Letters of support for the Richmond Coal Ordinance
Former California EPA Chief Counsel Christiana Tiedemann explains why fears of a lawsuit by Levin-Richmond Terminal are unwarranted:
"[Regarding the Richmond Coal Ordinance] A legal challenge will fail, and it should do so without protracted litigation because of the clear facial validity of the proposed amendments [to the Richmond Municipal Code]." Read the entire letter here. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
I am a building trades worker (retired member of Sheet Metal Workers Local 104). I spoke at the meeting in favor of the ordinance that would phase out coal and petcoke storage and shipping at Levin Terminal.
I fully support Project Labor Agreements (PLAs) that our building trades unions seek on commercial and large residential projects and including city-wide PLAs. What about a PLA with the Western States Petroleum Association? The cost of this deal with the devil appears to be huge and tragic, to the detriment of all people concerned with effective unionism and with community and planetary health. The State Building Trades and some constituent unions have mobilized members on behalf of the interests of the powerful fossil fuel companies — disrupting the Richmond Planning Commission meeting in July and organizing dozens of trades workers to oppose the above-mentioned ordinance on December 3.
What does it mean when organized workers express indifference to, and a degree of contempt for, the health issues of working-class communities that were clearly and articulately set forth by dozens of speakers on December 3 in Richmond? On the other hand, of the No Coal in Richmond members who spoke — many are union members themselves, and many who aren't union members expressed support for unionism. Workers in building trades unions are also part of communities. We and our families may face the same health issues that other members of the community do. In my extended family, there is one member who had breathing problems while growing up in Richmond; there are two retired Richmond teachers who over decades taught many students who had asthma.
Workers may face additional health issues in our roles as workers. Coal dust, part of the current issue in Richmond, causes deadly Black Lung disease on a massive scale among those who mine coal. I contracted bladder cancer after decades of blue-collar work with various substances, dusts and fumes. To the rather taunting question on the signs of many workers opposing the Ordinance at the meeting, "Are our jobs too dirty for you?" I would have to answer that my jobs were too dirty for my health, and I wonder if their jobs are too dirty for their health. The Green New Deal offers a way forward and away from the Jobs vs. Environment paradigm that powerful corporations have bombarded us with for decades, and that serves their bottom line by dividing groups who should be allies. Aside from the Green New Deal, our building trades unions need other labor, community and progressive allies to fight the spread of non-union construction, especially in large commercial buildings. But to HAVE allies, we need to BE allies with these groups. An alliance with Big Oil is exactly the wrong way to go, and it will greatly hinder the alliances we need to make. Steve Morse ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
SF Baykeeper / San Francisco Bay Chapter, Sierra Club
Re: SUPPORT – Proposed Ordinance of the City Council of the City of Richmond, CA, Prohibiting and Phasing Out the Storage and Handling of Coal and Petroleum Coke To the Richmond City Council and Mayor Butt,
This letter is sent on behalf of local and statewide environmental organizations and like-minded partners regarding the above-mentioned ordinance. We, the undersigned businesses and organizations, applaud the City’s efforts to improve air quality and health in Richmond. To that end, we support the City Council passing an ordinance that requires that Richmond phase out the storage and handling of coal and petroleum coke (“petcoke”). Coal storage and handling creates impermissible health and safety risks to Richmond’s residents, to the surrounding environment, and to San Francisco Bay.
Richmond’s Levin Terminal transports millions of tons of coal and petcoke every year, threatening the air and health of Richmond’s communities and the quality of the surrounding environment.
The transport of coal and petcoke results in the discharge of dust particles—such as fine particulate matter (PM2.5)—that are harmful by themselves, and that additionally contain extremely dangerous chemicals, including arsenic, lead, chromium, and more. Consequently, exposure to this dust can cause respiratory conditions including asthma and emphysema, as well as other diseases like heart disease and cancer.
Richmond communities, especially low-income communities of color, are already overburdened by pollution from interstate highways, the Chevron refinery, and other industrial polluters. Local residents suffer from some of the highest rates of asthma, cardiovascular disease, and stroke found in the Bay Area. Additionally, Richmond’s children have astoundingly high rates of asthma compared to other cities around the Bay. Continued transport of coal and petcoke will continue to threaten the health of these vulnerable populations.
