The Real Face of Proposition 23

Tesoro’s neighbors in Wilmington say “No!” to dirty energy

By C.C. Song, The Greenlining Institute

In the backyard of the Tesoro and Valero refineries in Wilmington, California lives a thriving community that has been fighting back against the oil giants for years. Because of Proposition 23, attention has finally been brought to local residents who wake up to see the refineries’ smoke day after day.

Jasmine Cortez, a senior at nearby Banning High School, told the stories of her asthma attacks at a news conference held on October 14 at nearby Veterans Park.  “Growing up in Wilmington, I never knew I had asthma until 10th grade when I had an asthma attack on a hiking trip,” Cortez said.  On the way up the trail, she found breathing getting more and more difficult, and eventually she began wheezing and tearing up.

“No one knew what to do with me,” Cortez said.  “I felt like I almost died.”  After that, she didn’t go on as many hiking trips, even though she loves outdoor activities.  When she does go hiking, she makes sure to bring an inhaler, and she pays careful attention to her breathing pattern.

Cortez’ story is common in Wilmington.   At a sign-making party the night prior to the news conference, almost every high school student had a story about asthma, about a family member with cancer, and missed school and work days.

These stories are the real face of Proposition 23: illnesses caused or worsened by air pollution.  Wilmington and its Long Beach Harbor region neighbors host a wide range of refineries, and local residents hope that one day these pollution-belching facilities will be replaced by clean energy generation and healthy jobs.

After the news conference, residents and students marched along Pacific Coast Highway to the Tesoro refinery, the largest refinery in Wilmington. Wilmington resident Kat Madrigal named all the refineries—not just Valero and Tesoro—as the plants’ flares blended into the clouds.  “Not sure if you can see the orange plant over there, but that’s supposed to be a pumpkin.  If you go there on Halloween, they’d give you candy.  But what about the cancer they gave us?”

Madrigal said that Tesoro and Valero have poured money into projects like the Global Environmental Science Academy in an attempt to silence local opposition.  In August, Tesoro also hosted a family picnic day, and around 75 residents came and protested the community-friendly façade Tesoro put on.

Oil giants telling Californians we must choose between old industrial jobs and a healthy environment.  But Californians have already made a win-win decision in 2006: We want both green jobs, and a better environment where children don’t have to carry inhalers while hiking.

State Assemblyman Warren Furutani, who represents the region in Sacramento, stressed the benefit of green jobs at the news conference.  “Maybe some jobs that create pollution will be lost, but they will be replaced by double and triple the number of green jobs.”  And these jobs are what Californians need, and what Wilmington residents are waiting for.

The news conference was organized by The Greenlining Institute, Communities for Better Environment, Coalition for a Safe Environment and the Wilmington Wire, with the support of Communities United Against the Dirty Energy Proposition. We’re all determined to help communities like Wilmington and stop the Texas oil companies from attacking the health of our citizens.

C.C. Song is Green Assets Fellow at The Greenlining Institute,

Our Proposition 23 Series, sponsored by EOS Climate, will run through the November 2 election.

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5 responses

  1. Asthma and breathing difficulties are NOT the face of proposition 23, as it does NOTHING to health related emissions/air quality standards. Anybody who seriously studies the proposition (such as the LAO and Superior Court have done) knows better. If CARB were truly concerned about peoples’ REAL health, they’d refocus their attention away from “climate change” and pay closer attention to their current fraught-with-error studies of health effects.

    1. You’re kidding, right? It’s well documented that major CO2 emitters like the Valero and Tesoro refineries are also major emitters of fine particulates that absolutely cause and worsen lung disease. Move away from oil and coal and toward clean energy and you simultaneously reduce CO2 and other forms of air pollution. This is not exactly rocket science. Don’t take my word for it. Read the statement from dozens of health organizations, including the American Lung Association, California Nurses Association, Catholic Healthcare West and many others, which states, “Proposition 23 undercuts California’s groundbreaking clean air laws and turns the clock back on efforts to reduce illness and death from air pollution.” Read the whole statement at Who do you think is more concerned with your health, the American Lung Association or Texas oil companies?

  2. The California Jobs Initiative (CJI) is an oil corporation farce and fraud. There is no connection, whatsoever, between greenhouse gas emission reduction and the loss of jobs. This notion is an insult to the intelligence of the people of California. In fact, there is job growth in the clean, renewable energy industry. Chevron employs 65,000 worldwide and CJI is not going to change this. The only jobs created by the oil industry are clean-up jobs after oil spills and deep water, blow-outs and pump-handler jobs. CJI will make fantastic profits for the oil industry, increase air pollution, especially in communities around their refineries and there will not be lower gas prices. Koch Industries, Valero and Tesoro are super Enrons. Since when did the oil companies start to show any concern for the unemployed and their families and for small businesses? Exxon Mobil, BP, Shell, Chevron and Occidental are silent partners in CJI.

  3. If you are against pollution, then you need a real solution to pollution. Using AB 32 to reduce pollution is like buying a street sweeper truck to clean your patio. It is too expensive for the job, and it won’t work for the job anyway.

    There are no clean air bills in AB 32. Prop 23 does not touch the existing clean air bills.

  4. The key thing to keep in mind is that, according to CARB, the organization who wrote and will enforce AB32, AB 32 will do NOTHING to help global warming, will cost jobs and have a negative effect on the economy. This comes from the very people who drew it up!

    AB 32 does nothing for local pollution.

    Prop 23 leaves us with the toughest pollution laws in the country, among the toughest in the world. It will NOT increase local pollution

    If Proposition 23 is rejected, here is what will happen according to expert sources:

    •A 60 percent increase in your electricity bill according to the Southern California Public Power Authority.

    •An 8 percent increase in your natural gas bill according to CARB’s economic analysis.

    •$50,000 more for the price of a new home according to an analysis by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

    •$3.7 billion a year more for gasoline and diesel according to Sierra Research.

    •A $1,000-$3,000 additional cost for a new car according to CARB and automaker studies.

    On top of all that, a study conducted for the California Small Business Roundtable found that AB 32 regulations would cost small business alone nearly $200 billion, and would result in more than 1 million lost jobs.

    The more I learn about AB 32, the more I fear it. It just gets worse. Please vote yes on Prop23.

    “”2 Guys on the Bay Area Transportation Board told the CARB people, “If you try to do what you are going to do(AB 32) we’ll have gas at $9.07 a gallon and we have freeway tolls at up to $4,500 a year to drive during rush hour.”

    “Part of the plan is to stop suburban development, get people to stop driving, make driving too expensive for people to live out there, force them to live in high-rises, condos, in the city.”

    For months, John and Ken have made Prop 23 their top priority, calling it a necessary step to stop a law they say will kill jobs and cost Californians a fortune in higher gas and energy prices. With an estimated one million listeners per week, these two guys usually manage to rally enough votes to get their way.

    The video has John and Ken explaining why they think this bill is the most important measure on the ballot.

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