I am for me okay and you’re in the stream today we look at environmental racism is it possible that pollution could actually be a civil rights issue now right now in the United States if you’re black or Asian or Latino the air that you breathe is more polluted or could be more polluted than if you happen to be white now what about if you’re white white and from a poor community well the likelihood of being exposed to industrial pollution is higher as well and that’s because it’s generally cheaper and easier to build coal and petroleum facilities sewage fields even industrial pig farms in low-income communities property prices are lower and people have fewer resources to fight back activists call it environmental racism the Environmental Protection Agency or EPA is monitoring these issues right here in the United States and it’s making a new environmental justice pan but critics say it’s falling short of protecting civil rights we heard about this issue well not from our team together this ad team happens to be but from our online community Milica right where some of our best ideas come around so as you mentioned the idea for today’s show came from a recent open editorial at the stream held on the lingering effects of segregation in the US and we heard from guests across the country who said where you live often dictates even what kind of air you breathe you have you know black people have disproportionately shoddy housing tend to live near Superfund sites or landfills or you know refineries the the fact that climate change is increasing the these weather events means that our communities are going to continue to be put in harm’s way well to join the conversation tweet us at hashtag AJ stream by me and with us to discuss u.s. environmental justice we have in Baton Rouge Louisiana Gregory Mitchell representing the concerned citizens of the University Place subdivision in Chicago Illinois Samuel Rhona is a community advocate with a South East environmental task force in Buffalo New York Rebecca Newberry executive director of the clean air coalition and in Oakland California Julianne Messina McQueen is a director of education and outreach for green for all so good to have you here everybody Samuel I’m ashamed to admit but before we could go before I started working on this show I had no idea what petcoke actually was can you explain what it is well petcoke is actually a waste product that is comes from the refining of the tar sands that come from Canada and it comes from BP facility that’s just right over the border from us in Indiana all right we get the waste product just put on our shores right here and you’re in Chicago just looking at headline here just how big are Chicago’s petcoke piles they’re huge they’re massive what’s the problem though it’s it’s a fuel people need fuel you need you know power etc why were these piles of Petco in Chicago why would that be an issue well the problem we have first off is that they’re openly stored so what happens is 15 50 miles an hour this this waste product actually leaves the facility that they have and it’s I mean it is right in the neighborhood you know it’s a stone’s throw away we have a baseball field that is you know less than 100 feet away from the Train the railway that actually transports it into our neighborhood and it’s stored openly along our Calumet River yeah actually I’m looking at colormap River right now I’m zooming in on Google and I’m just gonna go a little bit closer here I’m gonna zoom in even closer and here’s the petcoke pile and here in the houses right here yes like right across the road so if I lived across the road from the huge petcock pot pile what would happen to me well what happens is is we at 15 miles an hour we have a dust that just basically blankets our community right and you know it and it it is such a big problem to us that it’s um we can’t even go into our own homes and be protected from this dust I mean I have an air filter here that actually is from a home that’s located in that neighborhood and it is let me show you no no is that a black a white one what color was it when it started off it was it was all white no way now is that three years worth of you haven’t changed air filter like me or is that a few weeks actually from one week December

you know if you’re from the Midwest from Chicago and in the wintertime during December there is no way this is what’s actually that’s extraordinary Milica what do you have well I want to push us just not too far away from Chicago but to Detroit where people are facing another issue this is a video comment we received from Kimberly Hill out of Detroit Michigan and she says what some people they are facing have a listen tree this community is special because they’ve been fighting for environmental justice for years and many of them have asthma and other respiratory illnesses as well as cancer Gregory she talked about asthma and some other sicknesses people there are facing based on a water treatment plant I know that there’s a sewage treatment plant where your community where you were tell us about some of the things that people they’re faced yes ma’am I can definitely tell you a lot of the things that was so negative in our community we there were sewer flies as a matter of fact I can give you a picture right off if you can take a look at that those are types of sewer flies that fly out of the sewage treatment facility because I can’t see anything what is holy up again right up to your cameras any hearts in your face right there we go okay yeah we’re faced with sewer flies and horrible odors from the sewage treatment facility it it constantly deteriorates the living conditions at the health issues that we have in our community because we have children and adults that are living in this community and the asthma the the respiratory the sickness in the stomach’s is just a variety of problems and the they also want to expand