|Moving Chevron Penalty Money to Sonoma County
September 9, 2010
Many people have asked what can be done about the decision to use penalty money from a Chevron water quality violation (Officials Move Penalty Money From Richmond to Sonoma County, September 4, 2010) to fund a wetlands restoration project in Sonoma County.
One constituent suggested filing a Title VI (Civil Rights) complaint to which the government will at least have to respond.
On Monday of this week, I wrote the following letter, and I encourage anyone else to follow up with similar letters:
September 6, 2010
Director, Division of Diversity and Civil Rights
Director, Office of Civil Rights
Larry J. Beat, Director
To Whom It May Concern:
As a result of over 100 years of industrial use on the Richmond shoreline, portions of it are degraded, hazardous and inaccessible to its residents. Some residents within the protected minority class routinely consume fish caught along the Richmond shoreline that are known to be hazardous.
According to the EPA, the Chevron Refinery in Richmond emits nearly 100,000 pounds of toxic waste from the site including more than 4,000 pounds of benzene (a known human carcinogen) and 455,000 pounds of ammonia, repeated exposure to which can cause an asthma-like illness and lead to lung damage. The Refinery is the single largest
In short, Richmond is a community with significant environmental justice issues.
The community believes it is both wrong and discriminatory that a significant portion of the $2.85 million settlement with Chevron is being used for a habitat restoration project not only outside Richmond, where the violation occurred, but in another county. This discriminates against Richmond residents in favor of another county that does not have Richmond’s demographics in protected classes, Richmond’s high unemployment rate, Richmond’s low per capita income and Richmond’s shoreline related health hazards.
It is apparent that both this settlement and the end use of the funds was driven by a desire to restore Cullinan Ranch. It was only following repeated protests by the City of Richmond and several national and state legislators that even a portion of the funds were diverted to the Richmond Breuner Marsh project. Richmond has 32 miles of shoreline, more than any other city on San Francisco/San Pablo Bay, and there are ample opportunities to use the settlement funds on projects on the Richmond shoreline that can improve the Richmond environment and the health of Richmond residents. The entire settlement amount should have been spent where the violation occurred, in Richmond.
I am requesting that the agencies involved investigate this as Title VI violation.
Several attachments are included that help explain some of the history of this travesty.
I have also asked the city attorney to look into the matter, including possible remedies, and I understand Councilmember Jim Rogers will place the matter on the next City Council agenda for consideration.