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Hearing from Government Agencies
Chevron More Dangerous than Many Thought
Hancock-Skinner Hearing in Richmond Council Chambers
State Senator Loni Hancock and Assembly Member Nancy Skinner held hearings in Richmond on the conclusions of several Government agencies on the causes of the Chevron fire and ways to prevent future catastrophes.
There were over two hours of reports at the Friday, April 5, from the US Chemical Safety Board, Cal OSHA, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, Contra Costa County Department of Environmental Health, the Governor's Taskforce on Refinery Safety, Supervisor John Gioia, and City Manager Bill Lindsay which were then followed by Q&A and public comments.
The picture that was painted was more than just sobering. Multiple problems were clearly identified and discussed:
- Chevron placed short term profits over adequate preventive maintenance and safety best practices. The pipe that failed was identified as needing replacement in 2002. Management ignored the recommendations of their own inspectors and their own refinery operations personnel.
- Nothing in our current regulatory system made Chevron do the right thing.
- The entire approach to industry regulation should be changed. CSB will be recommending a shift to a "Safety Case" method of regulation in which the company is responsible for creating a comprehensive safety plan which must be approved before operation
- Regulatory Agencies need more inspectors with better technical skills. Cal OSHA conducted only 3 inspections of the Richmond Refinery over the six years prior to the fire.
- The refining of higher sulfur oil is not only causing increased toxic emissions; it is also causing increased corrosion and safety risks.
- Our emissions monitoring, emergency response and public warning systems were inadequate last August.
So What Can We Do?
- Attend upcoming meeting of the Chemical Safety Board and Air Resources Board. See article below.
- Make sure our state legislators and county/city officials adopt the CSB's recommendations and change the way we regulate our refineries & chemical plants.
- Support USW Local 5 in their efforts to have a bigger role in plant safety and curtail Chevron's use of contract workers in the maintenance workforce.
- Be ready to review the "revised" Refinery Modernization Project's Environmental Impact Report - it will be out sometime this summer
- Insist that our new emissions monitoring system is giving us the information we need to protect our health.
- Insist that Chevron pay its fair share of property taxes in order to cover all of the public services it requires.
A longer version of this article can be found here
|Important Chevron Dates Coming Up |
There are two very important dates coming up that are landmark experiences for Richmond's Environmental Justice history.
US Chemical Safety Board (CSB) Public Hearing - Richmond Chevron Refinery Explosion -
Friday, April 19, 6:30 p.m. at the Richmond Auditorium.
The CSB is an independent federal agency whose members are appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. The CSB is expected to identify critical issues exposing Chevron's culture of profits v. safety that created the Chevron Richmond Toxic Explosion and Fire on August 6, 2012.
Most of the conditions that led to the fire still exist and continue to put workers and community members at risk of death and injury.
The CSB staff is also expected to make recommendations for the entire United States petrochemical industry on ensuring oil refinery safety.
We must be present to put pressure on the Board members to adopt the recommendations of the staff
It is critical for we as a community:
- learn from their investigation the behavior that lead to the August 6, Toxic Explosion and Fire,
- advocate for implementing all of the CSB's recommendations for refinery safety,
- establish a management culture and regulatory regime of prevention not reaction,
- Ensure the CSB votes to accept its staff recommendations.
Bay Area Air Quality Public Workshop - Air Emissions Rule Making - Wednesday, April 24, 6:00 p.m. East Bay Center for the Performing Arts.
This regional agency is currently making a rule to reduce toxic emissions from refineries. The District MUST limit the sulfur content in the crude oil refined at local Bay Area refineries. High sulfur crude oil corrodes pipes more rapidly and makes more emissions.
We know the refineries, including Chevron, are on record opposing any restriction on the crude quality. Our voices must louder and more numerous than Big Oil's money.
They won't do it unless they hear from us!!!
- Chevron and the industry want no sulfur limits,
- Community members and workers demand sulfur content limits for health and safety.
- We must have our elected officials support our position by showing broad based community support
CBE (Communities for a Better Environment) is organizing community presentations at these events. If you want to help contact Andrés Soto, 510-282-5363, or e-mail at email@example.com.
|Must Walk the Talk|
Integrity of City still at Risk
The issue of how to repair the Richmond City Government's reputation for integrity was effectively referred to a closed session of the City Council at its meeting on Tuesday April 2. A special investigator hired by the City found that the Director of Human Resources, Leslie Knight had committed serious violations of City Policy including:
-taking money from the city for a car allowance at the same time she was using a city vehicle,
-having city employees do work for her private activities,
-giving access to a whistle-blower's email to another city employee.
