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Central California Environmental Justice Network

Project Coordinator, Gustavo Aguirre Jr

Stop the Frack Attack National Summit Oct 3rd-5th Denver, CO.

STOP THE FRACK ATTACK lobby in Denver, CO.

STOP THE FRACK ATTACK lobby in Denver, CO.

Stop the Frack Attack National Summit is a national gathering of organizations and advocates that work from different spectrums such as grassroots community organizing, tribal/Native American reservation organizing and policy work around Oil & Gas at all levels. This year’s summit occurred in Denver, Colorado with participation from over 30 different states and regions representing different strategies on organizing. This three day event is filled with workshops, lectures and panels from experts that organize and work around Oil & Gas operations such as Fracking. The workshops and lectures are then followed by a day of action, where Direct Action is taken to the streets and a demonstration is mobilized to the State Capitol.

Stop the Frack Attack national summit is a series in events that lead to the “Global FrackDown to Paris” event in Paris, France at the United Nations Conference on Climate Change. The efforts set forth by Food and Water Watch organization since 2012, has led to national summits here in the United States in different states where Fracking is actively being conducted. Central California Environmental Justice Network (CCEJN) Organizer Gustavo Aguirre Jr was in attendance at the most recent –Stop the Frack Attack- summit in Denver, Colorado. Gustavo Aguirre Jr is the Project Coordinator for Kern Environmental Enforcement Network (KEEN), a community based reporting network from Central California’s Kern County, where 95% of all state fracking permits are granted for Fracking. This is significant because the KEEN network was one of the first networks that yielded a Fracking related violation in the State of California. In 2012 a local almond farmer in Shafter, CA reported and recorded an oil & gas company discharging waste water –or Fracking backflow- to KEEN and the Regional Water Quality Control Board and found this company in violations. Since 2012, farmers, community members, and organizations have been monitoring fracking operations in the County of Kern that included waste water discharging, injection wells, flaring, and crude by rail. CCEJN has also signed on to a letter of support to Ban Fracking that includes over 900 organizations world-wide including 56 countries and 38 states in the U.S. to the United Nations Conference on Climate Change this year.

Gus Jr @ Denver State Capitol

Gus Jr @ Denver State Capitol

Gustavo Aguirre Jr also participated in the Day of Action on Monday following the 2-day workshop series in Denver. Gustavo Aguirre Jr was proud to stand in front of over 200 fellow Anti-fracking activists at the Denver State Capitol to share stories of how fracking has affected the Central Valley community in California. Gustavo shared stories from fellow community residents and leaders who live and work near fracking and oil & gas operations and in some cases, residents that live fence line to these facilities. Gus shared his work around the Arvin Pipeline Leak and the families that were evacuated for almost a year due to pipeline leak directly underneath their homes.

This all comes in time where Kern County Board of Supervisors is set to hold a special meeting on November 9th 2015 for public comment on the Counties Oil & Gas D.E.I.R or Draft Environmental Impact Report. The County intends intent to change zoning laws and help fast-track permitting process for the oil industry. This is something that we find very troubling. One reason why this is a big concern to organizations that work directly with communities members is because it clearly overlooks any environmental justice concern that might rise in the wave of permits for the next 25 years. In that time, over 60 thousand permits are expected to be issued in approximately 3,000 square miles; this includes Fracking permits and other extreme methods of oil extraction. We are asking for community residents and state wide organizations to join us in this day of action November 9th 2015. Several organizations from across the state have already rallied to get buses organized to come join us in Kern on the 9th –will you join us? We ask that concerned citizens from across the valley and state join us that the Board of Supervisors special meeting happening on Nov 9th 2015. For any questions please contact Gustavo Aguirre Jr at or at 661-889-1917.


Community Complaints lead to over $30,000 in violation penalties

October 21, 2015

Gustavo Aguirre Jr.

Ingrid Brostrom

Air Emissions from the Covanta Biomass Facility Result in Fines
Community complaints lead to over $30,000 in violation penalties

DELANO, CA—The San Joaquin Valley Air District recently found the Covanta biomass incinerator in Delano liable for seven air quality infractions, leading to over $30,000 in penalties. The latest in the series of violations was settled on September 10th, resulting in a $20,000 fine for Covanta’s “failure to comply with visible emissions limits.” The air district’s action is responding to a resident-led effort to monitor and report suspected violations from the Covanta facility.

