Together We Can: Local Climate Actions to Prevent Dangerous Plans and Bring Cleaner Solutions

20150305bombtrainTo combat climate change, half the battle is preventing the worst polluting plans from going through. The other half is fighting fiercely for better solutions. In the Bay Area, we are tracking three local climate issues that need collective action: preventing the unnecessary risks of oil by rail, reducing dangerous pollution from neighboring refineries, and moving forward on community choice energy.

That these issues overlap is not a coincidence. The two to fight against, refinery pollution and oil by rail, are both rising threats because of fracked oil and tar sands oil on the market. Since they come from landlocked places, they have led to a 4,000 percent increase in oil by rail to transport, and are also dirtier, with more toxic and corrosive contents, requiring upgrades and expansions at the refineries to process them. To make the case that we don’t need to rely on these dangerous, polluting, and health-harming fossil fuels, we need to rally around proven alternatives as solutions. For our power grid, that’s offered by community choice energy.

Climate action is intersectional in another way. It’s a great connector across race, class, geography, age – we all need a stable climate and clean air to thrive, and we can all be leaders in standing up for that. Reducing the amount of greenhouse gas emissions from refineries goes hand in hand with reducing toxic emissions that cause thousands of premature deaths in the Bay Area, and contribute to asthma, cancer, and other health hazards. By joining up with organizing groups like 350 Bay Area, the Sunflower Alliance, and Berkeley Climate Action Coalition’s Community Choice Energy working group, we can start from the local level and support our neighbors who are already being impacted to create better solutions. We encourage you to read more, get involved, and stay tuned. We’ll be tracking each of these issues as they move.

Here’s some ways you can connect on climate action this month:

  • Learn more about Community Choice Energy at the Clean Power, Healthy Communities Conference on Thursday, 3/5/15. The annual conference brings leaders and ideas for clean energy solutions and registration is open to everyone, everywhere via an affordable webcast. Click here to sign up.
  • Alameda County is exploring Community Choice Energy, and recently created a webpage for residents to stay updated with their process. They are hosting a public hearing on their potential program on Thursday, 3/12/15 at 11 AM at the Board of Supervisors Chambers, 1221 Oak Street, 5th Floor, in Oakland.
  • Last year, organizers working to prevent refinery expansion won a victory when they pushed the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) board to enact goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including reducing toxic emissions and greenhouse gas emissions by 20% by 2020 from the refineries. Now, new regulations BAAQMD is proposing backslide on those goals, and through exemptions, allow for more pollution and greenhouse gas emissions as refineries expand their capacity. Click here to learn more, and save the date for BAAQMD’s public meeting on 3/17/15 from 5:30 – 8:30 PM at Richmond Public Library, 325 Civic Center Plaza, Whitlesey Community Room in Richmond.
  • There’s a proposal for a Phillips 66 refinery in San Luis Obispo to accept oil by rail which would mean travel of those trains through Berkeley, Oakland, Emeryville and past San Jose to get south. We’ve seen an uptick in deadly oil by rail explosions, and the federal government, which has authority over railways, has been slow to enact safety measures to prevent future disasters. Every community that these tracks pass through is at risk with this proposal. Send comments about safety concerns to the San Luis Obispo Board of Supervisors, who are reviewing the plans and extending the Environmental Impact Review period. Your voice counts during this phase.

[Photo of Richmond Our Power Campaign organizers by Peg Hunter on Flickr]

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2 thoughts on “Together We Can: Local Climate Actions to Prevent Dangerous Plans and Bring Cleaner Solutions

  1. I’m so glad The Ecology Center is focusing on this issue, and working inter-sectorally–but is there a reason you didn’t mention The Corridor Healing Walks organized by Idle No More (also with wide participation from other groups)? You show their banner and Pennie Opel Plant in your beautiful photo, but it would have been good to mention the monthly walks along the rail corridor coming up this spring. They’re good exercise and a chance to learn about the oil trains and Indigenous ways of organizing and healing.

    • Hi Louise,

      You’re right on with those events – we’d gladly update this post to include them. I need some more details to do that, do you have a good link that has more info on the Healing Walks, when and where they are? Thanks for the tip!


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