A resolution from Councilmember Jovanka Beckles and Mayor Gayle McLaughlin on the April 2 agenda, called for the removal of Ms. Knight from her position as Director. Councilmember Beckles announced that she and the Mayor were withdrawing the resolution at the beginning of the session, explaining that the resolution dealt primarily with the policy questions involving the City's integrity. However, since the policy questions were intertwined with personnel questions , she was cooperating with those Councilmembers who had expressed the wish to try to deal with this in closed session. Councilmember Beckles reserved the right to bring back a resolution to deal with the policy issues.
Councilmember Nat Bates has been trying to turn this into an issue of confidence in Bill Lindsay. The resolution itself was quite clear that the implementation of personnel actions are in the hands of the City Manager as described in the City Charter. Both Mayor McLaughlin and Councilmember Beckles have made it clear that personnel actions are subject to various legal restrictions, are very difficult and that they have confidence in City Manager Lindsay.
|The City Has a Clear Policy:|
NO Asking Employees to Work on Personal Projects
One of the concerns involving the Human Resources Director is that she asked (or required) that City Staff help her in activities associated with her own private business over a period of years.
Here is the first part (emphasis added) of Administrative Policy # 302 Issued by Leslie Knight, Director of Human Resources, which is part of the City's Administrative Manual.
To prevent employees from being pressured into undertaking activities or projects for managers or supervisors that are unrelated to City business. This policy is also intended to prevent the appearance of impropriety which is likely to exist if a manager or supervisor hires and/or compensates a subordinate employee for activities or projects unrelated to City business, even if the subordinate employee is able to perform the activity or project on her or his own time and is willing to undertake the activity or project voluntarily.
A. Employees who hold positions as managers and supervisors, or who have subordinate employees reporting to them, are prohibited from hiring subordinate employees as independent contractors or employees, or offering remuneration to subordinate employees, or utilizing them in a volunteer capacity, in connection with any activities or projects that a manager or supervisor undertakes in her/his personal capacity, as opposed to her or his management or supervisory position with the City.
An Example from Richmond's History
Maintaining the People's Trust
A situation involving staff abuse of public funds occurred in the Mayor's Office in 2008. When the wrongdoing came to light, the Mayor acted swiftly and appropriately in terminating the person immediately, which resulted in a conviction and a full recovery of the funds.
The Mayor's response to this situation exemplifies how to preserve the integrity of the City and the public trust. The public demands, and rightly so, that those in public positions do not betray their trust. When the public trust has been broken, a full restoration of this trust must occur, without which the collective hopes of the community suffer.
Thursday, April 11th, 1:30pm 622 24th Street
New Approach to Stopping Foreclosure
Join members of the community group ACCE and Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin and Councilmember Jovanka Beckles for an important press conference as ACCE members release a report entitled: "The Wall Street Wrecking Ball: What Foreclosures Are Costing Richmond and What We Can Do About It".
The City of Richmond may have found a way to help homeowners, underwater because of the banking crisis. A combination of forces may help get the mortgage principle reduced substantially so that homeowners can stay in their homes and communities can be kept stable. See what a real partnership between community organizing and a responsive local government can do.
Helping People Help Themselves
A Different Approach to Helping the Homeless
What do the precious strands of saffron that grow inside the crocus flower have in common with people who sleep outdoors and in Richmond's homeless shelters? Both have a high inherent value that is not always recognized. Both must deal with predators and hostile environments. And there's more...
Saffron Strand, Inc. gave a presentation about Breaking the Cycle of Chronic Unemployment at the RPA's April 3 Community Resources Forum. One audience member asked about the meaning of the organization's name. According to the website of Saffron Strand, Inc., "Producing saffron demands the intensive, attentive work of dedicated people. Likewise, with care and dedication, homeless people can and will work to overcome their personal challenges and become productive members of our communities. When they thrive, they bring their precious gifts to the world we share."
