You Can Help Get Coal Outta Richmond!

By Janis Hashe and Janet Scoll Johnson

Push is quickly coming to shove in the accelerating fight to end coal transport through Richmond. An ordinance that would prohibit new coal handling and storage infrastructure and phase out existing coal operations over a period of years is scheduled to come before the Richmond City Council in late March or early April. The Sierra Club/Sunflower Alliance-backed group No Coal in Richmond is going door-to-door in heavily impacted areas, collecting signatures on a letter to city council members urging them to support the ordinance. Want to help? Read on for more info, and see our action items later in this article.

You might well ask: Why does the Bay Area, a region famous for its environmental leadership, still have coal trains coming through our communities? Why do we have huge, uncovered piles of dirty, dusty coal sitting right next to our Bay at the Levin-Richmond Terminal on the Richmond waterfront? Why is the Port of Richmond one of the last three ports left in the state to export the dirty fossil fuel when California doesn’t even use coal power?

The answer, of course, is money. The coal (and even more dirty petroleum coke, aka petcoke) are being shipped overseas, primarily to Asia, where they are still being burned for power. So, we are exporting our poison to communities overseas … only to have the dirty air drift right back to us in the trade winds.

Due to the falling price of clean energy and the commitment of activists, the coal industry is in retreat in the U.S. We’ve retired 259 coal plants in seven years — that’s one plant retired every 11 days. And more than three million people work in the clean energy economy, which now employs more people than fossil fuels in almost every state in the country. But the coal industry can still make money from overseas sales, and it does not care about the impact on public health or the environment.

What you can do:

1. Help pass “No Coal in Richmond”

Help us get signatures, through canvassing and tabling at local events, to support the strongest possible measures to end this public health and climate menace. 

What: No Coal in Richmond Door-Knocking
When: Saturday 3/2, Sunday 3/10, Saturday 3/16, Sunday 3/24; 1:30–4 pm
Where: Meet at the Bobby Bowens Progressive Center, 2540 Macdonald Ave., Richmond
RSVPaction@sunflower-alliance.org

You’ll get a quick briefing, pick up materials and a map, and leave from there with a partner. The work is gratifying and easy; 95% of the people who open their door say “No coal in Richmond? Where do I sign?” If the scheduled times don’t work, and you can door-knock with a local canvasser or help the organizers in other ways, please send an email to action@sunflower-alliance.org

2. Richmond residents, tell your City Council to pass the ordinance

If you’re a Richmond resident, you can call City Council members to urge them to support the ordinance, and you can show up to the meeting in which the ordinance will come up for its first vote. At this time it looks like the ordinance will be placed on the agenda in late March or early April. To help, or if you have questions, contact Janet at action@sunflower-alliance.org  

 

Janis Hashe is a freelance writer/editor/teacher/theatre person. She has been politically active in Santa Cruz, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chattanooga and now Richmond. Her deepest personal commitments include fighting climate change, ending factory farming and overturning Citizens United. She’s a member of Indivisible East Bay and the CA-11 team.

Janet Scoll Johnson is a long-time Richmond resident and an organizer for No Coal in Richmond and Sunflower Alliance, which works on the front lines of local fights against fossil fuel pollution and infrastructure expansion in the S.F. Bay Area and throughout California.

Scary times at IEB’s October All Members Meeting

Halloween arrived early at the Indivisible East Bay All Members Meeting on October 28, with many of us showing up in costume. Even the infamous Trump Chicken joined the festivities.

Unfortunately, the real scares are coming from recent news. From the deadly violence at the Synagogue in Pittsburgh to Trump’s avalanche of incendiary rhetoric — the stakes for the November 6 midterms are higher now, if that’s possible, than they’ve ever been.