this sewage treatment facility on to Southern University next to the students that are living in the dorms there and we’ve already had enough problems with this for over 20 years we’ve been fighting this condition and it’s just the city the city government here in Baton Rouge just doesn’t help our community I’m looking at this sewage treatment plant right here and I’m seeing some rats and it’s quite a large area and the homes aren’t too far away from it how much morning did you get this was going to come into your community how much the liaison did you get about compensation for your homes that kind of thing compensation for the home was the process that he gave was a horrible process for this community fighting with the with the owners and everything or that we were the problems that we were already faced with and then we ended up having to go through this by our process which you know was a horrible process but if you listen to the city parish they would tell you that everything went fine everything went smoothly which we know is citizen is a definitely definite life they also tried to tell us as we were going through the situation of living in this horrible mess with all the odors and all the negativity the city if you listen to the city oh they want they will let you know they would tell you that everything is ok the people up in this this area they’re just complaining for no reason and we you know we were just making a lot of noise for no reason but the community knew what was going on elected officials they knew what was going on but it’s just as we always say they run for election but when it’s time to help this community they run from the problems and the people that they need to help and serve and that’s what we’ve been finding a problem and also like I said with the conditions that we’ve lived in the mist that comes from those open tanks that you just showed on on screen there’s a mist that comes from there that Blanc is our community who would want to live in those odors and in those types of myths that are coming from a sewage treatment facility it’s just a horrible thing and it continues to grow in it and we continue to suffer and that’s why we are here trying to get more assistance and get help and bring everybody into the to the loop to let them know that you’re suffering in battery Gregory as you’ve been talking Rebecca’s been nodding ahead a lot Rebecca what’s going on here I mean these are different communities different parts of the United States they all seem to be having similar problems even though the cause might be something quite different is it a big leap to join the dots here said again I’m hearing yeah I’m hearing everyone’s stories here and it seems it’s it’s similar right the the community that I organize with one of the communities I organize with I have a feeling a lot of folks would have a lot of calm you know a lot in common with you know we we work in a neighborhood where there’s 53 major air facilities and pollution sources and it’s very similar thing you know it takes so much work to even just get

enforcement agency attention there’s lots of convincing right lots of work that regular people have to do there isn’t even is an issue yeah tell us about the convincing huh how does the convincing work so in our case we are organizations started by residents in Tonawanda New York which is a first-string suburb of the City of Buffalo and they noticed there was lots of cancer you know in their neighborhood you know you go door-to-door and there’s usually one at least one case of cancer in Tonawanda and so they started knocking on doors they started holding community meetings doing lots of things that I’m sure the rest of the folks here on this on this show you know have done and they did their own air sampling when the enforcement agency environmental enforcement agency wouldn’t do it and so those results came back and benzene levels which are a human carcinogen we know it causes cancer were 365 times over what the EPA the Environmental Protection Agency our federal enforcement agency you know says is healthy safe and so we then got a you know the state to get involved to do more studies more sampling years later we did lots of rallies at the gates of the company and that eventually led to led to an enforcement action and a rate of the plant finally how many years later was that this was years this was years our organization started in about 2005 2006 just around kitchen tables and the enforcement action didn’t happen until 2010 and then the actual criminal case did not happen until 2014 Wow so Julian you hear these stories and online people are talking about whether or not there is something in common so there’s a tweet here from Rebecca who says low-income neighborhoods equal common target for industrial pollution it’s a common practice in Canada the US and Beyond and that’s Rebecca’s view but I want to pick up on that word target do you think that these communities were targeted or is there something else going on I think the communities were targeted I think communities were targeted because largely you have communities with low-income people that means people are going to be working one job with a lot of hours or multiple jobs with a lot of hours they may not have the opportunity or the time to show up to a hearing to have their input on these issues so it’s an easier target if you’re looking at trying to put something dirty and nasty in a community you’re gonna go for the community that has the least amount of resources to push back answer but sit around the table and go let’s put something new you know don’t you see let’s go to the southside of Chicago they won’t argue with us you know I I’m not gonna speak for their intentions I don’t think they’re sitting around you know with with Klan hoods on or anything but I think if you look at the numbers 68% of African Americans live within 30 miles of a coal