The Central California Environmental Justice Network (CCEJN), a fiscally sponsor project of the Social and Environmental Entrepreneurs (SEE); is accepting applications from motivated individuals to fill a Community Organizer Position for Kern County.
CCEJN seeks to preserve the natural resources of the San Joaquin Valley by working towards minimizing or eliminating environmental degradation within our communities. Rural communities in California’s Central Valley suffer a disproportionate amount of negative health, social, and economic impacts due to disproportionate environmental degradation. CCEJN upholds the principles of environmental justice through direct action, movement building, advocacy, and resident engagement in all of its efforts. CCEJN is looking for candidates who share our organizational values and are interested in working in the field of Environmental & Social Justice Issues in Kern County.
The Community Organizer position is a temporary, part-time position that is responsible for providing community education and outreach in low-income communities of color in Kern County. Specific areas of responsibility include working closely with residents in Arvin, Shafter and other Kern County communities as needed, offering bilingual education on basic environmental literacy and fracking issues; engagement of residents in relevant project work; community meeting coordination; and offering support for residents that want to engage in collection of targeted samples and pollution logs of oil and gas related emissions. The selected candidate will also help to educate residents on how to identify fracking and other extreme oil production methods violations and how to report it to the IVAN Kern Reporting Network. The Community Organizer will report directly to CCEJN Kern County Coordinator and will work closely with CCEJN’s director and other community partners.
This is a non-exempt temporary part-time position. It is expected that this person will work approximately 20 hours per week over a 10-month period, with the possibility of extending the number of hours per week and the number of months of work based on funding availability.
- Work with CCEJN staff to develop and distribute bilingual environmental literacy materials and specific materials on fracking
- Conduct community outreach to educate residents about environmental hazards affecting their communities
- Organize and facilitate community meetings to educate community members about environmental hazards, how to report them; and offer trainings on fracking and other extreme methods of oil extraction
- Engage Kern County residents in advocacy campaigns at the county and state level that aim to create stronger regulations against fracking practices
- Organize and facilitate trainings on the collection of targeted samples and pollution logs of oil and gas related emissions
- Identify and recruit a cohort of community members willing to participate in the collection of targeted samples and pollution logs of oil and gas related emissions
- Provide technical support and maintain constant communication with participants in the data collection cohort
- Complete written progress reports documenting project tasks including but not limited to entering data into spreadsheets; keeping updated files of all project activities;
- Attend and help coordinate IVAN Kern monthly task force meetings
- Attend meetings on behalf of CCEJN or tend to other duties related to the organization as assigned
- Collaborate with other organizations in Kern County and across the state to advance environmental justice issues affecting Kern County residents
- Other duties as assigned by the Kern County Coordinator or CCEJN’s Director
- Community organizing experience
- Strong communication skills both oral and written
- Bilingual English and Spanish. Ability to do basic translations and to provide interpretation during meetings
- Ability to work well with diverse groups
- Must work with limited supervision—create sound work style and be able to develop his/her own schedule in order to complete project tasks
- Proficiency with Microsoft Office products
- Strong commitment to environmental justice and the mission of CCEJN
- Ability and willingness to travel within Kern County and other parts of California and to have a flexible schedule as needed
- Current driver’s license and fully-insured personal vehicle
- Completed courses in an accredited college or university on Environmental Science, Social or Health Sciences
- Experience doing advocacy work
Starting Date: Open until filled
How to Apply:
Interested candidates must send an e-mail that includes a cover letter and resume to Nayamin.Martinez@outlook.com with “CCEJN Kern Community Organizer” as the subject line. For more information about the position please contact Nayamin Martinez at 559-351-6398.
Guest Blogger: Rodrigo Alatriste-Diaz (Tulare County) – PHD Grad-Student at Cornell Univ.
This blog post describes an ongoing project between CCEJN and U.S. EPA to engage San Joaquin Valley (the Valley) community members in citizen science. As part of this project, a cohort of seven community members was convened to participate in CA-EPA Air Resource Board’s (ARB) 100 Series Course–Visible Emissions Evaluation (VEE). This course is typically limited to regulatory agencies and industry personnel. Our participation in this training and in citizen science is part of an ongoing process to increase community involvement. Below we explain citizen science, its importance, and share our recent experience in completing VEE training and certification. Observations and recommendations are made to make the certification process more accessible and ultimately democratize environmental protection.
Citizen Science for Who?
Citizen science is a method to increase public input in environmental protection and management by way of education, data collection, and dialogue. This goal is achieved by community learning and public involvement in the environmental protection process.
Citizen science, as an EPA initiative, has been found to lead to the following: input into the environmental protection process, involvement in the outdoors, advocate and researcher collaboration, environmental science education, and the local creation of data and experts.