Coal and petcoke also pose an unacceptable risk to aquatic species. A new study published in Nature Scientific Reports outlines the harm to aquatic species posed by coal, including coal being lethal to corals, reducing seagrasses, and depressing fish growth rates.1
We thank the City Council and Mayor for their strong leadership in protecting City residents and the environment. The proposed ordinance is a lawful and effective means of protecting the health and welfare of Richmond’s residents. Therefore, we urge Councilmembers to move forward with passing the aforementioned ordinance and resolution.
Sincerely, M. Benjamin Eichenberg Staff Attorney San Francisco Baykeeper
Igor Tregub Executive Committee Chair San Francisco Bay Chapter Sierra Club
Additional signatories: 350 East Bay 350 Silicon Valley Asian Pacific Environmental Network Natural Resources Defense Council Richmond Progressive Alliance Sunflower Alliance Youth vs. Apocalypse
1 Berry, et. al. Simulated coal spill causes mortality and growth inhibition in tropical marine organisms, Nature Scientific Reports, April 22, 2016, accessed: http://www.nature.com/articles/srep25894. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
United Teachers of Richmond CTA/NEA
Dear Mayor Butt and Richmond City Council Members,
United Teachers of Richmond CTA/NEA and its 1700 members in the West Contra Costa Unified School District boundaries, supports the No Coal in Richmond campaign and the ordinance by the Richmond City Council. As the educators in Richmond and West County, we deeply believe in the health and well being of our students, kids in West County, and the future of our community.
The Richmond Coal Ordinance is based on established state law that empowers municipalities to protect the health and safety of residents. The health hazards of fugitive coal and pet (petroleum) coke dust are well documented. They both increase the likelihood of developing asthma, cancer, heart disease, chronic bronchitis and other serious health conditions, and contribute to low birth weight in newborns. Richmond residents have elevated rates of asthma. This ordinance is an opportunity to eliminate a major risk factor for the health of our community.
Ending the storage and handling of coal and pet coke is consistent with Richmond city policy, including several City Council resolutions, the Climate Action Plan, and the July 24, 2018 declaration of Climate Emergency. The Richmond Coal Ordinance takes this emergency seriously with a concrete proposal to address the crisis.
The ordinance allows for a three-year period in which the existing facility, Levin-Richmond Terminal, can find alternate commodities to ship and includes a provision to extend the time of the terminal demonstrates a need. Although terminal owner Gary Levin has stated that without coal and pet coke he would have to close the terminal, there are many other bulk commodities available. Non-containerized commodities shipped out of West Coast ports include cereals and grains, fruits and vegetables, iron, steel slag, ash, and wood and wood pulp.
Businesses often need to adapt to changing conditions. The terminal owner should be able to identify and contract to handle alternative products that don't threaten the health of residents and terminal workers. This ordinance provides adequate time for such a transition.
We disagree with the Planning Commission's decision that ordinance should be delayed for further study, and we agree with the recommendation of the Planning Department that the Council enact the ordinance at this time. In a letter sent to the city Planning Department, Greg Nudd, Deputy Air Pollution Control Officer of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, urged the city to move forward with this ordinance and "not delay efforts to reduce emissions, even as [air] monitoring studies are underway."
We strongly urge the Richmond City Council to pass the ordinance that will prohibit new facilities from storing and handling coal and pet coke and phase out existing operations over a period not to exceed three years The people and teachers of Richmond are hoping our council will do the right thing and protect kids, families, and community members from this health hazard.
If you have any questions, we're always at your disposal. Thank you for your time.
In Solidarity, Demetrio Gonzalez President, United Teachers of Richmond CTA/NEA ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Berkeley Analytical Associates, LLC 815 Harbour Way South, Suite 6 Richmond, CA 94804-3612
Berkeley Analytical Associates, LLC (dba Berkeley Analytical) supports the Richmond Coal Ordinance and encourages the City Council to enact this ordinance. We strongly disagree with the Planning Commission's decision that the ordinance be delayed for further study. We strongly agree with the recommendation of the Planning Department that the Council enact the ordinance now without further delay.
