Kettleman City is located in the San Joaquin Valley in California. Since 1979, Chemical Waste Management Inc. (CWM), a subsidiary of Waste Management Inc. (WMI), has operated a 1,600 acre hazardous waste and municipal solid waste disposal facility located 3.5 miles southwest of Kettleman City. (See map). In 1988, Chemical Waste proposed to build a hazardous waste incinerator also in Kettleman City to provide incineration capacity for California's industries at a competitive price. This proposed incinerator would annually consume between 50,000 and 100,000 tons of hazardous waste and expose the residents to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), benzene, and asbestos, among other harmful chemicals. In Kettleman City, California, three hundred local farm workers, farm managers, and farm owners joined forces to form El Pueblo Para el Aire y Agua Limpio (People for Clean Air and Water) in opposition to the proposed construction of the Chemical Waste Management incinerator. Kettleman City is located in Kings County, and resultantly the Kings County Board of Supervisors was in charge of the siting decisions for the hazardous waste incinerator. The Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment (CRPE), an organization dedicated to aiding grassroots organizations across the country in their fight against the disproportionate burden of pollution borne by the poor and people of color, represented El Pueblo Para el Aire y Agua Limpio in their fight against Chemical Waste Management and Kings County through California Rural Legal Assistance, a non-profit legal and political advocacy group that provides legal assistance to migrant laborers and the rural poor. Greenpeace, an independent global campaigning organization that acts to protect and conserve the environment and to promote peace, also participated in the fight to prevent the siting of the hazardous waste incinerator in Kettleman City. (For more information about the parties involved in this issue, click to go to the Who section).
Kettleman City has a population which is 95% Latino, and of this Latino population, 70% are primarily Spanish speaking and 40% are monolingual Spanish speakers. El Pueblo Para el Aire y Agua Limpio argued that Chemical Waste did not follow the Public Participation provision of California's Environmental Quality Act in the siting of the hazardous waste incinerator, because the required environmental impact statement and the public hearing about the incinerator were written and conducted only in English. In addition, they accused Chem. Waste of targeting minority communities for the siting of environmental hazards. (Click to find out more details describing What this issue is all about).
Despite community opposition to the incinerator, the Kings County Planning Commission voted to approve the incinerator. El Pueblo Para el Aire y Agua Limpio appealed that decision to the Kings County Board of Supervisors, who supported the Commission's approval. El Pueblo then filed a lawsuit (El Pueblo Para el Aire y Agua Limpio v. County of Kings) against Kings County in a Sacramento Superior Court. (Click to learn more about Where this court case has taken place.)
The Sacramento Superior Court ruled in favor of El Pueblo Para el Aire y Agua Limpio, maintaining that the incinerator's permit process was flawed and violated the state's environmental quality act, and that the government agency must translate environmental review documents into Spanish to ensure due process and "meaningful involvement" of Spanish-speaking area residents. It is apparent that the Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement (BATNA) for El Pueblo Para el Aire y Agua Limpio was to politicize the issue on a national level, and to ally with other environmental groups, while the BATNA for CWM seemed to be payoffs and attempts at political leverage. (Click to learn more about How this issue was addressed)
Several sources consulted to research this project can be viewed in the Bibliography.
It is my belief that a couple of courses at Colby College pertain to this case study, and that my case study could be incorporated into these to enhance understanding of each particular course's objectives. Click to see Related Colby Courses.
Invisible-5 Audio Project is a self-guided audio tour along California's I-5 corridor between San Francisco and Los Angeles, which describes many polluted sites running alongside the interstate. Listen to the description of Kettleman City and the proposed incinerator, with the voice of Mary Lou Mares, an activist in People for Clean Air and Water (El Pueblo Para el Aire y El Agua Limpio).
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