The right to know what's in the air
we breathe and what we're being exposed to from our neighbors - whether
resident, business or industry - is a fundamental human right. This right isn't
easy to exercise and vanishes without action.
The recent fire at Chevron's
Richmond refinery makes the strongest case for a community's right to know, yet
Richmond, North Richmond and San Pablo residents have been denied their right
by local government and industry. We protest this denial and call for
We join the Richmond community to
demand that a public access, real-time air monitoring system be established for
the educational benefit and early alert advantages such technologies offer.
Residents affected by the toxics released by Chevron's fire deserved to know
what was in the air as the fire raged.
Two years ago, Chevron committed
itself to supplying air monitoring equipment that would detect gases crossing
the refinery fence line and also to establishing community-based air-monitoring
stations. These procurements were part of an agreement with the city of
Richmond that granted the refinery utility-tax concessions. Chevron, however,
never installed the equipment.
The Bay Area Air Quality Management District operates
ground-level monitoring stations throughout the Bay Area, and previously
offered to make the results public, but this valuable information has yet to be
openly provided in real time. Experience has shown that these systems can
detect gases around the refineries where they are installed, and also gases
from other pollution sources. For example, when Valero's Benicia refinery had a
big hydrogen sulfide release last year, the event showed up on the ground-level
monitoring systems in Rodeo and Crockett.
Why does it take a Freedom of
Information Act request for citizens to get this data after the fact?
The Chevron fire is part of a
history of refinery incidents that dump airborne toxics into Bay Area
neighborhoods. We all breathe toxic pollution from multiple sources every day.
Chronic respiratory distress and asthma are on the rise.
It's time for Bay Area citizens
whose communities host industrial polluters to unite and force industrial
leaders, elected officials and regulators to stop their foot-dragging and live
up to their commitments to safeguard our neighborhoods from the ever-present
danger these facilities pose.
When the refinery in Rodeo had a
major release that remained undisclosed for days, residents forced the refinery
to install state-of-the-science air-monitoring equipment to detect and measure
gases as they crossed the industrial fence line. A similar program is under
development in Benicia.
Real-time data appears at www.fenceline.org/xfence.php