The Wilmington Wire
by Lauren Valdez
Another refinery explosion. Another flaring incident. Another industrial project polluting our air. We are used to hearing the bad news, but things are starting to look up for Wilmington.
California took the lead in combating global warming with landmark legislation called AB 32, passed in 2006. AB 32 requires a sharp reduction in greenhouse gas emissions to move towards a sustainable, low-carbon future. In 2010, Wilmington oil refinersValero and Tesoro spent millions of dollars to place an initiative, Proposition 23, on the statewide ballot that would have suspended AB 32, not just for the oil industry but for all industries. They wanted to kill AB 32 rather than spend their profits on upgrading their facilities to pollute less. We were at the forefront of this battle, with a statewide coalition of organizations including Communities for a Better Environment and the Greenlining Institute, leading multiple demonstrations at the refineries.
Big Oil’s Prop. 23 got clobbered that year, but the oil lobby hasn’t given up. Happily, neither have those working to clean our air.
To reach AB 32’s goal of cutting carbon pollution, the state implemented a cap-and-trade program, which limits the toxic emissions a company can put into the air and charges polluters for the damage they cause. The cap on emissions will decline each year, causing the cost of pollution to go up. The money raised from those polluter fees goes into a fund that helps pay for clean energy, energy saving and other programs that help clean our air. It’s critical that this money – and the projects it funds –go to places like Wilmington that need it urgently.
And it will, thanks to a new piece of legislation called SB 535. SB 535 requires that at least 25% of all cap-and-trade revenues be invested in the state’s most polluted and environmentally burdened communities. This year alone nearly $270 million in funding is available, the largest pot of money ever given for environmental justice, and that amount will grow over the coming years
That $270 million is going to support renewable energy, affordable housing near public transit, low-carbon transportation, and urban greening. For the first time in history, our communities will get real help to counter the history of low income communities being used as toxic dumping grounds. Not only do the refineries finally have to pay for the damage they have done to our community, the money will go into programs that are already creating good jobs and changing lives for the better.
The bad news is that the polluters haven’t gone away. They’re still trying to weaken and even kill AB 32, and take away the best hope that’s come along in years for communities like Wilmington.
To make sure they don’t succeed, The Greenlining Institute created a new website, UpLiftCA.org, to tell the story of how California’s smart climate policies are helping real people in real neighborhoods around the state. Please check it out, sign up to receive updates, and tell your friends.
You might also want to contact the legislators who represent Wilmington in Sacramento and let them know you support AB 32 and California’s effort to fight climate change:
Assemblymember Mike A. Gipson, district 64: (916)223-1201 or use https://lcmspubcontact.lc.ca.gov/PublicLCMS/ContactPopup.php?district=AD64
Senator Isadore Hall, III, district 35: (916) 651-4035 or use http://sd35.senate.ca.gov/contact