Richmond Background & Political Context

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 – one of the largest stationary greenhouse gas emitters in the State of California, causing profound cumulative health impacts, such as asthma, respiratory illnesses, and cancer affecting kids and families.

Nearly 80% of people living within one mile of the Chevron refinery are people of color and the majority are working class. So it comes as no surprise that Chevron’s strategy has been to divide these communities – pitting workers against communities of color, prospective jobs against community health.  For over a hundred years, Chevron has not only polluted Richmond’s air, but also polluted its democracy by spending millions of dollars in local elections and manipulating the community with misleading advertising and puppet politicians. Richmond also suffers from high rates of unemployment and home foreclosures.

In the face of Chevron’s pollution, Richmond, California community members are on the frontlines of organizing to create a healthy, democratic and equitable economy. This grassroots effort, driven by Richmond’s progressive and working class community is leading Richmond out of the shadows of the Chevron Refinery and business as usual politics into the sunlight of a resilient and thriving community.

Richmond is ground zero to climate fights and protecting community health and safety from Big Oil.  Our grassroots environmental justice community built organizing power and filed a lawsuit in 2009 that halted the expansion of Chevron’s dirty energy project, resulting 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, 2012 Chevron refinery explosion that sent 15,000 residents and 19 workers to seek medical attention.  We recently sued Kinder Morgan and the regional air district seeking to rip to shreds their permit to allow further shipments of “highly flammable” Bakken crude oil by rail to a Richmond fuel trans-loading facility that sits near an elementary school.

The Richmond community has welcomed the vision of a just transition.  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 clean energy.   It also is the first majority people of color community in the nation to have Community Choice Energy that permits the city to create local clean renewable energy projects for residents, businesses and municipal facilities and to facilitate the purchase and sale of electricity.   We have a growing and robust urban agriculture and workers cooperative movement.  We are working with community members and our local partners towards making a healthy, clean, green, democratic and equitable economy for Richmond.

Chevron recently release their draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for a new dirty oil expansion project.  Chevron is using hundreds of thousands of dollars on public relations to manipulate the public.  This new project would emit more than 700,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions and increase additional toxic air contaminants.  We are mobilizing to ensure the (EIR) is corrected, reduce pollution, increase clean energy alternatives and protect workers and community health and safety.

In addition, this is a major election year in Richmond.  Five of seven City Council seats are up for election in 2014, spelling a potential seismic shift in the composition of city government.  With Chevron having a history of spending millions in the elections and influencing local, regional and state politics, this the core political context of our building a just transition movement.

At the heart of our movement is organizing Richmond community members to be the leaders of this struggle.  As a diverse and progressive community, we have been resisting fossil fuel companies and the Extraction Economy for generations.  This is a critical time to organize, inform and educate the Richmond community, region and the nation; and the Our Power Gathering is a place to catalyze our vision for a Just Transition.

Richmond Environmental Justice Coalition: Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN), California Nurses Association, Communities for a Better Environment (CBE), Richmond Progressive Alliance (RPA), Urban Tilth, 350 Bay Area and the Sunflower Alliance.

RICHMOND ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE COALITION’S JUST TRANSITION PLATFORM
VISION

We have a vision for building a just and sustainable city that will improve the health and quality of life for all Richmond residents.  We must divest from unsustainable fossil fuel energy, corporate power, and the focus on profits at the expense of people.  Instead, we can transform Richmond by investing in jobs and the economy, health and safety, strengthening our communities, and acting on climate change. The return on this investment will be measured in the long-term viability of our community and the planet.  We must restore democratic participation in transitioning to an economy with quality jobs that support families while meeting our needs for safe housing, clean water, healthy food, inspiring education, access to education, long-lasting goods, and meaningful work. Richmond is leading the way for a just transition – getting to work developing local living economies that foster community resilience.

The people of Richmond have begun a Just Transition away from dirty energy and dirty dealing to local living economies. Together, we are ready to energize the future by:

  • Stopping Chevron’s and others dirty energy and dirty dealing.  For too long, the industrial economy of the Chevron refinery and other corporate entities has failed to meet the needs of Richmond’s working class communities.  Chevron’s pollution has caused danger for our workers, asthma for our children, economic insecurity for our residents, and an ecological crisis for our planet.
  • Stabilizing housing and making sure people can stay in Richmond.  The City of Richmond was hard-hit by the housing crisis, and we need to stem the hemorrhaging.  Nearly half of all homes here in Richmond with mortgages are underwater, and many are expected to go into foreclosure.
  • Getting ourselves out from under corporations and fostering a local economy.  We’re not going to sit back and let corporations run our city.  We’re going to stand up to Wall Street, stand up to Chevron, and stand up FOR our community.