Environment

Full Electrification: Richmond’s Latest Push for Green Energy

Power Plant, by Henry Lyman Saÿen

In early 2020, Richmond adopted an ordinance implementing a limited ban on new natural gas infrastructure in the city. This measure addressed a crucial component of global warming: buildings are a serious source of pollution. Their use of fossil fuels accounts for roughly 12% of the United States’s greenhouse gas emissions.

While a substantial step in the right direction, the original ordinance fell short of achieving a true natural gas ban. For example, it permits new residential construction that utilizes natural gas kitchen appliances and in-residence fireplaces. Such uses require the construction of gas pipelines throughout buildings and beneath city streets. 

On September 21, Councilmember Eduardo Martinez brought the issue before the City Council, which seeks to close the loopholes allowed by the 2020 measure. The new ordinance would ban natural gas infrastructure in all new buildings in the city, with few exceptions.

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The Golden Hour to Save Point Molate is Now

Photo credit: Jack Scheinman

Point Molate is Richmond’s wide, expansive, and beautiful public land as well as Ohlone sacred land. It is an ecological treasure rich in cultural and social history. Protecting rare biological and sacred cultural resources, access to nature, and recreation for the public is an environmental justice solution in a city crying out for climate safeguards and racial equity. SunCal’s proposed private residential enclave at Point Molate would burden our city’s residents with infrastructure costs that Richmond can ill afford. Community leaders, public agencies, and foundations are stepping up to support this world-class designated parkland.

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Youth Speak Out on Climate Crisis in Richmond

On September 25th, youth from across Richmond came together to share their perspectives and experiences growing up during the climate crisis in our city. The Listening Project team organized the Youth Listening Project (YLP) with the goal of listening to understand and empowering youth in our community to lead. As young people, we are often told to sit back and let the elders and adults lead, but many of those decision-makers have led us to an environmental reality of severe droughts, constant wildfires, and life-threatening air, water, and soil pollution in our communities. These environmental crises are mirrored with communal crises of inequities and public safety.

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Excavation of Toxic Material Begins at Site in Richmond

pennants made by Debbie Bayer, photo credit: Jin Zhu

The following is an update of the proposed cleanup of the HRP Campus Bay Development site, also known as AstraZeneca and formerly Stauffer Chemical. Those latter two company names reflect only a few of the recent owners of the 86-acre site on Richmond’s South shoreline.  The legacy of 100 plus years of chemical manufacturing remains buried:  550,000 cubic yards of mixed toxic material including VOCs (volatile organic compounds), heavy metals, TCEs (trichloroethylene), arsenic, etc. Contrary to community pleas for a comprehensive cleanup to remove of all the contaminants, the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) approved a work plan to remove less than 2% of the toxics, cap the area, then build 4,000 housing units above the toxic sludge. Uncontained on the sides or the bottom, the toxic plumes will continue to leak into surrounding properties, including Stege Marsh and the San Francisco Bay. Sea level rise will force off-gassing toxics inland and upwards putting future residents at risk. The excavation work, paid for by Zeneca (AstraZenca) and carried out by Terraphase will begin soon and will continue during September and October. This work will take place on Lot 3, near South 49th St., and will likely be visible (and audible) from the Bay Trail. Only 200 notices were sent out by DTSC, mostly to nearby businesses, in English only. Nearby neighborhood residents were not informed. Real time air monitoring is not included in their plan. 

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BAAQMD Votes Breath of Fresh Air for the Bay Area

RPA environmental justice and climate catastrophe activists have been after our local refineries to clean up their air pollution for years, especially Chevron and now PBF Energy (who bought the Shell refinery in Martinez in 2020).  The Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) Board of Directors met this past July and voted overwhelmingly in favor of strict new requirements for particulate matter emission standards.

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AstraZeneca Site: State Sued Over Inadequate Cleanup Plans for Richmond Toxic Waste Site 

As part of a long struggle to prevent housing from being placed on top of toxic waste sites, community and environmental justice groups filed suit on August 3, 2021, against two state agencies over a proposed 4,000-unit residential development project to be built on the heavily contaminated site of Astra Zeneca’s former chemical manufacturing plant in South Richmond.

The lawsuit contends that state Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) and the California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA) violated the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) by signing an agreement with the site’s new owners, HRP Campus Bay Property LLC, without adequate environmental review, and that the agencies failed to consider current information on sea level rise and health risks posed by toxic chemicals remaining at the site. 

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Global Anti-Chevron Day 2021

Photo credit: Arthur Koch, Artist credit: David Solnit

Hundreds of Richmond residents participated in the 8th annual Global Anti-Chevron Day on May 21, 2021. Linking the struggles for justice in Richmond, Ecuador and Myanmar, communities damaged by Chevron shared their stories about the impact of the oil company’s environmental destruction and human rights violations. This annual action occurs in advance of Chevron’s annual shareholder’s meeting.

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Urgent Response Needed! Send public comment to DTSC by June 25!

The City of Richmond signed a Development Agreement last December allowing HRP Campus Bay Property, LLC to build 4,000 residential units on top of the old Stauffer Chemical waste site, currently owned by Astra-Zeneca. Before the Development Agreement can be finalized, however, the developer (HRP) and the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), must sign off on a Prospective Purchaser Agreement allowing the transfer of the land from Zeneca (aka Cherokee Simeon LLC) to HRP. The Prospective Purchaser Agreement (PPA) is a legal document indemnifying both the DTSC and the purchaser (HRP) from lawsuits. The public has until June 25 to comment on this agreement, by emailing public comment letter to [email protected] and [email protected]

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Why Richmond Should Worry About Sea Level Rise at the Zeneca Site

By Tarnel Abbott

“The tides are rising and so are we.”

This has become a rallying cry for climate activists, and Richmond, with its 32 miles of shoreline, must rise up to prevent rising sea levels from poisoning our people and our Bay. Just a couple feet above sea level north of Point Isabel, developers are planning to build a 4,000-unit housing development on top of the toxic “Zeneca site” while leaving its 550,000 cubic yards of toxic material in place.

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Anti-Chevron Day Protest at Richmond Refinery May 21st 12-1:30

Join this in-person, global event to hear about the injustices Chevron has committed around the world against people’s health, economic stability, and their right to protest.  People from Ecuador to Australia to right here in Richmond are building the global movement to stop them!  We will be gathering at the Richmond Chevron Refinery at noon on Friday, May 21st.  You can RSVP on Facebook if you choose.