According to reports from residents, the facility consistently fails to control smoke emitted from a pair of smoke stacks just two miles south of Delano. Over the last year, concerned residents living nearby the facility have filed over 20 complaints to the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District, through the community-based Kern Environmental Enforcement Network (KEEN) reporting platform. The air district used these complaints to investigate, ultimately finding the company liable for seven separate violations of its air permits.

“For communities in the San Joaquin Valley, this represents a public health victory,” said Cesar Campos, Director of Central California Environmental Justice Network. “In many cases these facilities are plagued with poor compliance, as we see with the facility in Delano, and serve to advance a scenario in which fence-line communities suffer while other areas of the state reap the benefits.”

These violations come at a time when the future of biomass facilities across the state is uncertain, as decreasing costs in renewable sources of energy are driving down profit margins for this industry. This year, the California State Legislature held a bill that would have used greenhouse gas reduction funding to subsidize biomass operations.

Ingrid Brostrom, an attorney with the Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment, suggests that given the poor air quality of the San Joaquin Valley, we should be looking for better alternatives to the burning of agricultural waste products. “This nutrient rich material should be returned to the soil to help the productivity of our agriculture, not burned to increase air pollution. Let’s go for the win-win solution, where we can promote better soil and healthier, cleaner communities.”

Gustavo Aguirre, Jr., Coordinator of the KEEN project said, “This case demonstrates that residents are, in fact, experts in their communities and they should be more closely supported by government agencies that are expected to protect public health and the environment.”

About KEEN
The Kern Environmental Enforcement Network (KEEN) is a community-based environmental justice project that empowers residents by allowing them to report environmental concerns easily, safely and anonymously. In Kern County, this network has helped bring environmental justice issues to the forefront since its inception in 2012. The project also involves working with regulatory agencies to find solutions to the reports via compliance and enforcement actions. To learn more about KEEN, please visit or to report by phone call: 1-661-379-0411.


CVAQ, Clean Air Action Day 2015

–Sacramento, CA

On Tuesday, August 18, 2015, the Central Valley Air Quality Coalition (CVAQ) celebrated its 12th Annual Clean Air Action Day in Sacramento by organizing over 70 Valley advocates and residents representing all eight Valley counties and more than 20 organizations to meet with over 60 legislator offices in Sacramento. The Coalition’s annual event is aimed at educating legislators on the burden of air pollution in the Valley and asking for their support on clean air policies. The day was filled with clean air policy training and networking opportunities allowing residents to connect with field experts and like-minded advocates. The Day began with a jammed pack bus carrying excited residents who heard from community leaders about the importance of their voice and how to advocate for cleaner air for the San Joaquin Valley. Once in Sacramento attendees heard from technical experts on each of the bills and were broken out into teams to help prepare them for an afternoon of meetings with the legislators. To motivate the group before meeting with legislators, the group heard from Martha Guzman-Aceves, Deputy Legislative Affairs Secretary who spoke about Governor Brown’s dedication to clean air, future policy setting and the importance of Valley residents connecting with their legislators.

CVAQ educated participants and legislators on key bills and issues, including:

● SB 32 (Pavley) – California Global Warming Solutions Act
● SB 350 (De Leon) – Clean Energy and Pollution Reduction Act of 2015
● AB 156 (Perea) – Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund Technical Assistance Program
● AB 1071 (Atkins, Garcia) – Supplemental Environmental Projects and opposed AB 590 (Dahle, Salas) – Greenhouse Gas Reduction Funds for Biomass

For many Valley residents this was the first time meeting with a legislator. Nonetheless, residents were eager to share personal stories related to the legislation being discussed. For example, many participants felt strongly about opposing AB 590 because of its direct impact to disadvantaged communities that are already overburdened with pollution. Participants shared stories of the impacts of agricultural burning or biomass facilities in their communities. They urged legislators to protect them by opposing this bill, which would create more pollution and divert much needed funding to true clean air programs and instead invest cleaner alternative technology.

The presence of Valley residents opposing legislation authored by their own representatives, such as in the case of AB 590, sent a strong message to the capitol. Almost every year, CVAQ opposes legislation from a Valley representative. It’s clear that many of the problems the Valley faces are a result of poor representation at the state level and lack of understanding of the environmental justice issues Valley residents face. Valley residents opposed this bill because it would subsidize biomass plants that result in increased pollution and would disproportionately impact low-income communities of color. However, advocates supported one of his other bills, AB 1420. Likewise, Henry Perea’s bill AB 156 was highly supported but his leadership on SB 350 lacked significantly and he ultimately led an amendment that weakened the rule altogether which was highly disappointing for the San Joaquin Valley as a whole.

