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From pollution to policing, this Asian-American group is expanding environmental justice in the Bay Area

Sandy Saeteurn grew up in Richmond, California, where Chevron’s massive 3,000-acre oil refinery reigns supreme. She’s no stranger to the refinery’s chemical flares, and she spent many of her childhood days home sick. She’s not the only one who has learned to link the refinery and the presence of illness in her community: A 2008 study (co-authored by Grist board member Rachel Morello-Frosch) found that almost half of all homes in the area had indoor levels of refinery-related particulate matter pollution that exceeded the state’s air quality standards.
Every day for nearly 120 years — longer than the city has existed — the refinery has processed thousands of barrels of oil. Its flares regularly paint the sky burnt orange before thick grey clouds of smoke cover the city. Chevron’s influence stretches beyond its pollution and the 3,500 refinery jobs it provides as the city’s largest employer — it also showers money on local elections and even runs a local newspaper, the Richmond Standard, which has been known to cast a positive light on the company.
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Photo Credit: Asian Pacific Environmental Network