Saffron Strand is an intentional community that offers a space where homeless and low income individuals can come and get the support they need to actively participate in improving their lives. We heard presentations by Jeanice Cummings, Chair of Saffron Strand's board of directors, Yvonne Nair, the founder and CEO, and Christina and Clifton, two active members.
There are about 150 members, roughly half of them currently active, and on any given day, a couple dozen or so gather in the small (144 sq.ft.) Pt. Richmond office that serves as a training facility, resource center and meeting place for Saffron Strand. There are structured activities from 9-3 on Monday-Friday that include communal breakfast and lunch, responding to phone and e-mail messages, working on resumes, coaching each other on a variety of job skills, preparing presentations, and addressing urgent needs that may arise.
Christina has been a member for several months and shared what a difference it made to her self-esteem to receive so much encouragement, especially after having been told as a child that she was "too slow". She discovered that she simply has her own timeline for learning things, and at Saffron Strand she has learned skills so quickly that she now works as executive assistant to Ms. Nair, in preparation for eventually landing a good administrative job elsewhere in the community.
What differentiates Saffron Strand from many traditional social service agencies is that it brings the voices of its members fully into the process of planning and shaping its activities. Members are encouraged to play an active role in determining what they need to do to find sustainable employment so that they can meet their basic needs. With support from each other and the organization's dedicated volunteer staff, members are able to effectively address the technical, psychological and behavioral barriers they face . Recognizing that homeless individuals have invariably experienced much hardship, Saffron Strand fosters a trauma-informed, professional-quality working environment that offers trust, respect and dignity.
Of the 200 members served since its inception in 2009, 82 are currently employed, and about half of those for over two years. Members come to Saffron Strand mostly by word of mouth. Its main capacity limitation right now is space, and the staff are currently seeking a larger venue in Richmond. Funding is also a challenge, as all current funding is from individual donations.
On June 17-18, 2013, Saffron Strand in Richmond will host its 4th annual conference on homelessness that draws community members, policy makers, social service professionals and business leaders from all over the US. This year's theme is "Developing the Homeless Workforce: What Will It Take?" and features numerous workshops and nationally-known presenters.
For more information on how you can support Saffron Strand's worthwhile efforts by volunteering, donating and/or attending the June conference, visit www.saffronstrand.org
Saturday, April 27, 10 am - 2 pm
Jovanka Beckles: Pride and Purpose in Richmond
Jovanka Beckles has a new video series on KCRT Cable TV featuring what is great about Richmond. The first shows feature interviews with some of the pioneers of urban farming in Richmond including Andromeda Brooks, Linda Schneider, and Urban Tilth.
You can see these great videos on YouTube. Just click on them
Jovanka interviews Andromeda Brooks of Happy Lot Farm and Garden and Linda Schneider of Self Sustaining Communities
Jovanka interviews Gio Velasquez, Teresa Jimenez, and Jeff Rutland of Urban Tilth
Saturday, April 13 3 - 5 pm Ryse Center (205 45th St)
Raw Talent Presents
for youth ages 13-19
Free! Winner will go on Free Trip to Chicago!
Register and bring an original piece to perform
Saturday, April 27, 5-9 pm
Benefit for Children with Autism
DeJean Middle School
3400 Macdonald Ave.
Nat Bates Turns Global Warming Motion into attack on RPA, Tom Butt, and Environmentalists.
The follow-up discussion after the Council's vote allocating money to begin to prepare a City Climate Action Plan borders on absurd. The item passed with a 5-2 vote with Bates and Booze "abstaining," in effect voting "no".
Shortly after the vote Tom Butt wrote a description of the discussion criticizing Bates' and Boozes' vote against the motion. Bates replied with the following attack on Butt and the RPA which he is spreading around to Neighborhood Groups.
He begins his open letter by appreciating the following view point of an individual who wrote to support Bates' and Booze's "abstentions".
Councilmen Bates & Booze,
Good for you! This whole climate action change program is HOGWASH, pure and simple and siphons away much needed funds from infrastructure improvement.
The whole idea that man caused global warming is causing havoc is nothing more than a way for elites and their "green" sock puppets to grab more power and money.
The God I worship didn't design an atmosphere that could be easily changed. He controls our atmosphere and it's constituents.
Every human breathes out carbon dioxide with each breath. I'm waiting for them to openly state that population control has to be instituted to "stop global warming."
Thanks Mr.& Mrs. ____ for your support.
