In the face of poverty and pollution, Richmond, California community members are on the frontlines of organizing to create a clean, democratic and equitable economy. This grassroots effort, driven by Richmond’s low-income communities of color, is leading Richmond out of the shadows of the Chevron Refinery into the sunlight of a resilient and thriving local clean energy future. Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN) and Communities for a Better Environment (CBE) are anchoring the Our Power work in Richmond, CA.
Background: Moment of Crisis and Opportunity
Richmond is a working class, and predominantly people of color community impacted by decades of environmental blight and economic divestment. It is home to a 3,000 acre Chevron Oil Refinery – the largest stationary greenhouse gas emitter in the State of California and the effects of this facility are compounded by cumulative health impacts causing kids to have higher asthma rates in the region. We also suffer high rates of unemployment and home foreclosures. In the midst of these challenges, we are building strength to exploit some key opportunities.
We are building strength through:
- Momentum and alignment within the environmental justice groups in addressing extreme energy impacts. Our grassroots environmental justice community halted the expansion of Chevron’s dirty energy project that resulted in preventing nearly 1 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions. We are the first responders fighting for workers and community health and safety on the state, regional and local level after the August 6th, Chevron that sent 15,000 residents and twelve workers to local hospitals.
- Inside – Outside strategies. We have used electoral work as a method to advocate for people and policies in our local government that are aligned with our agenda. This creates opportunities for more coordination between community forces and the apparatus of our local government against extreme energy interests.
Key opportunities that we are engaging:
- Richmond is currently the largest city in the United States served by a Green Party Mayor committed to climate protection, green jobs, greening the city, and adaptation.
- Richmond is also the first majority people of color community in the nation to have Community Choice Energy that permits any city or county to aggregate the clean energy for residents, businesses and municipal facilities to facilitate the purchase and sale of electrical. We are working to create a new, clean, green, democratic and equitable economy for Richmond.
The work in Richmond currently centers around stopping extreme energy in the form of the refinery and making Richmond a solar city. The vision for a just transition to a local living economy includes multiple sectors that the Our Power Campaign has laid out and in these initial stages of our Hot Spot work, we are choosing to move with our current momentum around clean energy and from there build out a more comprehensive platform over time.
An initial step to realizing our vision is working to pass a policy that will prohibit refining of dirtier grades of crude oil. When successful, these policy wins will close off California refineries like Chevron to tar sands and other grades of domestic dirty crude.
Just as crucial and timely as stopping the flow of dirty crude, we are working to usher in alternative sources of energy and sustainable economic development by making Richmond a solar city. Renewable energy expansion will free Richmond from Chevron’s economic grasp by stimulating jobs and economic development. By building strong partnerships with labor, we will ensure that burgeoning jobs in energy efficiency and renewable energy manufacturing, installation and maintenance are career path, safe, family supporting jobs that contribute to the healthy, resilient and thriving communities we all want and need.