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Chevron Richmond Refinery August 6, 2014 Pipe Rupture and Fire [REPORT NO. 2012-03-I-CA OCTOBER 2014]

By staff - U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board, October 2014

An August 6, 2012, release of flammable vapor led to a fire at the Chevron Refinery in Richmond, California. The CSB released three investigation reports into this incident.

This report is particularly sigificant in that it reveals that the refinery workers repeatedly tried to warn the managers and employers of the deteriorating conditions of the refinery's infrastructure (which led to the fire), but were ignored. Knowing this, climate justice activists and organizers can develope relationships with workers in capitalist extractive industries and do the painstaking, tedious work of cultivating relationships and building trust to build a united front against the capitalist class.

Read the report (English PDF).

Big Oil Brown Greenwashes his Legacy at U.N. Climate Summit

By Dan Bacher - Indybay.Org, September 23, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Jerry Brown, one of the worst governors for fish, water and the environment in California target="_blank" history, spoke to world leaders at the United Nations Climate Summit in New York City today in a cynical attempt to greenwash his deplorable environmental record.

During his U.N. address, Governor Brown touted California’s controversial carbon trading policies as an example of "innovative climate strategies."

“The California story is a very hopeful one,” Brown gushed. “It’s a story of Republican and Democratic governors pioneering innovative climate strategies. It’s not been easy, it’s not without contest, but we’re making real progress."

“I believe that from the bottom up, we can make real impact and we need to join together,” added Governor Brown. “We’re signing MOUs with Quebec and British Columbia, with Mexico, with states in China and wherever we can find partners, because we know we have to do it all.”

Brown's remarks at the summit are available at: http://cert1.mail-west.com/oUyjbH/myuzjanmc7rm/21oUgt/r8kgy/vnqoU2xx1jy8d/uqc5hy21oUq/043i8kyepg?_c=d%7Cze7pzanwmhlzgt%7C12lu5pdhlx8v340&_ce=1411519461.60b50da8597e418eaeff8b1b85e25029)

In a video message ahead of the Summit, Brown claimed, "We are carrying on because we know in California that carbon pollution kills, it undermines our environment, and, long-term, it’s an economic loser. We face an existential challenge with the changes in our climate. The time to act is now. The place to look is California.”

Yes, California, now under attack by the anti-environmental policies and carbon trading greenwashing campaign by Governor Brown, is definitely “the place to look” for one example after another of environmental destruction.

Once known as "Governor Moonbeam" for his quirkiness and eccentricities during his first two administrations from 1975 to 1983, has in his third administration transformed himself into "Big Oil Brown.”

California’s Pension, 55th Largest Fossil Fuel Company in the World

By Brett Fleishman, Senior Analyst at 350.org, with later edits by Jay Carmona, Community Divestment Campaign Manager - Fossil Free, September 3, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

California is the 8th Largest Economy in the World, And California’s pension fund is the 55th Largest Fossil Fuel Company in the World.

Today, Fossil Free Indexes’ research team published a deep dive analysis on CalPERS’ holdings of the Top 200 coal, oil and gas companies by CO2 emissions potential.

California’s pension fund isn’t really a fossil fuel company, or a company at all; but they currently finance enough coal, oil, and gas reserves to put them well within the top 100 oil and gas reserve holders and also the top 100 coal reserve holders.

The California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) is the nation’s largest pension fund, with a $300 billion portfolio. CalPERS is a leader in the investment world and has a huge impact on the global economy. When it comes to framing the climate crisis and finding solutions through an investment perspective, everyone, including the United Nations, looks to CalPERS for leadership.

On August 16th, Anne Stausboll, CalPERS CEO, published this article describing CalPERS response to climate and carbon risk within their portfolio. Essentially, the CalPERS team is focused on requesting transparency with companies on carbon risk issues (e.g. emissions and stranded assets), it’s called “disclosure.” They have done some fairly significant and progressive work changing the rules so that companies will have to disclose climate risk or carbon output with the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) – which is a good thing. With that being said, Ms. Stausboll noted in her article that their efforts have fallen short of the issues, “…the breadth and quality of the disclosures with the SEC are still lacking.”

While CalPERS claims that “Climate change is an important issue for [the pension] System,” it’s useful to ask: what statements are they making with their money?

Fossil Free Indexes found, shockingly, that over the last 10 years, CalPERS has roughly doubled the potential emissions it finances. In 2004, CalPERS held 90 coal, oil, and gas companies on the Top 200 list; today they hold 149. If CalPERS directly held the fossil fuel reserves allocated to its 2013 portfolio it would rank #55 on the top oil and gas reserve holders list and #88 on the top coal reserve holders list.