I understand your frustrations and very much appreciate your support and points of view. With respect to my colleague Councilman Tom Butt who frequently as an elites think he is the only person on this earth who think intelligently and always knows what is best for the world, what a pompous ass as he attempt to interpret my votes and the reason thereof."
Bates then goes on to try to explain his vote against the motion at the city council. He is Mr. Reasonable just trying to allow for community participation. Butt and the RPA is trying a fast railroad job. What he does not tell you is:
1. By Richmond's rules as compared to normal parliamentary procedure, a vote to abstain counts the same as a NO vote.
2. The motion that Bates and Booze effectively voted against (by abstaining) was actually just a motion to start the process of discussion. Here is the agenda point:
"AUTHORIZE the city manager to initiate a process to produce a Climate Action Plan for Richmond, including scheduling for completion this year, assigning staff, soliciting proposals from consultants, budgeting in Fiscal Year 2013-2014 and continuing to search and apply for grants."
Note the words "initiate the process." Bates and Booze explained their opposition to the motion stating that they wanted "business community" approval before they voted for it. In fact the business community has ample opportunity to participate in the process along with everyone else and there is no reason that they should be given veto rights before the process starts. So be clear that it is Bates who wants to stop community discussion on this topic because he is waiting for his marching orders from whatever he considers legitimate business interests. That is Nat Bates' notion of "DEMOCRACY."
3. There is a lot of money available in grants available to communities that are working on or have completed climate action plans. To hold back the process of developing a climate action plan is to make Richmond ineligible for receiving these grants.
So instead of helping to educate the public and help prepare society to deal with global warming, because he has this knee-jerk need to denounce anything supported by the RPA and Butt, -also supported in this case by Councilmembers Myrick and Rogers and President Obama - Bates ends up promoting his appreciation for those who call global warming "hogwash."
The process of developing a Richmond Climate Action Plan should have started years ago. To throw up roadblocks and further stall it does us all a major disservice.
Chevron cuts bonus for CEO, other execs
By David R. Baker
Chevron Corp.'s board on Wednesday cut the annual bonus for CEO John Watson and several other top executives in response to a string of accidents at the oil company's facilities, including a refinery fire in Richmond that sent thousands of people to hospitals complaining of breathing problems.
Read more: http://www.sfchronicle.com/#ixzz2OoB2Onjh
Chevron Super PAC Contribution Complaint Raises Its Own Questions
WASHINGTON -- A collection of good government and environmental groups filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) on Tuesday against Chevron, a federal government contractor, for donating $2.5 million to a Republican super PAC during the 2012 campaign and against the Congressional Leadership Fund for accepting the contribution.
The complaint was filed by Public Citizen, Friends of the Earth-US, Greenpeace and Oil Change International, alleging violations of the 1940 Hatch Act ban on political contributions by federal contractors. Since 2010, Chevron has received nearly $1.2 billion in federal contracts, nearly all coming from the Department of Defense.
The oil and gas giant denies the charge and says that a central assertion of the complaint is "completely inaccurate." The assertion in question is that the problematic contribution was made by Chevron Products Company, a division of Chevron U.S.A. The FEC report filed by the Congressional Leadership Fund simply lists Chevron as the donor, and a spokesman for Chevron insisted to The Huffington Post that the contribution actually came from Chevron Corporation, the parent company of Chevron U.S.A.
Read more in Huffington Post
|Inspiring Story of Mexican Workers Cooperative
On the 879th day of their strike, Mexican tire workers sought help in Germany, where the multinational that wanted to close their plant was based. After a determined 1,141-day campaign, the company sold them the plant, which they now run as a cooperative.
RPA Activist Info
is for Richmond community members who want to be active in taking on the problems of the environment, racism, joblessness, housing, and crime to create a healthy Richmond. We believe that community involvement means more than voting every two years. It means regular communication with the candidates we elect, letting them know our issues and positions, supporting them as they try to take our issues forward. It means we attend meetings, use email, phone our neighbors, or go on marches building an organized movement to create real change.
Comments and columns are welcome. Articles and columns are the views of the author, unsigned text the views of the editor, Mike Parker, and not necessarily those of the RPA. Send photos, articles, and comments to RPAactivist@gmail.com or call 510-595-4661. Longer articles of analysis and archives of past newsletters can be found on our website.