Protect Our Community’s Health
Demand Transparency and Accountability from Chevron, the County Health Department and the City of Richmond
The Richmond Equitable Development Initiative (REDI) denounces the damage done by the Chevron refinery fire in the strongest possible terms. Though smoke poisoned the atmosphere throughout the region, sent hundreds of people to the hospital, and stopped BART trains, once again the harm fell hardest on Richmond’s low-income community and people of color.
Members of REDI’s partner groups have deep roots in these communities, and we see this event as both a source of outrage and a call to action: We demand transparency and accountability so we can protect the health of our community.
It is unacceptable that people had to sit imprisoned behind duct-taped doors with headaches, burning eyes and lungs—or had symptoms bad enough to force them into the toxic air to seek medical help. To make matters worse, few people got warning robocalls from the Contra Costa County Health Department—they only heard the sirens, saw and smelled the smoke.
“As soon as I heard the sirens I just went inside to shelter in place, but a lot of people in our community don’t understand what that means,” said Richmond Vision member Silvia Ledezma. “I know there were Spanish-speaking mechanics in my neighborhood still working outside on cars long after the sirens went off.”
Longtime residents recall toxic spills as routine as fire drills in elementary school, and remember Chevron passing out money in the neighborhoods after releases. The company’s Richmond refinery continues to emit more greenhouse gas pollution than any other facility in the state, and the city’s children go to the hospital with asthma at twice the rate of children elsewhere in the U.S. This must stop. People must be protected.
The REDI coalition partners on the ground have worked for years asking for transparency, accountability and policies that make the city we love a healthier place. We supported and passed a General Plan that puts the health and wellness of all Richmond’s residents at the forefront. Chevron, as the city’s largest private employer and the largest emitter of toxic pollutants in the region, must be held accountable for the health of its employees and the community. The company has historically wielded heavy weight in local policy-making—but this must be balanced with equity and people’s needs.
“We want to hold business leaders and city officials accountable for the quality of healthcare and exposure to toxic fumes from the industries that are in our community,” said Dave Gesinger, a member Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE).
The warning sirens remind us that we must remain vigilant and demand that industry make real efforts to transition to cleaner and renewable energy uses that will create a sustainable green economy with good local job opportunities.
Richmond residents should not have to choose between their lives and their livelihoods. REDI members will redouble our efforts with our friends and allies to make this future happen.
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