plant I don’t think that’s an accident that means one in six kids african-american kids have asthma versus one in ten of the general population the numbers are similar for for Latino communities are similar for Native American communities poor white communities so I do think there’s an intentionality around putting these places where they don’t think they’re going to have a school you will to deal with Gregory go ahead we’re gonna add well yeah I just I want to add on to Rebecca she said that they’ve been fighting for a very long time well I want to kind of community continue to fight okay but I also want to say that we started this fight and we filed suit against the city of Baton Rouge in 1996 and we and we were fighting before then okay and there were you know so many things that tried they tried to discourage us from saying anything they wanted to make sure that we were quiet we continued to fight we continued to march we continued to beat the count the council meet with them and try and get things done we went from every so hard why was it why was it such a fight it was obvious that the that the environment around you was incredibly unhealthy why did you have to fight so hard because the fight was because like the old saying goes the water flows where there’s least resistance and they feel that there’s least resistance because a lot of the people in this community I have low income they don’t have the funds to try and fight the city parish so and a lot of people weren’t really clear on how to get to the right people so as we got together and joined together and did the marches and met with councils and met with elected officials from Washington we were even trying to get in contact with President Obama anybody that could possibly give

us some help we needed it because we know what our community is going through we know what the courts did to us we had we had the court the first court the 19th Judicial Court even ban routes was ruled in our favor secret is the first part of your action you actually won and then you lost on appeal so it’s like an ongoing process I’m gonna come back to your story in a moment but first let me just bring in Malika again well I do want to know Gregory that the Baton Rouge mayor’s office did tell the stream they sent us a statement then and this is what they say all residents have now been relocated and the buffer area cleared for the construction of the vegetative odor control buffer which is currently in design construction is expected to begin in 2016 so it says that there’s a buffer it’s almost seemingly admitting that things weren’t okay and so they’ve been changed what do you make of that well the city pairs will always consistently lie okay this mayor in your opinion hey Gregory because they may not be see the truth the way you see it exactly I know the truth I know what we’ve gone through so therefore I can speak it for facts and well as I was saying earlier the courts even let this leftist community down we went all the way to the appeals court here and then we went from from there to the Louisiana Supreme Court and basically they ended up saying that the community should live in these type of conditions we’ve even gone to the Environmental Protection Agency with the Civil Rights Division and they constantly and they still deny citizens you know that are complaining and put them on the back burner so that’s what’s been happening systematically for a long long long time and we couldn’t you’re talking I’m looking at the corner of my eye and I see Samuel and Sammy I know that you can slightly relate to this but I want to pick up a conversation that I’m seeing online and I want to post it to you so this is a comment we got on Facebook this is e1 who says how can you apply race to something as literally indiscriminate as air pollution and he’s talking about people who say that this is environmental racism so he gets a response online this is someone who responded saying having more money gives you more options on where to live like not downstream of a toxic chemical plant or not next to an industrial zone or in an unplanned so in so on so they are pointing out the fact that sometimes race is an issue what do you make of that little argument there well I mean the way we see this I mean if you have the means you move out of our neighborhood I mean we are a neighborhood that’s surrounded by as Gregory as I can sympathize with what Gregory says because we have a sewage treatment plant just a few miles down the road we are surrounded by nothing but pét’a petroleum coke piles of openly stored and we also have landfills we were the only section of Chicago that has mountains but they’re not really mountains there are landfills you know and and to say that you know when you look at the demographic of people that actually leave the neighborhood it’s most times it is not the minority neighbor the minority neighbors that leave our neighborhood we are actually the ones that can afford to leave so we are the ones that get stuck with this this problem and and you know when we have when you have a history like we do we were a section of Chicago that was heavily invested in the steel mill industry when a steel mills left they left there contaminated properties just there and now we deal with the effects of open container open contaminated land and and now because of that we have an industry that comes in and tells us well we’ll give you stops and this is the industry that we’re gonna bring you jobs or your health is that the choice for you Sam um you know what that’s what it seems to be and and the industry we do have in here tends to take a targeted approach of private profit over people and that that’s what our when we sit here and go door-to-door with our neighbors and start to have the conversation of organizing and trying to see why we have these conditions it seems to be that the kids there are common consensus within our neighborhood is that the industry we have that is anchored in our neighborhoods is profit over people all right let me just bring back in Rebecca here because a lot of these stories are horrible appalling stories but Rebecca had that little success to share with us I want to show you here this what Rebecca was talking about this newspaper here it was from eight Porter v in 2013 I believe coke found guilty somebody actually went to prison for what they did to that community Rebecca what do people do if they’re in a situation they’re in a