Before we got down to national politics, Jodi Reid, Executive Director of CARA, the California Alliance for Retired Americans, led an informative discussion about some of the statewide propositions on the ballot. CARA has posted recommendations on all eleven props, including fact sheets for Props 1, 2, 8, and 10. Jodi walked us through the list and took our questions. In brief:

  • Yes on Prop 1. Passing Prop 1 would authorize $4 billion in bonds for housing related programs for low income residents, veterans, and other specialized populations. California has not had funds for housing in some time and local communities don’t have the resources to build housing themselves.
  • Yes on Prop 2. This would allow funding from Prop 63 to be utilized for mental health services in concert with homeless assistance. The two are needed in order for housing to succeed for the homeless. A “yes” on Prop 2 would  authorize funding already allocated to be used in this context and would not require new funding.
  • Yes on Prop 8. Authorizes state regulation of kidney dialysis clinics and limits charges for patient care. As of now, CARA stated that two major corporations provide all the kidney dialysis services, overcharging $150K more per patient than needed without the funds going to patient care. The proposition would set profits to a 115% cap above revenue.
  • Yes on Prop 10. This would allow local cities to adopt rent control and repeal the Costa-Hawkins rental housing act (1995). CARA points out that tens of thousands of housing units have been created since ’95 that have not fallen under rent control. In response to a question, Jodi noted that passage of Prop 10 would not establish vacancy control.
  • Several of the ballot proposals are controversial even among progressive groups that are usually allies. For example, CARA supports Prop 3, which authorizes almost $9 billion in bonds to fund various water and environmental projects, citing the need for safe drinking water to all areas of the state. However, the Sierra Club opposes the measure on the ground that it will mean building more dams, harming the environment; they also have concerns about the (lack of) oversight for how the funds are spent. At the Propositions breakout session (see more below), Governance Committee (GC) member Ted noted that Prop 3 affects only state-regulated water systems, and said that it won’t directly affect the East Bay’s water supply because we get our water from EBMUD.
  • Finally, check out calmatters.org to see their one-minute videos summarizing the pros and cons of each Proposition. There’s no faster way to get up to speed.

Next up, GC member and senator teams co-lead Linh highlighted the critical importance of a “boring” (her word) topic: rules changes for federal agencies. In particular, “any executive agency seeking to change any existing regulation has to invite and review public comments.” Public means YOU! Making comments may be our only chance to prevent or slow down the administration’s attempts to roll back decades of environmental, workplace and safety protections. Linh urged members to take advantage of this opportunity. Some proposed changes are anything but boring: for example, one such proposal would allow for indefinite detention of immigrant families with children! You have until November 6 to voice your opposition to this change, so speak up!

GC member and outreach team co-lead Nick reminded us that the 2018 Get Out the Vote (GOTV) effort will likely not end on November 6, since that’s a primary day for one of the U.S. Senate seat in Mississippi. If no candidate receives a majority, which seems likely, a runoff will be held on November 27. Nick is lining up postcard events for the possible run-off.

Lastly, GC member Charlotte urged everyone to participate in one or more of the remaining GOTV events between now and next week’s midterms. The biggest is our  two-day all-day (9 AM to 9 PM) “The Last Weekend” Phone/Text Bank Extravaganza in Oakland. Whether you’ve already done tons of phone banking or have been quietly sitting on the sidelines, this is a must-do! Sign up here.

With the formal part of the meeting over, we enjoyed pizza courtesy of a generous donation from IEB member Nancy Olson. Three breakout sessions followed: Charlotte led people in writing postcards and also letters to voters through Vote Forward, GC members Ted and Toni engaged people in a more in-depth discussion about some of the state propositions, and GC member and volunteer team lead Andrea welcomed new members who wanted to know more about IEB and learn how to get involved.

Andrea with new members
Andrea at the new members breakout

Several of us came in costume! The clear Adorable & Clever winners:

NASA Space Force astronaut and assistant. Photo by Toby St John
NASA Kid & Dr. Horrible team up to save America! Photo by Toby St. John

Governance Committee members Ted and Ann (aka “Blue Wave”):

Ted and Ann aka Blue Wave

Henry the Indivisi-bulldog brought his family, IEB team co-leads Kristen and Tom!

Henry, Kristen and Tom

Scariest Costume winner was IEB and CA-11 team member George, who said: “Nnnnnnnnnn nnnnnnnn nnnnnnnnn”, which we translated as meaning: “Just because I’m a person of the undead persuasion doesn’t mean the electoral outcome isn’t important to me. A Blue vote is a smart vote. And smart brains taste better! Be a ZombiVoter! Vote Blue!”

Be a ZombiVoter! Vote Blue!

And finally: Blue Wave beats up Trump Chicken!

 

Andrea Lum contributed to this article.