When Bush II’s Head of EPA came to California’s Central Valley, he tried to hold secret meetings with industry and was met with a protest from clean air advocates angered by EPA’s long history of ignoring the Valley’s severe public health and environmental justice problems in favor of big business interests.
Yesterday, President Obama’s EPA Administrator, Lisa P. Jackson, came to the Valley to meet with the Central Valley Air Quality Coalition, a coalition of environmental, public health, and environmental justice organizations and community members fighting to improve air quality and social justice in an area dubbed “the Appalachia of the West.”
And even though her visit was a historic step in the fight to elevate the Valley’s dire social and environmental woes to the national stage, Jackson, too, was met with protest.
Because while the EPA Chief, who grew up in New Orleans’s 9th ward, espouses a deep and even personal commitment to environmental justice, her agency’s recent actions have not reflected that commitment in the Valley.
Last month, in a legal maneuver that would have made the Bush administration proud, the EPA decided to grandfather a 600-megawatt fossil fuel power plant that hasn’t even been built yet and exempt it from meeting certain air pollution and greenhouse gas limits.
This plant is proposed next to the tiny Valley community of Kettleman City, a low-income farmworker community plagued by birth defects, miscarriages, and infant deaths, which the community blame on the confluence of terrible air quality, exposure to pesticides and contaminated drinking water, and the presence of a huge toxic waste dump with a history of violating the law.
Not only does California not need another fossil fuel fired power plant, nor the Valley another huge source of air pollution, but certainly Kettleman City does not need yet another toxic neighbor—especially one that can’t meet federal air quality standards and needs a special, backroom carve-out by our self-proclaimed environmental justice champions at the EPA.
Earthjustice will not let this injustice stand. We are prepared to challenge the illegal permit and EPA’s contorted attempt to rewrite the requirements of the Clean Air Act. We are also working with Valley advocates to improve air quality by ensuring real and effective enforcement of federal ozone and fine particulate standards. Recently our office has also filed suit in California to overturn the state’s approval of the use of the toxic soil fumigant methyl iodide.