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About[edit]

CBE’s mission is to strengthen low-income communities of color to achieve environmental health and justice by reduction and prevention of pollution, while creating a network of sustainable communities. CBE focuses on urban areas which maintain a disproportionate concentration of low-income minorities with some of the poorest environmental health conditions due to heavy pollution from refineries, ports, power plants, freeways, and more. [1] These communities are then more susceptible to cancer and other diseases including asthma, heart disease, premature deaths, birth defects, and more. [1] CBE values environmental and social sustainability as an intrinsic right for all humans to access clean air and drinking water regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, age, culture, ability, nationality, or income. [2] CBE is committed to empowering the community by giving organizational skills, leadership training, as well as legal, scientific, and technical assistance where communities can effectively fight injustice and create durable change. [1]

History[edit]

Communities for a Better Environment (CBE), previously known as Citizens for a Better Environment is a policy focussed Non-profit organization started in Chicago by Marc Anderson and David Cromey in 1971. [3] CBE then moved to Oakland, California in 1978[4] and have succeeded in impacting communities throughout California, including: Richmond, East Oakland, Vernon, Huntington Park, Boyle Heights, Pacoima, Wilmington, and SE Los Angeles. CBE was the first environmental organization to practice door-to-door canvassing by directly involving community members.[4] CBE’s early combination of grassroots organizing with research and legal work gave the innovative edge needed to challenge large scale industries, refineries, and policy.

Early work:[edit]

CBE began to set the precedent for water, air, and toxic pollution advocating for community concerns and environmental regulation. In 1977, CBE organized with community members against the Diablo Canyon Power Plant in San Francisco, California. [5] In 1983, landmark report and investigation of Bay Area toxic secretion, "Toxics in the Bay", held Chevron and others accountable of toxic discharge in the 1985 Basin Plan Discharge Program. [4] The Basin Plan expanded to become the San Francisco Bay Region Basin Plan in 2004. The plan complied with California State and Federal anti-degradation policies awaiting approval by San Francisco State Water Board and the US Environmental Protection Agency. [6] CBE pressured Bay Area Quality Management District to reevaluate permit granted to Kaiser Cement and Gypsum Corporation resulting in sulfur dioxide reduction by 50%. As well as limited use of perchloroethylene, a.k.a. Tetrachloroethylene, in Vallejo dry cleaners. [4]

CBE's focus[edit]

Several studies support the idea that low-income communities of color bear the burden of unequal access to a healthy environment, which is why CBE prioritizes working with communities to fight injustices.[1]

These communities are the most vulnerable because they often lack the resources and protection needed to fight pollution. CBE’s goal is to empower them by providing them with “organizing skills, leadership training and legal, scientific and technical assistance". [2] [3] CBE uses Community-based participatory research, to create unity between the organization and the community by investigating who is responsible for releasing toxic emissions.[4] This creates local partnerships with professionals working with the community to produce reliable research.[5] CBE is focussed on educating low-income communities of color and advocating engagement in CBE supported environmental policy campaigns. This is done by community meetings, political education, and school groups where community members are empowered to fight local pollution by working together towards achieving healthier communities. CBE also values scientific research to fully comprehend the direct and indirect consequences of toxicity and chemical secretion. [4] Using secondary data and partnering with health providers and academic institutions CBE practices human subjects research and online training for human subject protection via the National Institute of Health website. [7] They are effectively committed to finding ‘who’ and ‘where’ the most affected communities are today, as well as ways of prevention for the community's tomorrow. CBE and community members actively work together to gather their own research, which increases knowledge of local issues, evokes awareness, and creates a community where members are encouraged to participate in fighting against pollution.[5] CBE supports outreach and awareness by giving toxic tours of oil refineries, ports, and facilities where community members share their personal stories[6].Rather than just sharing statistical findings, anecdotal stories connect people on a personal level creating a bigger sense of community. [8]Outreach sparks advocacy and a better understanding about pollution. The pay-it-forward affect, has the ability to reach thousands of communities by encouraging active participation against injustices.


  • Communities for a Better Environment values the importance of community based research in working to achieve environmental justice. CBE is focussed on educating low-income communities of color and advocating engagement in CBE supported environmental policy campaigns. This is done by community meetings, political education, and school groups where community members are empowered to fight local pollution by working together towards achieving healthier communities. [8]
  • CBE values scientific research to fully comprehend the direct and indirect consequences of toxicity and chemical secretion. [8] They are committed to finding ‘who’ and ‘where’ the most affected communities are today, as well as ways of prevention for the community's tomorrow. CBE and community members actively work together to gather their own research, which increases knowledge of local issues, evokes awareness, and creates a community where members are encouraged to participate in fighting against pollution.[9]
  • CBE supports outreach and awareness by giving toxic tours of oil refineries, ports, and facilities where community members share their personal stories[10]. Outreach sparks advocacy and a better understanding about pollution. The pay-it-forward affect brings CBE to the trenches of injustice by encouraging active community participation.

