Protect the Health of California Residents Living Near Oil Refineries

Target: John Gioia, County Supervisor for Contra Costa County (California District 1)

Goal: Pressure oil refineries to cut down carcinogen emissions to protect the health of the community.

North Richmond, California is a community known for its high crime rates and poverty.  With one of the highest crime rates in the country, there is no shortage of media attention for North Richmond. But few people are aware of the conditions the people of North Richmond live in. Residents are trapped by highways, oil refineries, and a Superfund site, all of which contribute to the dangerous levels of contaminants in air and water.

A recent article by Jane Kay and Cheryl Katz in Environmental Health News showed that while Chevron has cut emissions of some chemicals by installing new, more environmentally friendly burners, the emissions of the carcinogenic chemicals benzene, lead, and sulfuric acid (among others) have been on the rise. The other refineries in the area, including Conoco Philliops and BP Richmond have also been putting large quantities of these toxic chemicals into the air.

The article also discusses the health disparities between the residents of North Richmond and residents of the surrounding community. While the high occurrence of heart disease, asthma, and cancer in the community cannot solely be attributed to the release of toxic chemicals by oil companies, the article cites studies that have found a link between pollution exposure and health problems.

It is difficult for epidemiologists to prove that the health problems in North Richmond are being caused by the refineries, yet the evidence  from other studies that these high levels of toxic chemicals in the air are detrimental to people’s health is striking. It is time that county supervisor Gioia starts keeping the oil refineries in the North Richmond area accountable for the effect of their practices on human health. By signing this petition, you will help urge Mr. Gioia to take action and demand that oil refineries reduce the emissions of hazardous chemicals.


Dear Mr. Gioia,

A recent report showed that over the last 10 years there were 13.1 incidents of violations of air-quality rules in North Richmond compared with 0.96 for the entire Bay Area. Statistics also show that the emissions of chemicals such as benzene, which is known to increase the risk of cancer, have increased since 2004. There have also been several studies that I would like to refer you to, such as the June 4 article by Jane Kay and Cheryl Katz that was published on the Environmental Health News website. These studies have linked the emission of these hazardous chemicals to other health risks as well, including neurological and respiratory problems.

Affordable housing should not come with the price of health. There are many confounding factors in the health disparities between North Richmond and surrounding communities, such as stress, a poor diet, and lack of access to health care. Yet, we must not deny that the poor air and water quality in North Richmond are contributing to these high rates of disease.

Please, urge the oil refineries to cut down on their emissions of dangerous chemicals such as benzene and reduce the high number of air quality violations.


[Your Name Here]

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143 Signatures

  • Lynn Juozilaitis
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