community where their health is at risk where the environment is actually damaging them what should they do I mean my initial reaction is always organized you know always organized and I I’m constantly in awe of the amount of stories that unstressed the people that I work with in residence in Tonawanda New York who you know are just trying to do the best they can take care of either themselves or their loved ones who are sick you know and still make time to go out and listen and hold other people’s stories and then to tell their stories to people in positions of power and decision-makers even though those people might not want to hear them I mean I remember the first time the state enforcement vironment enforcement agency met with residents of our organization members of our organization and you know they were presenting on their data and their facts around the pollution in Tonawanda and said you know we know it’s really high we know there’s a lot of companies here but that’s okay because nobody lives here and we have a member who was at that meeting and said I was well I live here literally points to her house on the map across the crosses and the company and so I you know I think that that’s that’s hard and that’s scary and that takes a tremendous amount of strength especially when you know people who are supposed to protect us sometimes don’t want to hear it mmm I want you to hear Samuel in in full force at a rally here his passion have a listen to this this is last week actually I’m gonna be before our neighborhood is loud we only allowed to walk outside with something like this is that it is that the answer we’re looking for well we’re asking you to his call up our state representatives all of our federal representatives and tell them that the East the southeast side is tired of this we’re tired of it we don’t want it no more if they want that industry so much put in their backyard it’s gonna it’s gonna go in someone’s backyard there Samuel but the quality you need you need to organize what would it be well I mean the thing that we start I mean our organization is so small we only have actually one employee and that’s a part-time employee what so everything we’ve been doing in our struggle has been trying to gather you know at a grassroots level volunteers neighbors going door-to-door trying to educate them about what the what the problem is when we have fugitive dust that flows in the air that is unmonitored you know and when we have the this industry that tends to we didn’t even know that our petroleum coke was coming into our neighborhood our electrical elected official actually was privy to that information but we never did it wasn’t until you know members of our of our organization started you know with an actual picture of a black cloud leaving the open storage site and then from there the community started asking the question what is this what is this so we started to go and try and figure out and putting pressure on the elected official putting pressure on to the city to find out even what that was well then we started to research what petroleum coke is and how it’s basically just saying you have to be a feel free like tenacious and never giving up I feel just listening to you right now Samuel you will never stop until you get what you want exactly that exactly and you know and before our conversation were you know if we were able to sift these companies was to be a good neighbor keep all your all your waste product on your property but the problem is is they don’t they don’t see no it would cost them less to sit there and deal with the fines then actually build this last moment here with Julia and Julian what did you want to add just very briefly we’re almost at the end of the show well I just wanted to call attention to the to the pattern that we’re seeing here in with all three of our guests and I want to thank our guests so much because when you talk about environmental justice is really making stories that are gonna shine I’ll be thanking you go ahead it’s disproportionately to communities all around the country and it’s taking place and it goes back to what Samuel said companies putting people over profits it’s not that they can’t do right is that they don’t want to do right because it affects their bottom line what do you have I well in with this from Chris who says he is affected by environmental racism he says once you live in an impacted area you learn you can’t run the industry is too big too scrape anymore you have to fight especially if you’re sick so Julian thank the guests I will thank Julian and Rebecca and Samuel and Gregory and you as well we’re taking a show on line to stream adizero calm hopefully you can join us there or at least watch it on youtube thanks for watching I were discussing environmental justice