Berkeley Analytical has been operating in the Richmond Marina district since 1989. We employ 11 professional chemists and engineers. Berkeley Analytical is recognized globally for its specialized testing of building products and furniture for air emissions of chemicals that can adversely impact indoor air quality. Our customers are major building product and furniture manufacturers and international retail chains. We operate 30 environmental test chambers and have state-of-the-art analytical chemistry instrumentation for identifying and quantifying part-per-billion levels of indoor air quality contaminants. Our location close to San Francisco Bay has provided the ideal air quality that we need for operation of our chamber systems. Additionally, clean ambient air with low levels of particulate matter and low background concentrations of organic chemicals in air samples is essential for contaminant-free trace level analytical chemistry.
The recent increase in fugitive coal and pet (petroleum) coke dust emissions from the port are having a deleterious impact on air quality at our laboratory. The impact has been so severe that it is even visible in the form of black dust on laboratory surfaces and in our air filtration systems. In addition to the impact on our chamber operations and chemical analyses, we are concerned about the potential impacts on our employees' health.
Please end the storage and handling of coal and pet coke at the Levin-Richmond Terminal as soon as possible. Thank you for your consideration of our request.
Alfred T. Hodgson General Partner ahodgson [at] berkeleyanalytical.com ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Anthony Somkin, M.D. Medical Director, RotaCare Richmond
I am a physician currently providing medical care to Richmond residents as the Medical Director of RotaCare Richmond.
I am writing in support of the Richmond Coal Ordinance and urge the City Council to enact the Ordinance without delay due to the negative health effects of coal and petroleum coke (“pet coke”) dust on my patients, on all Richmond residents, and on surrounding communities.
Operation of export terminals results in coal and petroleum dust emissions, including during the handling and transfer of coal related to rail unloading, ship loading, conveyor transfer, coal-pile development and removal, and wind erosion of coal piles. Neighbors of the Levin-Richmond Terminal see the oily black dust accumulate quickly on their cars and homes. What they can’t see are the smaller, invisible, particles that travel many miles and remain in the air longer.
From the US EPA website: “Significant quantities of fugitive dust from pet coke storage and handling operations present a health risk. EPA is particularly concerned about particles that are 10 micrometers in diameter or smaller (referred to as PM10) because those are the particles that generally pass through the throat and nose and enter the lungs. Once inhaled, these particles can affect the heart and lungs and cause serious health effects.
“Scientific studies have linked particle pollution exposure to: symptoms such as irritation of the airways, coughing or difficulty breathing. premature death in those with heart or lung disease; nonfatal heart attacks; irregular heart beat; aggravated asthma; decreased lung function; increased respiratory symptoms like coughing or difficulty breathing. "People with heart or lung diseases, children and older adults are most likely to be affected by particle pollution.” The US and California EPAs have specified that there is NO SAFE LEVEL OF EXPOSURE to PM 2.5 micrometers. The Richmond Coal Ordinance is based on established state laws that empower municipalities to protect the health and safety of residents. If approved, the Ordinance allows for a three year period in which the existing facility, the Levin Richmond Terminal, can find alternative commodities to ship.
On behalf of my patients and the Richmond community, please pass the Richmond Coal Ordinance to prohibit new facilities from storing and handling coal and pet coke and to phase out current coal and pet coke operations over a period not to exceed three years. Please protect our Richmond community. Sincerely,
Anthony Somkin, M.D. Medical Director RotaCare Richmond 256-24th Street Richmond, CA 94804 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Westech Roofing Inc. [excerpt] PO Box 1749, Richmond CA 94804 Lic #500843 Member of Roofers Local 81 / Richmond Small Business Enterprise #48161
Westech Roofing Inc. supports the Richmond Coal Ordinance and encourages the City Council to enact this ordinance without delay.... We strongly urge you to pass the ordinance to prohibit new facilities from storing and handling coal and pet coke and phasing out existing operations over a period not to exceed three years. Do the right thing. Protect Richmond's residents and businesses.
Larry T. Hunt, President Frank Lammar, CFO ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Bridge Storage and Art Space [excerpt] 23 Maine Ave. Richmond, CA 94804
I support the Richmond Coal Ordinance and encourage you to enact it without delay. The ordinance is based on established state law that empowers cities to protect the health and safety of residents. The health hazards of coal and pet coke dust are well documented. They increase the likelihood of developing asthma, cancer, heart disease, and chronic bronchitis. They contribute to low birth weight in newborns. Heart attacks and hospitalizations for chronic lung disease exacerbations increase on days with high levels of particulate matter in the air....
I urge you to protect Richmond's residents, businesses, and workers by passing the Richmond Coal Ordinance without delay.