Court cases[edit]

Introduction:[edit]

CBE contributes to the precedents of environmental justice by enforcing legal standards on various industries and regulators. In the following lawsuits and settlements, CBE has accomplished agreements that enforce various power plants and refineries to use the most effective equipment that minimizes pollution, prevents refineries from being expanded or built, and created funding for public health support for affected community members, and more. Many public agencies have been influenced by successful lawsuits as these, in order to push for more strict regulations and enforcements against plants and refineries.

CBE in the media[edit]

In recent media, Communities for a Better Environment is frequently mentioned as being an expert in a variety of environmental issues advocating policy, organization strategies, and seen on the forefronts of current issues and cases. CBE lawyer Shana Lazero, seen as an expert in power plants in low-income communities[11]; Andres Soto, CBE organzer . CBE's opinion and expertise is often highlighted as dual representation experts in environmental fields and community members. CBE encourages community members to share their stories in the media and the general public so that their stories can have an impact on people from other communities.


  • CBE Organizer Andres Soto is featured in Youtube's News Channel, The Nation's moving eight minute documentary on living in Richmond, California as truly living and breathing in the shadow of Chevron. The documentary also highlights injustices found in California Global Warming Solutions Act AB32 cap-and-trade policy also know as emission trading.
Living and Breathing in the Shadow of Chevron Video Link The Nation. (03/21/2013).
  • Andres Soto, CBE organizer expresses his discontent with the permitting process of BAAQMD.
Environmentalists Sue to Block Explosive Fracked Oil Shipments in Richmond. East Bay Express. (03/31/2014).
  • Local news station KTVU displays tension as Richmond Chevron Refinery plans to expand as one the largest refineries in California. Chevron's representative, says the one billion dollar expansion project will not increase crude oil, emissions, pollutants, health risk, or greenhouse gases. CBE's Greg Karras advocates on behalf of the community's skepticism for an informed review before moving forward in expansion.
KTVU Video Link. (03/21/14).
  • CBE's Alicia Rivera, advocates for community organizing within the majority Latino community in Wilmington, California.
LA Marches for Climate Action. Socialist Worker. (03/06/2014).
  • CBE Attorney Maya Golden-Krasner, gives expertise on how agencies can help address needs of communities in toxic environments.
Paramount Residents Not Alone in Pollution Fight. Los Angeles Times. (02/15/14).
  • CBE mentioned in UK news as a key leader with Asian Pacific Environmental Network in fighting refinery and industry expansion.
Millennials Use Finance to Challenge Universities. The Guardian, UK. (02/27/2014).

Future[edit]

CBE expresses urgency to implement and influence environmental issues throughout California. In turn, they are also committed to global participation in addressing present and future environmental concerns[2]. Communications Coordinator, Steven Low, says CBE's future will involve advocacy for Urban Agriculture, Food Justice, and “Adaptation” as a response to Global Warming and Climate Change. CBE will be sponsoring the Charge Ahead Campaign which will "help put one million electric cars, trucks and busses on California's roads, reducing air pollution, improving health and saving money" [12] [13]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Mission & Vision | Communities for a Better Environment
  2. ^ a b Environmental Justice | Communities for a Better Environment
  3. ^ [Walker, Richard. The country in the city: the greening of the San Francisco Bay Area. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2007. Print.]
  4. ^ a b c d [30th anniversary program booklet "CBE: 30 Years of Resistance, vision and Hope" 10/30/08, at the City Club, SF]
  5. ^ Walker, Richard. The country in the city: the greening of the San Francisco Bay Area. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2007. Print.
  6. ^ [1]
  7. ^ Brown, Phil, Rachel Morello-Frosch, J G Brody, Rebecca Altman, Ruthann A Rudel, Laura Senier, Carla Pérez, and Ruth Simpson. "Institutional review board challenges related to community-based participatory research on human exposure to environmental toxins: A case study." Environmental Health 9.1 (2010): 4. Print.
  8. ^ a b How we create change | Communities for a Better Environment
  9. ^ Why We Research | Communities for a Better Environment
  10. ^ Toxic Tours Of Los Angeles
  11. ^ [2]
  12. ^ Charge Ahead California!
  13. ^ http://www.cbecal.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/CA-Bill-aims-to-accelerate-number-of-electric-vehicles.pdf