We Need Healthy Hoods, Not Toxic Hotspots!

Send an email right now urging California lawmakers to support a bill that will help protect communities from toxic waste!

Arvin. Santa Fe Springs. Wildomar. Buttonwillow. Vernon. Shafter. These, and many others, are the names of communities that have had their health and quality of life impacted by some of the most toxic stuff in our state: hazardous waste. Senate Bill 812, authored by Senator De León, will create much-needed public health protections and improve hazardous waste management. But industry is fighting to kill the bill, and it will be voted on this week.

We need your help TODAY: please take one minute to send an email to the California Assembly to urge them to support SB 812 (De León).

In Vernon and Southeast Los Angeles, chronic corporate polluter Exide has contaminated the soil of nearby homes with such high levels of lead that it must be removed, on top of sky high cancer risks from arsenic emissions. In Wildomar, residents have developed inexplicable health issues and even died after living in homes built on toxic soil. All but one of California’s hazardous waste landfills are located in low-income communities or communities of color.

The agency in charge of making sure that deadly hazardous waste isn’t harming community health or the environment, the Department of Toxic Substances Control, has routinely failed at their job. As the LA Times editorialized, “multiple reports and investigations in recent years have described a department unwilling or unable to enforce environmental laws or to properly regulate hazardous waste businesses, putting the public at risk.”

Senate Bill 812 will provide relief to California residents suffering from toxic exposures from hazardous waste facilities and clean-up sites. Learn more about the bill here. SB 812 has been developed by CEJA member Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment and by communities who have been most directly impacted by hazardous waste.

Let’s show that people power is mightier than corporate polluters and their profits, and help get SB 812 to the Governor’s desk. 

Take action for SB 812 and community health, not toxic hotspots today!


[PRESS RELEASE]: Stopping Big Oil’s Sneaky Projects that Increase Pollution, Explosion & Earthquake Hazards

Community exposé stops a third stealthy and dangerous LA refinery expansion project that would import Tar Sands & Bakken crude by rail, ship, and pipeline.


Yana Garcia, CBE Staff Attorney:  (323) 826-9771 ext.117

Alicia Rivera, CBE Wilmington Organizer: (310) 634-7839

Friday afternoon August 22, 2014 Communities for a Better Environment (CBE) received an email from the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) informing us that the permitting process for a dangerous Tesoro Wilmington refinery project has been stopped.  Tesoro’s permitting description was misleading at best, identifying only a shipyard pipeline to new Storage Tanks, claiming that the project would simply increase offloading speed from ship to shore.  There was no mention of the corrosive and explosive crude oils Tesoro plans to import, or its plans to combine its Wilmington refining operation with its newly acquired BP refinery in Carson; omitting major increases in greenhouse gases that result from tar sands crude oil refining, and other key impacts.  Based on Tesoro’s omissions, the environmental document for the project incorrectly concluded that there was not even the potential for significant impacts.

CBE submitted documentation to the SCAQMD showing that the storage tanks were, according to Tesoro’s own communications, part of a massive, larger project that would cause serious greenhouse gas emissions increases and extreme hazards.  (See CBE technical and legal comments on the project.[1])  The Tesoro-BP refinery integration project was confirmed by SCAQMD, and the agency has informed CBE that comments on the storage tank Title V permit were no longer necessary at this time.  SCAQMD stated that Tesoro will be replacing the associated California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) environmental document with documents for the new larger refinery integration project.

Yana Garcia, CBE’s staff attorney stated, “Tesoro’s move to gain approval for a part of the Project without disclosing the impacts of the full project violated CEQA, and shouldn’t have gotten as far as it did.  This is one in a long line of dangerous crude oil import projects the refiners are trying to sneak by us.”