in the United States want to get right back to that conversation Julian I had no idea that the Environment Protection Agency in the United States had a civil rights department that is bizarre for me what do you know about that department that you can share with us well I think that Department is in place because so much of and historically you’ve seen so much the Environmental Protection Agency is charged with protecting people in the planet from from environmental toxins and so much of those toxins found their way into communities of color and poor communities that there had to be a specific effort by the EPA to ensure that those communities were protected and so now whenever you have regulations coming through the Environmental Protection Agency they have to weigh what the effect that those regulations will have on all communities and I think it it speaks to the fact that as you’ve heard from our guest today there is no action unless you push for action unless you organize and you and you push for action to it to ensure that your needs are met and so that’s what we see there Rebecca what do you make of EPA and the work that they’re doing do you feel like they’re on your side or do you feel like you’re having to bring them on board it sounded to me like the community had to do so much work so you can get anybody to even pay attention in your situation I mean at this point Tonawanda is on the EPA’s radar yeah you know I can confidently say in this administration we’re at least on the radar that but I think that that is not a you know necessarily the situation in most neighborhoods that face these types of pollution issues so Samuel yeah with your crew of 1 1 and yourself what’s next on your agenda do you want to get rid of petcoke or do you just want to get it covered or you just want to move somewhere else what’s the strategy here at first you know when we thought they were gonna you know this corporation was gonna be a good neighbor and we were requesting them to club to enclose it but you know they they through with the plan and to them that that plan wasn’t it wasn’t financial feasible for them so they went from there gonna change their mode of operations from a storage facility to an actual direct transfer and to us what does that mean Samuel what that means is is we’re gonna have our petcoke trains coming through our neighborhoods and they’re gonna unload onto our barges that will take the product the waste product into our Calumet River and take it onto a boat that takes that exports this by-product I mean this waste product community somewhere else by the way speaks the voice I’ve experienced or a cynic I’m not sure which or maybe an experienced cynic I want to research that to see actually where it’s going to actually like yeah China India or Mexico countries that have no actual air quality regulations so you know even though for art from our experience and our thought that the the Environmental Protection Agency is kind of weak when it comes to dealing with Petco they are actually on the ball to understand that burning petcoke as an energy source it’s too dirty of above a waste product to actually use it so it is shipped through places like China India company that’s that story excuse me an a moment Gregory it has the stashes of Petco we asked them because we knew this was going to come up and it’s contentious this is part of what they told us they said nearly two years of air monitoring data show that air quality near the KC BX terminal is consistent with federal clean air standards now either the standards are really low or there’s some disconnect here with with what they’re telling us and telling you the community well according to what they said you know and that that’s one of the problems that we’ve been facing is their whole turn of actual things that aren’t true they’re misinformation campaign about us well first off it took the community to organize and a fight for two years to actually shut down to open storage sites one of them which was actually operating without the proper permit to handle petroleum coke and and you know we had actually two violations that of the clean Clean Air Act that case EPX violated they also have a monitoring system that monitors pm10 and that to us is not effective enough we

want excuse me for being I was gonna say a dumb whatever but I don’t know what p.m. ten years and why should I be worried about it well PM PM is actually particular matter and it’s it’s the greater of the size of the particular matter that actually flies into the air more attention at school it’s been a long time since I was at school all right great all right let me just bring in Malika she’s got some more stuff for my community well Sammy oh I’m actually gonna play a video comment from someone from your organization who’s facing what you face often this is Peggy who sent this to the stream the southeast side of Chicago has been looked upon as a dumping ground since the early part of the last century when steel mills and other local industries would dump their waste indiscriminately throughout the area that was followed by municipal landfills that filled acres and acres of land we are tired of being dumped on we’re tired of being the sacrifice zone we no longer need this stuff in our community we want to improve it make it a better healthier place for our residents to live so Sammy of course you can relate to that but Julia and she says we’re tired of being dumped on and so with that in mind I want to take you to this tweet that we got this is someone who says lack of a strong political representation plus economic financial means equals David against Goliath how do you shift that balance I think you shift it by lifting up the stories of the people that are on this show right now I think you lift it you shift it by not only looking at what needs to be done too stop these dirty industries but what are the alternatives we have and how do we shift our economy in a way that gives us that that takes away that the notion that you have to choose between your health and a job that’s not true and it shouldn’t be true for anybody and that’s why UI green for all what we’re doing is pushing towards shifting away from dirty energy dirty industries to a clean economy that really puts people at the center and ensuring that it’s not just about solar panels but it’s about the people and it’s about the jobs in the work and making sure that all communities are are recognized in that so I think