Advocating for Social and Environmental Justice in Stanislaus County and the Central Valley
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 21, 2015
Gustavo Aguirre Jr.
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.”
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 http://www.kernreport.org or to report by phone call: 1-661-379-0411.