However, citizen science is also a limited form of civic engagement. Volunteering is a luxury that some people can’t afford; citizen science volunteers must find the disposable time and resource to participate. Another major obstacle is the scientific literacy required to engage in citizen science. Again, volunteers must donate their time to educate themselves and become literate and understand bureaucratic processes and their respective agencies. In the end, volunteers must unquestionably accept science as a language to engage and influence technical decisions and processes.
Making Citizen Science in the San Joaquin Valley:
Despite the challenges noted above, citizen science has the potential to make environmental protection more democratic in the Valley. Among other environmental health concerns in the valley, air quality is very low and contributes to high rates of asthma and cardiovascular disease. Sources of pollution in the Valley vary from mobile emissions like cars and trucks to stationary sources like agriculture, dairy, and oil processing. According to the American Lung Association, four Valley metropolitan areas are ranked as the most polluted cities across three types of pollution in the United States (see chart below). Of the nine California Air Districts, the San Joaquin district is the largest by land size. Thus, an important place for a citizen science project.
With this goal in mind, the CCEJN cohort completed the VEE course during the month of October. To become a certified visible emissions evaluator three steps are required: 1) complete an online course that takes 10-14 hours to complete, 2) a half-day classroom lecture, 3) and a field exam.
The online course-is well organized and includes visualizations and some interactive learning. In order to complete the online course reliable internet access is needed for long periods of time. The course is divide into seven sub-sections; each section is followed by a short exam. The entire online module is well structured and very helpful to an air quality novice. However, at times the online course can be overtly detailed and highly technical. For example, learning equations used to read a psychrometer table or learning a specific volatile organic compounds (VOC) substance like formaldehyde.
At the end of each section a PDF version of all on-line material is made available for printing. If printed material is made available before online instruction, students will be able to read and review materials off-line and at their leisure. Supplemental learning materials like flash cards or visual materials like the Visible Emissions Evaluations Handbook (see picture below) are good teaching materials. Materials like these can help a variety of learners such as visual learners and limited English language learners.
After completing the online course, our cohort drove to Monterey to participated in a half-day course. The instructor for this course was very knowledgeable and engaging. He shared that the certification rate has steadily increased to its current rate of 80% and in-class instruction was reduced from five days to one. The course was very relaxed, and focused primarily on the logistics and strategies for passing the field exam.
The field exam is the highpoint and the final part of the certification. Students meet at a park or public location to observe stationary emissions released from an ARB trailer and determine opacity of emissions (see picture above). During the exam, students are required to visually determine opacity on a twenty point-scale of twenty-five white and twenty-five black plumes. In order to certify your total answers can deviate no more than 7.4 points. The visual exam is challenging and requires a lot of concentration. From our cohort 3 out of 5 people certified (60% passed).
Final Remarks and Recommendations
VEE is a powerful tool. A visual emission observation with proper documentation from a VEE certified community member can result in a violation against a polluting facility. In fact, a VEE can trump air monitoring data from instruments generated within that polluting facility.
However, to make use of VEE and democratize environmental protection the fundamentals of this course and certification need to be shifted away from industry and compliance agency expertise to a wider community. Below, are some recommendations to make VEE training more accessible to community members. The urgent need for environmental protection and regulation of air pollution in the Valley are compelling reasons why individuals and organizations are, and will continue to be, committed to citizen science in the Valley.
- Train local community experts to increase general knowledge of environmental regulations and compliance standards.
- Increase access to technical education for volunteer monitoring programs to provide specialized knowledge of specific mediums (air, water, etc.) to increase accuracy of reporting and more dialogue with compliance agencies.
- Tailor learning materials to various kinds of learners (visual learners, English language learners, etc.) and use of informal education models or popular education to increase accessibility to material.
- Use a train the trainer model, such as the use of health promotoras, to disseminate regulation and compliance information to the general public and to help with transcription of technical information.
- Determine demand and need for VEE training and examination in counties with the lowest air quality–Fresno and Tulare County (VEE training and VEE exam are currently not available in these counties).
- Supplement community monitoring projects with training and access to publicly available information (i.e. location of violation, location of facility, and incidence of violations). For example, according to ARB’s 2016 case settlement data the majority of violations appear to come from mobile sources. Thus, monitoring projects can use data to focus on a specific sector or super polluters.
 Pfeffer, M. J. and L. P. Wagenet (2007). Volunteer Environmental Monitoring, Knowledge Creation and Citizen-Scientist Interaction. Sage Handbook of Environment and Society Los Angeles ; London, SAGE.
 Mary, B. C., et al. (2016). “Linking ‘toxic outliers’ to environmental justice communities.” Environmental Research Letters 11(1): 015004.