The withdrawn environmental document had claimed the storage tanks were only to increase efficiency of offloading from ship to shore, and would not cause significant environmental impacts.  But Tesoro’s own business reports showed its plans to ship crude oil by rail across the Northern U.S. to the Vancouver Washington area, and then by ship down the west coast.  Tesoro had also considered direct rail shipments to LA.  Tesoro mapped and discussed these plans,[2] as the following excerpt from a Tesoro presentation demonstrates:


One of the crude oils identified by Tesoro for transport to LA is explosive N. Dakota Bakken, which has been identified by the U.S. Department of Transportation as presenting unique hazards of explosion, fire, and corrosivity, whether transported in railcar or other transport mode, requiring additional testing, handling, and information access for first responders.[3]  The oil can also include toxic benzene and hazardous hydrogen sulfide gases.  This crude was involved in a rail-accident that killed almost 50 people in Lac Megantic, Canada, and was involved in numerous other railcar accidents in the U.S.

Tesoro also identified Canadian Tar Sands crude oil for transport to LA, which is causing extreme environmental harm in Canada, would require much more intensive refining and coking in LA, and would result in major increases in greenhouse gases compared to existing crude slates at the refinery.  This crude also contains the very highest levels of sulfur contamination, increasing sulfur corrosion danger in the refinery.  Sulfur corrosion was found by the U.S. Chemical Safety Board to cause the explosion at the Chevron Richmond California refinery in August 2012.  Further increasing sulfur without disclosure or safety measures has the potential to cause life-threatening accidents, like that which occurred at the Chevron Richmond refinery and narrowly missed killing 19 workers.[4]

So called cost “Advantaged”crude oils can also increase dangers during impending major earthquakes.  These dangers include risks of fires, explosions, and spills, caused by the increased explosive and corrosive qualities of the crudes.  According to discussions of members of the California Engineering Foundation, while the Uniform Building Code is intended to minimize structural collapse, “Code specifications do not prevent structural damage.(See CBE’s comments, cited above).

Alicia Rivera, CBE Community Organizer in Wilmington said “Oil companies are working to outflank us from every direction, but fortunately we were able to delay them in LA, the Bay Area, and up the coast to Canada, to protect public health and safety and to stop greenhouse gases.  But we, and the public, need to be in constant vigilance because the powerful oil companies will not stop.”   (Also see CBE Map and Fact Sheet –Bad Energy, attached, showing a dozen projects, including two other LA refinery projects stopped after community pressure – Phillips 66 & Valero)

                                                  — END —

[1] The Proposed Negative Declaration by SCAQMD for the Tesoro Pipeline from its Long Beach Marine Terminal to

New Wilmington Refinery Storage Tanks is Missing Major Expansion Plan Descriptions and Requires a Full EIR, June 10, 2014, CBE

[2] Tesoro “Presentations” webpage, Simmons Energy Conference, Transformation through Distinctive Performance, February 27, 2014, http://phx.corporate-ir.net/phoenix.zhtml?c=79122&p=irol-presentations

[3] The U.S. Department of Transportation Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration, January 2, 2014.

[4] http://www.csb.gov/chevron-refinery-fire/

[NEWS RELEASE]: Did Long Beach’s “Green Port” Violate State Environmental Laws?

City council vote, TODAY, August 19 will determine if port of Long Beach neglected to do necessary environmental assessments for climate change-causing coal and petcoke exports

LONG BEACH, CALIF. — When the Port of Long Beach decided earlier this summer to extend and expand exports of coal and petroleum coke (“petcoke”), community members questioned the decision. After all, it goes against federal, state and local environmental policies — including the Port’s own. And when asked if the “Green Port” would complete analysis of the negative impacts, as required by the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), the Port refused.

Now, on August 19 at 5 p.m., the Long Beach City Council will hear an appeal by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Sierra Club, Earthjustice and Communities for a Better Environment and review the Port’s decision to determine whether the Port must go back and do an environmental analysis.