that’s what you do and I think you see it happening I think our movement is growing across the board just I think one of the biggest environmental justice fights that we’ve seen started with indigenous communities in Canada and and spread to communities here in the United States indigenous and farming communities in the north the Keystone XL pipeline was just shut down after years of organizing that starting with just a few people they said it was impossible and it became possible last week that’s it I think that’s a good agent anxious pipeline that was gonna run from that’s right that would be that would be transporting yeah from Canada tar sands at which Samuel that’s what the coke that they’re dealing with there all the way down to Houston and out the Gulf of Mexico endangering the entire path along the oil line not to mention the damage that that that dirty oil would do environmentally and in terms of climate change so to me that I’m not a cynic I’m actually an optimist but I’m a realist and I think that’s an incredible opportunity there and there’s others just one more I mean what we’re working on is around the the Environmental Protection Agency’s clean power plan which has this flaws as and some people may speak to that but also presents a huge opportunity what it requires the states to limit the amount of carbon that goes into the atmosphere the amount of greenhouse gases there’s a huge opportunity there to do that in a way that grows the environ sector green energy creates jobs and opportunity and really allows us to push forward on a shift to a green economy that will not poison our people so let’s kind of look at the more optimistic side of this conversation so after look here on my laptop this is your old neighborhood Gregory so we’re looking here what’s here do you even recognize this yeah this is the area that I grew up in this is where my family and my friends and I went to school and wow those well these were homes where we lived and they all torn down and you can see they were destroying them and and just like they destroy those homes they destroyed our families they destroyed our lives we have to continue to push and fuss and bring awareness to this issue and these issues because as I said before the EPA have basically failed that from our opinion has basically failed us and continued to fail us from the Civil Rights Division we even our mayor here Mayor Melvin cube holder when we got started some years ago I’m gonna your story could be a book so I’m just gonna cut it short just a little bit but here this here this house looks nice I like this house and here’s your mum there’s you on the doorstep is this is this a result we are we talking success here because you’re now a new

neighborhood this new yeah and that’s my mother I’m happy to see that she’s in a better environment she she’s comfortable but like I say this the city parish did not compensate the citizens as they should they tried to continue to cut them on every penny that they could possibly cut they really sound like a very familiar story here I’m gonna show you one more picture this is kb c bx k c bx sent us a couple of statements about how they were not in violation of any regulations but this is interesting here they have a graph of their south terminal right now and in 2016 those piles are gonna be gone result samuel that well i’m skeptical about what they say because at one time they told us they were gonna build in close facility and that fell on its face so you know from anything that we actually hear from them we take that with a grain of salt and we really don’t put very much into whatever they say because the simple fact is is we have to force them to actually start to put and implement policy we actually have to you know attack the city on you know regulations and they created you know an ordinance to us which has not as much bite as what they sit there and say it is do you think I’m just wondering guess you think there’ll be a time when you won’t have to force you won’t have to push you won’t have to campaign for situations like the ones that you found yourself in Rebecca do you feel that we will just change the way that we actually think about where we put industries where people living how we treat people happen to be living in the path of industry that might be damaging their health are we are we getting a bit more I don’t know sophisticated about how we do with this I think it still comes down to who is making those decisions and who decides the process to make those decisions so then as long as the decisions are made by people about a neighborhood or about a community by people who don’t live in that community mmm we’re gonna keep seeing problems like this show because the decision-making power is and help with the people who say for instance in our community where I’ve said before that the mayor of the city he went to court with us and testified on our behalf and once he became the mayor he basically abandoned the community turned his back on a citizen so it’s basically the same thing that we continue to get you know they’ll talk but just give up give you one thing and they’ll totally do a different different thing in the end and they will the citizens seem as if they are in the wrong instead of trying to come out and see what’s really going on in our community all right thank you guess Gregory and Samuel and Rebecca and Julian for giving us some insight into a phrase that we might not be that familiar with environmental racism and actually unpacking it or what does it mean certainly when it comes to the United States mallika well there is some skepticism naturally online so I’m gonna end with this tweet from someone who wrote in history teaches us that corporate wealth buys political power and always wins but of course as we heard today perhaps not always thank you very much everybody thank you guests for being part of the stream today take care