Throughout the course of the day countless personal stories from residents of all different races, social status, ages and communities were shared; it displayed the strength and diversity of our Valley and our coalition. About half of the participants were Spanish-speaking residents, which is truly representative of the San Joaquin Valley. Many participants shared they felt empowered and suggested having more of these types of events because of the numerous environmental issues facing their communities and the lack of opportunity to speak with their representatives about the needs of the Central Valley. This year marked the 12th successful event and although the day was long and everyone was tired in the end, everyone enthusiastically inquired about next steps and asked to be invited to next year’s event.

Michelle Garcia
CVAQ Campaign Coordinator


Support for AB 1420

On Friday, October 2, 2015, CCEJN submitted the following letter to Governor Brown asking for his signature on AB 1420:

October 1, 2015
Honorable Edmund G. Brown
Governor, State of California
California State Capitol, 1st Floor
Sacramento, CA 95814
RE: Support for AB 1420 (Salas)
On behalf of Central California Environmental Justice Network, I am writing to request your signature for AB 1420 (Salas)—a pipeline safety bill that was proposed as a result of the gas pipeline leak in Arvin, that displaced eight families for over nine months in 2014. CCEJN and other organizations have previously contacted your office about the incident in Kern County and requested your help in achieving a resolution that would benefit the affected residents.
Regretfully, just a few months ago, we wrote a second letter to your office detailing another incident of a pipeline rupture, which flooded a property with refined petroleum. This second incident occurred in Lamont, CA—a highly disadvantaged community, also in Kern County. We are still working with the affected communities to advocate for a just resolution to both of these incidents.
As part of our advocacy during these events, we have learned that pipeline safety is a grave concern across the state and a significant health issue in environmental justice communities. In Kern County, the top oil producing county in the state, any pipeline leak represents very real ramifications to residents, businesses, and public resources. AB 1420, is a bill that begins to address the issue of pipeline safety by:
• Mapping the location of active gas pipelines in sensitive areas across the state.
• Directing the Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) to evaluate and update its existing regulations on active gas pipelines.
• Improving the notification requirements to the public about these incidents, including a focus on translation and clarity.
This bill represents a strong start to the task of improving the safety of oil operations in the San Joaquin Valley and all over California. We believe that there is more work to be done in order to ensure that incidents like the one in Arvin do not happen again in our state. By signing this bill, you will show that this issue is just as important to you as it is to us. We hope that you can identify with the families that have suffered through these incidents and take this step to value their safety and dignity.

Cesar Campos
Central California Environmental Justice Network
4270 N. Blackstone Ave #212
Fresno, CA 93726


Support for AB 1071

CCEJN sent the following letter to Governor Brown asking for support for AB 1071:

October 1, 2015

Honorable Edmund G. Brown
Governor, State of California
State Capitol, First Floor
Sacramento, California 95814

Re: Support AB 1071 (Atkins and E Garcia) Environmental Justice Supplemental Environmental Projects

Dear Governor Brown:
On behalf of Central California Environmental Justice Network, I am writing to request your support for AB 1071 (Atkins, Garcia). This bill represents benefits to communities that are disproportionately burdened by multiple sources of pollution. AB 1071 will provide a mechanism to promote Supplemental Environmental Projects directly in environmental justice communities.

Environmental justice communities across California are impacted first and severely by violations to air, water, and hazardous waste regulations. Currently, there are very few ways to ensure that when a violation occurs, the community impacted can gain some environmental benefit in the aftermath. This measure allows the community to propose and receive funding for projects that can represent an environmental and health benefits to the population impacted.

AB 1071 was proposed with the intent of making supplemental environmental projects a common practice among the CalEPA jurisdictions that regularly enforce environmental laws. The bill allows for the agencies to draft their own policy in a way the best fits their specific enforcement practices, but underlines that the policy must:
• Require a nexus between the violation and proposed project
• Require each agency with enforcement authority in Cal EPA to create a SEP policy that specifically targets benefits for disadvantaged communities;
• Increase public engagement and transparency by requiring a public solicitation for potential SEP projects and publishing the list on an annual basis;
• Allow any SEP to be funded up to 50 percent of total penalty fines;
• Require policy to consider the relationship between the location of the violation and any proposed supplemental environmental project to ensure that communities most impacted by a violation benefit from the SEP.