“It’s unacceptable for an arm of our government – and the Port is an entity of the City of Long Beach – to be in the business of pushing climate-change causing fuels on to other countries,” says Morgan Wyenn, attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council. “This is especially true given that every level of our government, from the White House to the State of California and even the City of Long Beach, are advancing increasingly stronger policies to phase off of coal and otherwise reduce carbon pollution.”

CEQA requires agencies throughout the state to analyze the environmental impacts of potentially harmful decisions, but the Port claims it is exempt from this important requirement. Community members disagree, alleging that the coal and petcoke exported overseas would be burned for energy and contribute to global climate change; that the train cars carrying the coal into the Port are not covered, allowing coal to blow off the cars and into the nearby communities; and that promoting coal goes against federal, state and the Port’s own environmental policies.

“There are health effects from the point of origin to the end point with this material,” says Alicia Rivera, Wilmington organizer for Communities for a Better Environment. “This petcoke is coming from local refineries in Wilmington – leaving a broad range of impacts in our community; it is not necessarily used here, but we are suffering the impacts of its production, and of preparing the material to be exported.”

In June, the Port of Long Beach entered into two new contracts to continue – and expand – export of coal and petcoke. One of the contracts sets a minimum amount of coal to be exported at 1.7 million tons every year.

“The lack of environmental review shows that the port has no interest in considering how their decisions impact surrounding communities,” said Jessica Yarnall Loarie, Staff Attorney with the Sierra Club.  “By increasing the amount of coal exported out of Long Beach, residents could be exposed to unknown quantities of coal dust left behind by the movement of uncovered rail cars and diesel trucks heading to and from the port.   Southern California already has the worst air in the nation, and moving more coal shipments through these neighborhoods for export will only make it worse.”

In 2012, California passed Joint Resolution No. 35 urging the U.S. to restrict exports of coal to any country that fails to regulate the emissions of greenhouse that are at least as restrictive as regulations in the U.S.  The Joint Resolution states that the “environmental consequences of massive coal exports to Asia are severe” and that “[c]oal burning has contributed to significant human health risks.”

“We oppose this coal export terminal because we think the people of Long Beach deserve better,” said Earthjustice attorney Adrian Martinez. “This is a senseless project to lock these communities into 15 years of dirty coal pollution. The coal goes overseas but its health impacts stick around for a long time if this project goes through. The availability and abundance of clean energy tells us these communities can and must have better.”

The Port of Oakland recently rejected proposals to export coal because of the environmental impacts, and proposals to export coal in the Pacific Northwest have been largely blocked because of widespread opposition by the local community and environmentalists, making Long Beach’s “Green Port” in the minority of West Coast ports to continue coal exports.

 ONLINE VERSION: http://earthjustice.org/news/press/2014/did-long-beach-s-green-port-violate-state-environmental-laws


Kimiko Martinez, NRDC, (310) 434-2344, kmartinez@nrdc.org;

Liz Judge, Earthjustice, (415) 217-2007, ljudge@earthjustice.org;

Alicia Rivera, CBE, (310) 634-7839, alicia@cbecal.org;

Marta Stoepker, Sierra Club, (313) 977-0054, marta.stoepker@sierraclub.org


The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 1.4 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world’s natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Livingston, Montana, and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC

The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with more than 2.4 million members and supporters nationwide. The Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign aims to move our nation beyond coal to clean energy solutions by 2030 through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying and litigation.

Earthjustice, the nation’s premier nonprofit environmental law organization, wields the power of law and the strength of partnership to protect people’s health, to preserve magnificent places and wildlife, to advance clean energy, and to combat climate change.  Because the earth needs a good lawyer.

Founded in 1978, Communities for a Better Environment (CBE) is one of the preeminent environmental justice organizations in the nation. The mission of CBE is to build people’s power in California’s communities of color and low income communities to achieve environmental health and justice by preventing and reducing pollution and building green, healthy and sustainable communities and environments. CBE provides residents in blighted and heavily polluted urban communities in California with organizing skills, leadership training and legal, scientific and technical assistance, so that they can successfully confront threats to their health and well-being.