FEDERAL AUDIT SLAMS CAL/OSHA PERFORMANCE - California Below National Average in Several Key Worker Health & Safety Measures

By Kirsten Stade - Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, August 25, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Washington, DC — The latest federal review of California’s worker health and safety program found critical understaffing and other major deficiencies. The findings reinforce the substance of a complaint filed this February against the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

The latest U.S. Department of Labor “Comprehensive Federal Annual Monitoring and Evaluation (FAME) Report” for Cal/OSHA covering the period ending September 30, 2013 was released this month. Paralleling the issues raised by the PEER complaint, this new review concludes:

  • “Cal/OSHA remains understaffed and, as a result, is challenged to fulfill its important mission”;
  • “The lack of staffing affects the citation lapse time, the number of inspections conducted, and the response time to complaints. In particular, the number of inspections conducted by current Cal/OSHA staff is well below the federal average. To compound this problem, there has been a steady decrease in inspectors since FY 2011”; and
  • “Cal/OSHA inspections result in a rate of serious, willful or repeat violations significantly lower than the federal average [26.73% vs. 57.0% for safety and 9.09% vs. 53.7% for health]. This suggests that the agency’s limited resources are not being applied most efficiently and effectively.”

Among the effects cited in the report are workers exposed to hazards longer due to “a long citation lapse time, the time between the start of an inspection and the issuance of a citation.” The state’s new budget does provide for a handful of new compliance officers but still leaves Cal/OSHA at staffing levels below those at the end of Schwarzenegger administration in 2011.

“California workers are paying the price for a cratering Cal/OSHA.” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, whose complaint to the U.S. Department of Labor seeks financial and other sanctions unless improvements occur. “California needs to be jolted out of its occupational death spiral.”

Chapter 11 : I Knew Nothin’ Till I Met Judi

By Steve Ongerth - From the book, Redwood Uprising: Book 1

Now there’s one thing she really did for me, (did for me),
Was teach me all ‘bout labor history, (history)
So now I can relate to the workin’ slob, (workin’ slob),
Even though I never had a job.

—Lyrics excerpted from “I Knew Nothin’ Till I Met Judi”, by Darryl Cherney, ca. 1990.

Judi Bari (ne Barisciano), the second of three daughters, was born on November 7, 1949 in a working class neighborhood in a suburb of Baltimore, Maryland, where most of the nearby families were employed in the local steel mills. Bari’s mother Ruth, however, had made history by earning the first PhD ever awarded to a woman studying mathematics at Johns Hopkins University. Bari’s father, Arthur, was a diamond setter, and from him, Bari developed extremely steady hands, which later became a boon to her considerable artistic skills. Bari’s older sister, none other than Gina Kolata, became a famous science writer for the New York Times and Science (although many Earth First!ers, including Bari herself, would argue that Bari’s older sister’s “science” is distorted by corporate lenses), while her younger sister, Martha, was, by Bari’s description, “a perpetual student”. Judi Bari’s upbringing may have been “Middle Class” by most definitions, but her parents, survivors of the McCarthy era in the 1950s, passed on their closet radicalism to their receptive middle daughter, including teaching Bari old IWW songs (and admonishing Bari not to reveal her source) and lecturing all of their daughters against racial and ethnic prejudice. From the get-go, Bari had radical roots.[1]

Judi Bari, in spite of her background as a “red diaper baby”, became politically radicalized on her own accord, having at first been apolitical, even into her first years at the University of Maryland, choosing at first to follow the high school football team, even seeking dates from some of the players as her primary social activity. However, Bari soon became disillusioned with the sexist and racist culture of high school football, having been told not to date an African American player by some of the white ones, who threatened to ostracize her socially if she did. Bari gave in to this threat, an act she later regretted, though this was her first and only capitulation to the status quo. From that point onward, Bari grew increasingly radical. [2]

Dear Governor Jerry Brown: Will you Deny the Citizens of California their Civil Rights to Safety?

By Shane Davis - Fracktivist, March 29, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Dear Governor Jerry Brown:

With 2,139 oil and gas wells already fracked, will California repeat the same mistakes of the past and let a largely unregulated industry invade? Will you frack to the moon and back, or will your ‘Moonbeam’ shine a new light on harmful fracking and ban it outright in California?  Governor Brown, your environmental legacy could easily be erased by allowing fracking in California to continue. Will you have the courage to be a national leader and ban fracking altogether or will you be swayed by the multi-national ‘OILigarchy’ to destroy California’s water, soil and air for offshore profits of the few?