Dear CCEJN Supporters,
We want to take this opportunity to wish you all a successful 2017 and to express our sincere gratitude to those who have sent their donations through our GoFundMe page and by mail. Thank you to Catherine Garoupa, Rachel Gelman, Al Arredondo, Destiny Rodriguez, Jerry Yoshitomi and Laura Rodriguez for their generous donations.
Our campaign will continue until January 17, 2017, and we ask you to help us reach our $5000 goal by making a modest contribution and by sharing this post with other friends who care about improving the environment in the San Joaquin Valley. You can mail your donation to our Fresno office (4991 E McKinley Ave. Ste. 109 Fresno CA 93727) or you can donate in the following link:
Nayamin Martinez and Gustavo Aguirre Jr.
Dear Supporters of Environmental Justice in Central California:
As you take well-deserved time off to gather with your loved ones to celebrate the holidays, the Central California Environmental Justice Network (CCEJN) thank you for being a strong ally in promoting environmental justice.
For generations, communities of color have been burdened by poverty and unhealthy environments, but thanks to you and other committed individuals, CCEJN continues bringing together diverse communities and groups through the two resident reporting networks: Fresno Environmental Reporting Network (FERN) in Fresno and Kern Environmental Reporting Network (KEEN) in Kern. These networks allowed us to learn from each other, work together and to break down silos.
FERN AND KEEN are vivid testimony of this. Bringing together regulatory agencies, community groups, and residents, have resulted in concrete improvements in people’s lives. ‘The Arvin Pipeline Leak’ forced the evacuation of over fifty people. After the leak, affected families and concerned community members were trained by CCEJN staff to sample the air they were breathing and facilitated community meetings with regulatory agencies (including representatives from the Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources and Cal-EPA) and advocated for stringent regulations. This collaborative effort went from a community based report in the KEEN platform to a state-wide policy bill (AB1071 Salas) that ensures DOGGR has the capacity to protect individuals and communities living near oil and gas pipelines.
To continue our networking conversations, we’re hosting our bi-annual conference “Roots of Resistance” in 2017. Together, we’ll share our expertise and explore sustainable solutions for a safer environment. We must raise $ 5,000 to make this conference possible, can you help us reach our goal? Any amount will put us closer to this goal. To donate, please go to: https://www.gofundme.com/ccejn2017conference
Unity Council Chair
‘Thorn in oil’s side’ speaks at Delano
December 2, 2016
Two experts in their fields of social and environmental justice spoke on the poor health conditions in the rural areas of the Central Valley on Nov. 21 as part of Bakersfield College Delano Campus’ C.H.A.P. (Cultural and Historical Awareness Program) fall series.
The talk, “Civic Engagement and Social Justice in the Central Valley: Environmental Justice, Legal Advocacy, and Academic Research Perspectives,” filled the classroom to well-over capacity.
“Both of my parents were migrant farm workers who would pick strawberries in Oxnard in the winter and in the summer go to Blythe, California near the Arizona border to pick lemons,” said Gustavo Aguirre Jr., project coordinator at Central California Environmental Justice Network.
Both of Aguirre’s parents illegally migrated to the U.S. when they were young, but soon after became registered, and eventually, citizens. His father soon came to work with the United Farm Workers of America working to improve working conditions, climbing to national vice president before his retirement.
Aguirre’s organization works in Kern County and Northern California to urge the agricultural industry to safer practices and report violations that would otherwise go unchecked.
“We receive a wide spectrum of reports in communities that deal from graffiti, illegal dumping, to big industry violations,” he said. “We deal with hydraulic fracking, we deal with pesticide issues: we deal with so much.”
Aguirre’s team will also sit down with the EPA to discuss Central Valley conditions.
“We have a one-on-one conversation of issues that are affecting rural communities and then they address them, either fixing them or recommending sources that have those capabilities,” he said.
When asked what it’s like to be the thorn in the side of the big industries of oil and agriculture, Aguirre reacted with excitement. “It’s a tough job, but it’s hella fun. I would say five or 10 of my good personal friends work for the oil industry as engineers, in the rigs, and welders.”
Demonstrating one of his organization’s air sampling buckets (part of their “Bucket Brigade” program) for the audience, Aguirre recounted a victory of environmental justice.
“They were bringing about 18 to 30 trucks of biomass and green waste every day from Los Angeles to Arvin, and the emissions they were producing were very significant, a lot of H2S (hydrogen sulfide).”
The company was later shut down and replaced by a more environmentally conscious provider. Aguirre also recounted a story of pushback from a company they were investigating.
“We were filming these tanks and two pickup trucks drive up to us on either side,” he said. The two men began insisting that Aguirre and his team not film there, suggesting it’d be dangerous for them.
“’People die here,’ and we’re like, ‘what do you mean people die here? Are you insinuating we’re going to die today?’”
