The Lawsuit

Environmental Injustice in Kettleman City California:

Kettleman City, a rural area located in Kings County California, is a tiny community of 1,100 residents.[1] Of these 1,100 residents, ninety five percent are Latino, seventy percent speak Spanish, and forty percent only speak Spanish.[2] There is one of the largest toxic waste dumps in the country in this city. In addition in 1970 the Chemical Waste Management Inc. created the landfill without the community’s connect or knowledge.[3] In California, however there is a law that government agencies are required to provide public notice in three ways:

  1. Providing notice in Newspaper
  2. Posting signs
  3. Sending mail to adjacent landowners

The Chemical Waste Management Inc. took advantage of this law, by publishing notices in a newspaper that was forty miles away, and posting signs only on the fence of the site.[4] Unfortunately, the only adjacent landowners were large agribusiness and oil companies.[5]

In 1988, The Chem Waste Inc. desired to implement a toxic waste incinerator in Kettleman City.[6]  This incinerator would burn 108,000 tons of toxic waste every year.[7] Similarly, Chem Waste Inc, did not tell the residents of Kettleman City, who instead discovered the news through a phone call from  a Greenpeace organizer named Bradley Angel, who called to ask if the residents were aware of this possible incinerator.[8]

The Movement: In result of this new information from Bradley Angel, Kettleman City residents joined together, forming a group called “El Pueblo para el Aire y Agua Limpio”, which translates into “The People for Clean Air and Water”. [9] This group learned as much as they could about not only the hazardous waste sites in their area, but also about hazardous waste sites across the country, discovering the relationship between hazardous waste sites and minority groups.

As part of the permitting process for the incinerator,Chem Waste issued a 1000 page Environmental Impact Report (EIR).[10] However this EIR was written in English, so forty percent of Kettleman City could not read the document.[11] Chem Waste refused to translate the whole document, instead only translating five pages. [12]

Kettleman City came to the public hearing for the incinerator with a large number of residents and even with their own translator.[12] Even after hundreds of Kettleman City residents testified against the incinerator stating that their rights were, “second to this large corporation”, the Planning Commission still voted to approve the incinerator, because of politics and greed.[14] California law states that hazardous waste sites must compensate districts.[15] Kings County was receiving 7 million dollars per year from the Chem Waste landfill.[16] All of which was going to white neighborhoods, in which no hazardous waste sites were located.[17] If the new incinerator was built, Kings County would receive an extra 7 million dollars per year. [18]

Kettleman City Residents Protest Environmental Injustice

Kettleman City Residents Protest Environmental Injustice Photo Credit: http://blogs.vidaenelvalle.com/health/?s=kettleman+city

The Lawsuit: Kettleman City residents formed a lawsuit against Kings County.[19] To further their campaign, El Pueblo and Greenpeace sent more than 5,000 postcards to the Kings County Board of Supervisors.[20] Similarly, they received more than 17,000 signatures to oppose the incinerator.[21]  Soon, the story was displayed on national television, which has a drastic influence on the success of the campaign.[22] On September 7th, 1993, the Chem Waste Inc, declared that the toxic waste incinerator would no longer be implemented in Kettleman City.[23]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Luke W.Cole and Sheila R. Foster, From the Ground Up: Environmental Racism and the Rise of Environmental Justice Movement, (New York University Press, 2001), 2.

[2] Luke W.Cole and Sheila R. Foster, From the Ground Up: Environmental Racism and the Rise of Environmental Justice Movement, (New York University Press, 2001), 2.

[3] Luke W.Cole and Sheila R. Foster, From the Ground Up: Environmental Racism and the Rise of Environmental Justice Movement, (New York University Press, 2001), 2.

[4] Luke W.Cole and Sheila R. Foster, From the Ground Up: Environmental Racism and the Rise of Environmental Justice Movement, (New York University Press, 2001), 3.

[5] Luke W.Cole and Sheila R. Foster, From the Ground Up: Environmental Racism and the Rise of Environmental Justice Movement, (New York University Press, 2001), 6.

[6] Luke W.Cole and Sheila R. Foster, From the Ground Up: Environmental Racism and the Rise of Environmental Justice Movement, (New York University Press, 2001), 6.

[7] Luke W.Cole and Sheila R. Foster, From the Ground Up: Environmental Racism and the Rise of Environmental Justice Movement, (New York University Press, 2001), 6.

[8] Luke W.Cole and Sheila R. Foster, From the Ground Up: Environmental Racism and the Rise of Environmental Justice Movement, (New York University Press, 2001), 6-7.

[9] Luke W.Cole and Sheila R. Foster, From the Ground Up: Environmental Racism and the Rise of Environmental Justice Movement, (New York University Press, 2001), 7.

[10] Luke W.Cole and Sheila R. Foster, From the Ground Up: Environmental Racism and the Rise of Environmental Justice Movement, (New York University Press, 2001), 8.

[11] Luke W.Cole and Sheila R. Foster, From the Ground Up: Environmental Racism and the Rise of Environmental Justice Movement, (New York University Press, 2001), 8.

[12] Luke W.Cole and Sheila R. Foster, From the Ground Up: Environmental Racism and the Rise of Environmental Justice Movement, (New York University Press, 2001), 8.

[13] Luke W.Cole and Sheila R. Foster, From the Ground Up: Environmental Racism and the Rise of Environmental Justice Movement, (New York University Press, 2001), 9-11.

[14] Luke W.Cole and Sheila R. Foster, From the Ground Up: Environmental Racism and the Rise of Environmental Justice Movement, (New York University Press, 2001), 8-11.

[15] Luke W.Cole and Sheila R. Foster, From the Ground Up: Environmental Racism and the Rise of Environmental Justice Movement, (New York University Press, 2001), 9.

[16] Luke W.Cole and Sheila R. Foster, From the Ground Up: Environmental Racism and the Rise of Environmental Justice Movement, (New York University Press, 2001), 8.

[17] Luke W.Cole and Sheila R. Foster, From the Ground Up: Environmental Racism and the Rise of Environmental Justice Movement, (New York University Press, 2001), 9-12.

[18] Luke W.Cole and Sheila R. Foster, From the Ground Up: Environmental Racism and the Rise of Environmental Justice Movement, (New York University Press, 2001), 12.

[19] Luke W.Cole and Sheila R. Foster, From the Ground Up: Environmental Racism and the Rise of Environmental Justice Movement, (New York University Press, 2001), 12.

[20] Luke W.Cole and Sheila R. Foster, From the Ground Up: Environmental Racism and the Rise of Environmental Justice Movement, (New York University Press, 2001), 13.

[21] Luke W.Cole and Sheila R. Foster, From the Ground Up: Environmental Racism and the Rise of Environmental Justice Movement, (New York University Press, 2001), 13.

[22] Luke W.Cole and Sheila R. Foster, From the Ground Up: Environmental Racism and the Rise of Environmental Justice Movement, (New York University Press, 2001), 13-15.

[23] Luke W.Cole and Sheila R. Foster, From the Ground Up: Environmental Racism and the Rise of Environmental Justice Movement, (New York University Press, 2001), 13-15.

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