by Cathy Wang, '21
Issues of environmental justice aren’t far removed from our own community as students at Stanford. Only an hour away from Stanford lies the East Bay Refinery Corridor, also known, perhaps more accurately, as the “sacrifice zone” for petrochemical industry sites. The majority residents in this region are low-income and/or people of color, primarily black and Latinx, as well as Asian American and Pacific Islander and Native American.
Out of the various refineries in this area, the Chevron Richmond Refinery in particular has the largest capacity and emits the most hazardous air pollutants. Over the past years, the Chevron Refinery has several incidents of explosions and fires, injuring workers, heavily polluting the air in the surrounding community, and leading to the hospitalization of many residents. In addition to these multiple incidents, Chevron has been repeatedly denounced and penalized for unsafe equipment and lack of worker protection, demonstrating their indifference toward the wellbeing of their workers. Residents living near the refinery have a higher than normal asthma rate, with the likelihood of developing asthma increasing with the length of their residency.
We can learn a lot from the example of Richmond. First of all, the residents of Richmond were able to use legal, electoral, and political means to stop Chevron’s expansion project in Richmond and create new legislation to increase Chevron’s compensation to the community. This provides a model of action for other communities suffering environmental injustice. Second, the situation in Richmond reveals the need for more awareness of environmental injustice and inter-group organization and solidarity among various environmental and social groups in order to fight back against corporations with more resources and political power.
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This is a forum for students to share their writing on intersectional environmental topics, curated by Students for a Sustainable Stanford. Writers of all backgrounds, abilities, and perspectives are welcome.