August 6 was the 68th anniversary of the day we dropped the bomb on Hiroshima and marked the 1-year anniversary of the Chevron refinery explosion in Richmond, CA. It became apparent in the years following the Hiroshima bombing that humans had harnessed an element of nature powerful enough to destroy the entire planet. The ability to define the usage of this destructive tool is in the hands of a powerful few without regards to the wants and needs of the masses. Many scientists involved even warned that this was a genie best left in its bottle.
What we didn’t realize was that a slow burning fuse to a bomb far more destructive had already been lit many decades before, - a carbon bomb that threatened the entire planet. Again ignoring the warnings of scientist and the needs of the masses, the policies on extraction and usage are controlled by a powerful few. The fossil-fuel industries’ money bought them power and influence over our governments. And they used that power to buy decades of delay and denial.
Since 2010 the city of Richmond has been fighting back after the voters gave the Mayor’s seat and a majority in the city council to the Richmond Progressive Alliance. At the rally marking the anniversary of the Aug. 6 refinery fire Mayor Gayle McLaughlin announced that the city had filed a lawsuit against Chevron. Listed in the lawsuit are 14 other toxic gas releases since 1989 for which Chevron had apologized and promised to improve. Richmond is tired of waiting.
In the following U.S. Chemical Safety Board animation you will see that many poor decisions were made from not shutting down the crude unit when the leak was first discovered to ignoring the advice of Chevron’s own inspectors’ 2003 recommendations to replace the old and worn steel piping with a more resistant alloy piping.
Chevron is a perfect example why we, through our government, need to strictly regulate and enforce the regulations on all corporations. We will not wean ourselves off fossil fuels overnight. But do we really need to be abused by our pushers as we work to kick our fossil fuel addictions? They will not change their ways without being forced.
Progressive politicians must be elected and coalitions must be built to fight the power of money and the greed it breeds. The Chevron Refinery rally was a manifestation of just that, a coalition of activist groups that included Idle No More, 350 Bay Area, Asian Pacific Environmental Network, labor unions, nurses and the city’s residents.
Pennie Opal Plant of Idle No More. She spoke recently at NetrootsNation13 of how she personally witnessed the explosion’s effects.
Well, that toxic cloud came right to our house. We overlook the Richmond refinery; it came right to our house. And over 15,000 people went to local hospitals as a result of that fire and are still suffering from different kind of breathing problems and rashes. And one woman stepped out of her house that day and went into convulsions.
Wounded Knee of Idle No More performing an early morning blessing.
Over 2000 gathered at the Richmond BART station to march 3 miles to the refinery.
My daughter and I rode with our friend Sven Eberlein of Bike the Math.
Sunflowers were chosen as the rally mascot. Not only do they track the Sun, but they also can pull toxins out of the soil.
My little one testing the police line.
Bill McKibben and over 250 others volunteered to be arrested in an act of civil disobedience.
Including this man and his 90 year-old grandmother.
The police had to stop arresting people after the first 209, they ran out of zip-ties.
The day's oldest arrestee met with Bill McKibben after being released.
"No hurting Mother Earth."
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