REWIND: Since the late 1890’s prospectors have been in search of oil deposits spanning nearly every square inch of Los Angeles County.  Oil was finally discovered at a depth of 460 feet using a makeshift drill carved from a 60 foot eucalyptus tree. WildcatterS swarmed to Los Angeles looking for land to lease and wells to drill anywhere they could find with hopes of striking it rich.

In 1906 a few of the wealthiest prospectors who dominated the Los Angeles oil field thought the local ranch-lands that grew beans as a major cash-crop had  vast oil plays under them. They were wrong. There was no oil to be found, so the men quickly ripped out the farmland to create a section of land into a ‘classy subdivision’ called Beverly Hills. Before they sold a single lot in Beverly Hills, they added restrictive covenants to every deed forbidding any oil exploration or oil wells on the property. That protection was essential for any respectable neighborhood, because the oil boom had ruined one street after another in Los Angeles.  Entire neighborhoods had vanished under the forest of wooden derricks and a grimy film of oil, and the roar of the escaping natural gas and the ump-um ump- um of the pumps never ceased.

The horse-drawn wagons that carried heavy drilling equipment and pipe tore up city streets. And the blocks off Santa Monica near Vermont  Avenue had become a raucous oil workers shantytown. The saloons were busy 24 hours a day. Prostitutes often plied their trade from temporary shelters made from canvass stretched over wooden poles. Gamblers worked out of two room shacks, with a pool table and tobacco counter in the front with pinball machines, card games and a quick exit in the back. These abuses flourished because the city hesitated to clamp down on the oil industry.1

Fast-forward to 2014 where the Los Angeles City Council in a 10-0 vote, unanimously enacted the first moratorium on fracking in California. California currently has approximately 2,139 oil and gas wells that have been fracked with tens, if not, a hundred thousand more to come. The majority of the wells are horizontally fracked in the central valley which is considered the Unites States largest agricultural lands providing more than 50 percent of all the nations produce and 95 percent of the almond market.

California Gov. Jerry Brown Faces Protests Over Fracking as Epic Drought Looms

By Tara Lohan - Alternet, March 11, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

California Gov. Jerry Brown is having a hard time maintaining his green image. Like President Obama, Brown has stumped about the dangers of climate change and the need to take action. But Brown’s message runs afoul of his own actions to open California to more oil and gas drilling enabled by hydraulic fracturing and other extreme extraction methods.

Demonstrators protested the governor and the president’s hypocrisy on the issue of fracking (Obama’s been singing the praises of natural gas) when the two were part of a climate change task force (or “task farce” as demonstrators made clear) in Los Angeles last month.

It’s not the first time Brown has come under attack since signing SB4 in September, a law to regulate fracking in California. Supporters of SB4, introduced by Fran Pavley, have called it the “toughest law in the country” (though it’s an extremely low bar) but opponents say it doesn’t go nearly far enough in protecting people and the environment, and until more is known about the dangers and health impacts the practice should be halted.

Thus far fracking had taken place in California with little regulation. Almost every major environmental organization pulled their support for SB4 as the bill became more watered down as it passed through the state legislature. A Los Angeles Times editorial summed it up: “We previously endorsed the bill, and Pavley deserves praise for trying, but at this point SB4 is so flawed that it would be better to kill it and press for more serious legislation next year.”

This Bay Area Town is Taking on Big Oil’s Expansion Plans - And Winning

By Ethan Bucker, US Organizer - Forest Ethics, January 24, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s

Just over the golden hills of Martinez, the descent into Pittsburg on California's Highway 4 opens a view of the Carquinez Strait. The strait is a narrow segment of the tidal estuary that accepts the rushing waters of the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers as they empty into the San Francisco Bay. The vista paints a portrait of the transition to a clean energy economy: on the northern side of the strait, enormous turbines of the Shiloh Wind Power Plant revolve gracefully. Along the southern waterfront, an aging former PG&E power plant casts a shadow over massive, decaying fuel tanks next to Pittsburg’s newly revitalized downtown.

This is the stage of the Bay Area’s latest and biggest energy battle, between residents of Pittsburg and energy infrastructure company WesPac.

WesPac Energy wants to transform the PG&E site into a mega crude-by-rail facility, marine oil terminal, and refurbished tank farm. With plans to handle 242,000 barrels per day, the terminal would process one-fifth of all crude coming through California. The facility would deliver Bakken crude and tar sands to all five of the Bay Area’s refineries via new and expanded pipelines. In simple terms, WesPac is looking to turn Pittsburg into the crude hub of Northern California.