The men eventually gave up trying to send away Aguirre’s team, and soon after Aguirre filed a report that found them in violation of several air emission codes.
Standing beside Aguirre was Rodrigo Alatriste-Diaz, a doctoral student in developmental sociology at Cornell University.
Alatriste-Diaz’s research focuses on the social and ecological determinants of health in the Central Valley, which includes education, race, income, whether or not someone votes, as well as ecological factors like neighborhood, infrastructure and housing condition.
“What’s interesting about this study is that most people say ‘such and such never goes to the doctor and that’s why he’s really unhealthy.’ Well it turns out medical care, access to it, and whether it’s used makes up only 30 to 38 percent of what makes a person healthy,” he said.
Alatriste-Diaz pointed to data showing Kern County’s 38 percent obesity rate versus only 24 percent statewide, and posed the question to the audience of why that might be.
“Where you live has a bigger effect than some of the other stuff we normally think about with health.”
His research suggests that environmental factors contribute to overall health much more than access to hospitals, and that a disparity in those conditions in rural communities in the Central Valley is the biggest contributor to the area’s statistics.
The panel was then opened up to the audience for questions, of which the first was one of advice for those wanting to organize events and raise awareness of issues locally.
“I’ve only been doing this work for two years, and it’s a tough job to get people engaged. It’s a process, you have to educate, empower and really encourage folks to go out there and make a difference,” Aguirre said.
“A predecessor of mine used to preach about changing the narrative. It’s telling people the truth. Sometimes the truth is nasty and not what people want to hear. It’s very hard to listen to the truth, but when you empower people and you encourage them to do something for the better, it takes time and it’s a slow process, but once you get one or two folks in, they get one or two folks in,” he said.
In this second half of 2016, we are excited to share what is new at Central California Environmental Justice Network (CCEJN). First, we have a new coordinator! Nayamin Martinez joined our team on May 2nd. Born and raised in Mexico, Nayamin moved to California in 2000 and since then she has worked with various nonprofit organizations (i.e. Binational Center for the Development of the Oaxacan Indigenous Communities; Alliance for California Traditional Arts) organizing immigrant communities and advocating for their wellbeing. Nayamin has coordinated projects in Fresno, Madera and Tulare counties that provided health education, access to health and social services, and opportunities for civic engagement and leadership development. Let’s learn what motivated Nayamin to join CCEJN and what has been her experience in these first two months.
“While I was born in Mexico City, I spent most of my life in the State of Mexico, in a small town two hours from Mexico City. Pollution wasn’t a concern for me until I lived in Mexico City when I was going to college. I thought I had overcome this problem when I married and moved to Fresno, California. After all, Fresno is a small city, right? I would never imagine that air pollution was as bad as it is! Having lived here for 16 years, having a son with asthma and a family that suffers from bad allergies, I have learned the hard way that air pollution is something that affect us all in the San Joaquin Valley. For over a decade, I have worked closely with farm workers who are constantly exposed to pesticides and I have witnessed firsthand the living and working conditions of low income communities of color and the environmental hazards that surround them (i.e. substandard housing; lack of clean drinking water; proximity of pollution sources such as waste management facilities and freeways, to mention just a few).
In my previous jobs, I had the opportunity to educate community members on ways to improve their health by increasing their knowledge on prevention measures, but most importantly I helped them develop the skills to become advocates for healthier communities. I joined CCEJN because I am convinced that I could continue this journey of educating, empowering and organizing community members to fight for environmental justice.
In these two months at CCEJN I had the opportunity to meet and work with a variety of stakeholders. From the government representatives who participate in our monthly meetings and help us address the reports that come in through our environmental reporting networks (FERN and KEEN), to community residents of Fresno and Lanare who are dealing with illegal dumping issues and lack of clean water. In July 9-10, I participated in a Barnraising training organized by PublicLab, where activists from all over the country met for a weekend to discuss environmental problems and best practices to address them. I had my first experience with balloon mapping; participated in a power analysis of the different entities that are involved in regulating landfills and other waste management sites; and joined a discussion of best ways to engage youth and children in environmental discussions.
I have learned a lot and I know there is still much more to learn. I am excited with this opportunity and I look forward to working with all our EJ partners!”
In solidarity, Nayamin
Last but not least, we have a new home in Fresno! Since May CCEJN is sharing offices with the Central California Asthma Collaborative (CCAC). We are located near the Fresno airport, come and visit us at: 4991 E. McKinley Ave. Ste. 109.
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) – After going largely unnoticed for decades, state water quality regulators are setting their focus on a common practice in oil production – wastewater ponds.
In an inventory completed this November, staff at the Central Valley Regional Water Control Board found 1,074 wastewater ponds. Of those, 716 are still active, though 182 were designated as “unregulated.”
The board has been issuing enforcement actions since April to operators that are out of compliance…