Laura Johnson Operations Manager ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Denice A Dennis, MPH [excerpt] Community Health Policy Volunteer
I have had the pleasure of working with several of you previously on tobacco control policy in the City of Richmond and retired recently from my position as the County's Tobacco Control Program director. Richmond now has a long history of supporting public health through several citywide tobacco control and secondhand smoke ordinances. I am writing in support of the Richmond Coal Ordinance and to urge the City Council to enact the Ordinance without delay due to the negative health effects of coal and petroleum coke (“pet coke”) dust on all Richmond residents.....
On behalf of my neighbors in the Richmond community, please pass the Richmond Coal Ordinance to prohibit new facilities from storing and handling coal and pet coke and to phase out current coal and pet coke operations over a period not to exceed three years. Please protect our Richmond community.
Denice A Dennis, MPH Community Health Policy Volunteer Resident, El Cerrito ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Jack Lucero Fleck Retiree, IFPTE Local 21
As a lifelong union member, I strongly support my union brothers and sisters. I absolutely agree that having a living wage and a pension with benefits is a wonderful thing, and I am so grateful to my union and all others who have made it possible for me to have this.
I also support the ordinance to phase out coal in Richmond. What we need is a Green New Deal that will provide union jobs in solar, wind, electrification of buildings, installation of electric vehicle charging stations, construction of new affordable housing that is close to transit lines so people can shorten their commute, and provision of health care for everyone, particularly those who live close to refineries, freeways, and rail lines who suffer health impacts from fossil fuels.
We can build a clean and healthy future with union jobs for all, and I urge the city council to move forward toward that future by phasing out coal from Richmond. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Dr. Jeffrey Ritterman Cardiologist and former Richmond City Council Member
Dear Mayor and City Council Members,
My name is Jeff Ritterman. I previously served on the Richmond City Council. I am a physician and presently work at the Lifelong San Pablo Clinic seeing adult primary care patients. Previously I served as a cardiologist at Kaiser Richmond for more than twenty-nine years. I am writing about an issue that concerns the health of the Richmond community.
You, as our elected officials, can do us a great service in improving the air quality of our community. As you know, there is an ordinance before you which would eliminate the storage and handling of noxious coal and petroleum dust at the Levin-Richmond Terminal. I am writing in support of the Richmond Coal Ordinance and urge the City Council to enact the Ordinance due to the negative health effects of coal and petroleum coke (“pet coke”) dust.
Put simply, the continued coal and petcoke operations that spread coal dust throughout our community, result in air pollution, which causes damage to our airways, lungs, and hearts. How many of our neighbors have suffered worsening pulmonary and cardiac symptoms without even knowing the source? How many more will need to suffer before we clean the air?
Are there any freedoms more fundamental than being able to drink clean water and breathe healthy air?
It is the small airborne dust particles, known as particulate matter or PM, which are of the most concern. Air pollution due to particulate matter has been linked to increases in mortality and morbidity from asthma, lung cancer, cardiovascular disease, metabolic disease, birth defects, neurodegenerative disease, and Alzheimer’s disease.
The US EPA put it this way: “Significant quantities of fugitive dust from pet coke storage and handling operations present a health risk. EPA is particularly concerned about particles that are 10 micrometers in diameter or smaller (referred to as PM10) because those are the particles that generally pass through the throat and nose and enter the lungs. Once inhaled, these particles can affect the heart and lungs and cause serious health effects.
“Scientific studies have linked particle pollution exposure to: symptoms such as irritation of the airways, coughing or difficulty breathing; premature death in those with heart or lung disease; nonfatal heart attacks; irregular heart beat; aggravated asthma; decreased lung function; increased respiratory symptoms like coughing or difficulty breathing.
"People with heart or lung diseases, children and older adults are most likely to be affected by particle pollution.”
The US and California EPAs have specified that there is NO SAFE LEVEL OF EXPOSURE to PM 2.5 micrometers.
I am asking the mayor and city council to help improve the public health of our community by passing the ordinance that will prohibit new facilities from storing and handling coal and pet coke and phase out existing operations over a period not to exceed three years.
In partnership toward a healthier Richmond,
Jeffrey B. Ritterman, M.D.
—> No Coal in Richmond collected more than 2,300 signatures on a letter to the City Council urging them to pass the Richmond Coal Ordinance. You can read the letter here.