WesPac had been developing its proposal with the Pittsburg planning department for two years, but it wasn’t until a sunny Sunday in August 2013 that anyone really knew about it.

On this particular Sunday, longtime Pittsburg resident Lyana Monterrey happened upon a tiny notice in the Contra Costa Times for a public hearing on an environmental impact report. Alarmed at the tremendous risks and dangers posed by the project, Lyana knocked on her neighbor Kalli Graham’s door to tell her about the story she had read. Kalli and Lyana immediately started going door-to-door to alert their neighbors of WesPac’s plans. Neither of them had participated in community organizing before. They attended the city hearing the following day, met a few other concerned residents, and decided to take action.

“I just could not sit still. I could not do nothing about this,” Lyana recalled.

What started as a few neighbors raising their voices quickly grew into a tidal wave of community-led activism that’s swept the town of Pittsburg into the regional and national spotlight. 2013 has been tainted by a half dozen oil train derailments and explosions, including a deadly disaster in Lac Megantic, Quebec that leveled a small town and killed 47 people. So, the prospect of “bombs-on-wheels” (as one community resident put it) rolling through Pittsburg on the daily has set the community ablaze with fierce opposition to WesPac.

Two diverse community led groups--the Pittsburg Defense Council and the Pittsburg Ethics Council--have emerged within the last six months to lead the campaign against the WesPac project, alongside ForestEthics and other NGO allies. Together, we’ve gathered over 4,000 petition signatures, organized a riveting Toxic Tour of the city’s heavy industrial sites, and conducted a bucket brigade air monitoring project that reveals striking levels of pollution in the community. We’ve flooded downtown Pittsburg with lawn signs, mobilized a January 11 march and rally that brought out over 300 residents, and organized a rally that packed Tuesday’s City Council meeting. Community leaders are meeting with city officials, training and empowering volunteers, and generating dozens of media hits. We’re gearing up to come out in full force as the Pittsburg Planning Commission and City Council vote on the project in coming months.

Coming Now to a Job Near You! Why Climate Change Matters for California Workers

By Jeremy Brecher, Brendan Smith, and Lisa Hoyos - Labor Network for Sustainability, September 2020

California is at the forefront of driving the expansion of the clean energy economy. California’s groundbreaking climate law, the Global Warming Solutions Act — AB 32 — is the most comprehensive climate legislation enacted anywhere in the US. But this law is at risk from political interests, backed by oil company resources, which are trying to overturn it.

AB 32 opponents are using a job-loss argument, creating a false divide between job creation and climate protection. They’ve done this is spite of the fact that green jobs have grown by 5% during a recessionary period where net jobs in our state fell. California already has 500,000 green jobs. We’ve got 12,000 clean energy businesses and we hold 40% of the US patents in solar, wind and advanced battery technology. Sixty percent of all clean energy venture capital is invested here (the runner-up state, Massachusetts, has 10%), with a large spike coming in the years after the passage of AB 32.

Climate change is a global problem. The AB 32 opponents who are working to stop the implementation of California’s climate law argue that our state shouldn’t try to address this problem on its own. However, California is the world’s eighth largest economy, and what we do here carries global significance, both politically and economically. We passed AB 32 in 2006. Four years later, at the national level, it is proving difficult or impossible to pass comprehensive climate policy. If California fails to build on our leadership in this arena, we will be playing into the hands of those, such as the US Chamber of Commerce, who are spending millions of dollars to thwart national action on climate change.

While the foot-dragging on climate protection continues at the national level, everyday’s news brings new evidence of the varied and devastating impacts of climate change happening around the world and within the borders of our own country.

Read the text (PDF).

Crisis in California: Everything Touched by Capital Turns Toxic

By Gifford Hartman - January 2010

In California toxic capitalist social relations demonstrated their full irrationality in May 2009 when banks bulldozed brand-new, but unsold, McMansions in the exurbs of Southern California.

Across the United States an eviction occurs every thirteen seconds and there are at the moment at least five empty homes for every homeless person. The newly homeless are finding beds unavailable as shelters are stretched well beyond capacity. Saint John’s Shelter for Women and Children in Sacramento regularly turns away 350 people a night. Many of these people end up in the burgeoning tent cities that are often located in the same places as the ‘Hoovervilles’—similar structures, named after then President Herbert Hoover—of the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Read More - Download the PDF version of this document.

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