s next in the anti-tar sands movement?

from The Chicago Tribune

 While, Congress battledthis out in Washington, just like business as usual, Tar Sands oil IS already being refined in US refineries.  Don’t be fooled. Just because the oil companies hit a snag in their fast-tracked plan to send 900,000 barrels of heavy crude DAILY from Canada all the way to Texas, doesn’t mean they weren’t successful in getting Tar Sands oil into places along the Canadian/US border, like Detroit, Whiting and Toledo.

from Informed Vote

Refining tar sands heavy crude oil is far more environmentally destructive, producing two to three times more carbon than conventional oil and using vast amounts of fresh water to extract.

So while the residents living along the proposed pipeline route might be able to breathe a little easier, the fight is not over for the communities living on the fenceline along the US/Canada border.

Global Community Monitor has been working with communities living on the fencline of oil refineries for over ten years so it’s no surprise we were ready to go and jump started the campaign with a recent trip to Toledo, Ohio in order educate the local community about tar sands and how it will affect them locally.  BP/Husky, located in Toledo, OH is slated for a $2.5 billion expansion, but has not made public a date and time when the tar sands expansion will happen.

Global Community Monitor’s Bucket Brigades have been launched in 27 countries, allowing residents to sample their own air to answer the question, ‘What’s in the air that we are breathing?’  

Even if we do win, and the Keystone pipeline is defeated, we still need to work to stop tar sands oil from and to protect communities like Toledo, OH, Whiting, IN and Detroit, MI.  Why should those communities live with the increased risk of reproductive harm, cancer and other diseases while the oil companies rake in big profits?  These families are already overburdened with toxic emissions from the polluting refinery next door, it would be an extreme injustice to even think of expanding it to create even heavier toxic emissions.

Residents of Southwest Detroit discuss the Bucket Brigade, the power of the results and send their thanks to Global Community Monitor.  The residents of zip code 48217 have some of the worst air quality in the region.  Their neighborhoods are surrounded by heavy industry including an ever expanding oil refinery that has just started upgrading their facility in order to process heavy tarsands oil from Canada.  The Bucket Brigade has validated their health and safety concerns.  This has opened the discussion with the oil refinery and some residents are finally able to afford to move to a less polluted environment

Courtesy of Politico

Just days after hundreds were arrested in Washington D.C. for protesting the proposed Keystone pipeline, nearly a hundred people perished in a pipeline explosionin Nairobi, Kenya. What costs are we willing to tolerate?

Image from LAProgressive

Pipelines can be dangerous when poorly maintained.  We saw that in San Bruno last year.  Responsibility fell solely on PG&E for poor maintenance, yet PG&E is still trying to hold rate-payers accountable by hiking rates  for upgrades needed to meet safety regulations. Although PG&E already made $10million in rate hikes in 2007 and 2009 designated to repair the exact pipeline which had already been identified as ‘high risk’.  AND, currently, they are still positioned to turn a profit on the San Bruno pipeline explosion.

Getty Images

But, accidents like San Bruno are not isolated to one horrendously mismanaged energy company.

Almost a year after the San Bruno explosion, a pipeline ruptured in Nairobi, Kenya.  It occurred in a slum, where many people live right next to an exposed pipeline.  This caused an instant inferno with limited escape.  Emergency personnel couldn’t even reach the scene in a timely manner due to poor road access that is often seen in low-income areas.

From Detroit Metro Times


This environmental injustice and lack of safeguards plague low-income communities around the world.  While residents from countless communities are fighting for their safety through stricter regulations, energy companies in North America are spearheading a new pipeline to run from Canada all the way to Texas in order to carry tar sands heavy crude.  Does anyone think we are really moving in the right direction?  How can we safeguard human health along pipeline routes, is it possible?

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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