Central California Environmental Justice Network is especially invested in this policy because of our work to engage community members throughout the compliance and enforcement processes of CalEPA BDO’s. In environmental justice communities, we have worked to establish an engaged constituency that can participate in informing regulatory agencies about potential violations to regulations. We have done so, by working to improve the environmental literacy of affected communities, and by providing a platform for open back and forth communication between community members and regulatory staff. Through these networks we have seen many violations get resolved at the agency level, but we have yet to see many of those resolutions trickle down to provide investments for the environmental health of the community. We firmly believe that this bill will aid that process.

Thank you,

Cesar Campos
Central California Environmental Justice Network
4270 N. Blackstone Ave #212
Fresno, CA 93726


CCEJN at UC, Santa Barabara. EJ organizing in communities

August 19th 2015
University of California, Santa Barbara
Environmental Justice Presentation to Students
On Wednesday, August 19th 2015, Central California Environmental Justice Network (CCEJN) organizer Gustavo Aguirre Jr. was invited to share a presentation on Environmental Justice and community organizing in the California’s Central valley. The presentation covered the project Gustavo coordinates; the Kern Environmental Enforcement Network (KEEN) which is the community powered reporting network that runs of the same platform as IVAN (Identifying Violations Affecting Neighborhoods) in other reporting networks across the state. The class Gustavo presented at was Miss. Rios SOC 108st: Ethnographic Methods course, where there students were interested in listening from a community organizer working with Environmental Justice communities.
Gustavo met Sarah Rios in a community meeting in Arvin over the summer; she was doing research in Valley Fever with farm-workers and prison inmates, who are the most exposed to the spore. While doing research, Sarah tapped into environmental justice communities and organizations, in that, she came across KEEN. KEEN is the reporting network where residents could report environmental violations affecting the community and get industries to respect the communities and laws set in place.
In the class room Gustavo presented to the students an introduction of the organization and project which he coordinates in Kern County. In Kern County there are EJ communities that live with big Ag, Big Oil, and toxic dumps right next door, and in some cases, communities live next to all. These are the communities that Gustavo works with and who participate in the reporting network KEEN. Some examples from reports by residents via KEEN were The Arvin pipeline Leak, where 8 families were evacuated for about 9 months due to gas/oil pipeline leak underneath their homes causing them to leave. This was a big report due to the time and efforts spent while covering the leak. This was a great starting point because it covers the inception of a problem in a community and the evolution of the report along the way, even up to the point of working with local officials to possibly passing a bill in state legislation to help prevent accidents like this to occur again.
CCEJN believes in the principles of community scientists and community sampling/monitoring, we work together with communities to monitor through report logging and samples so we can create environmental literacy in communities with the most need. Part of our presentation covered that lack of general information and regulatory literacy these disadvantage communities face and how we believe building a bridge between community and the regulatory world is necessary. As we work with communities across the Valley, we explain to them in detail how regulatory agencies oversee and enforce regulations set forth by the state or federal government.
The vast majority of students were impressed by the volume of violations that occur in communities like Arvin and Lamont in Kern County. The students had great questions that covered and detailed problems that exist in our communities, such as lack of political will and proper enforcement. Some students even were from the Central Valley or had family in the valley and knew of these problems first hand. In conclusion, the students got a good sense of what it is to be a community organizer in an environmental justice community and the efforts we make to better the communities we work in.

Gustavo Jr takes a picture with the students at UC, Santa Barbara

Gustavo Jr takes a picture with the students at UC, Santa Barbara

Tragic Loss in our EJ Community

With heavy hearts, we regret to inform you that our brother and fellow EJ activist Emiliano Mataka passed away this weekend in a tragic car accident. Emiliano was a charismatic and dedicated organizer who helped to shape the movement for social and environmental justice in the San Joaquin Valley. He was a founding member of Valley Improvement Projects (VIP), working for social and environmental justice in the larger Modesto area. His parents, Rosenda and John Mataka are founding members and active Unity Council members for CCEJN. Please send your prayers and love to the Mataka family during this tough time.

We hope to gather strength through our community by continued organizing and prayer. All the love in the world goes out the family.

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