By Doug Porter
The average price of a gallon of regular gasoline reached three dollars in San Diego this week, roughly seventy cents more than a month ago. The primary cause of this steep increase is the largest refinery strike in 35 years, a walkout that’s continuing to spread as negotiations have stalled out.
A total of 6,550 workers represented by the United Steel Workers are on strike at 15 plants, including 12 refineries accounting for one-fifth of U.S. capacity. The central issue in this labor dispute is safe working conditions for the USW members at more than 200 oil terminals, pipelines, refineries and chemical plants in the U.S.
The American Automobile Association says the steep increase in prices comes on the heels of a record 123 consecutive days of declines.
Additional factors influencing the price of gasoline are a recent explosion damaging Torrance’s Exxon Mobil refinery, scheduled maintenance at the Tesoro Golden Eagle and seasonal changes in the blends of fuel sold at the pump.
Improving health and safety at the nation’s refineries is the reason the United Steelworkers union is on strike, said Leo W. Gerard, international president of the union that has walked out of 15 refineries and chemical plants since launching its strike Feb. 1.
“We’re not just fighting for our members,” he told reporters during a conference call Tuesday morning. Rather, he said, the union is fighting for safer communities.
Too many times, Gerard said, refineries have chemical releases and other incidents that send local residents to the hospital or force them to remain in their homes until danger passes.
The oil companies, with Royal Dutch Shell as their lead negotiator, are saying the differences at the bargaining table are about staffing and the use of outside contractors.
Given the poor quality of corporate responses to refinery accidents in recent years, I’d say the Steelworkers are on to something. Think about it. This is an industry with an abysmal record on many fronts, with the exceptions of funding climate change deniers and collecting government subsidies.
From an editorial in the Daily Breeze, published days after the Torrance explosion, after ExxonMobil finally got around to calling a town meeting:
Their homes shook, school children were instructed to “shelter in place,” flames soared into the sky and an ash-like substance rained down on the streets for hours.
Days after a refinery explosion and fire created this dramatic scene, Torrance residents still know little about what caused the incident though they had assurances from an ExxonMobil spokeswoman who issued a prepared statement reporting that the refinery was “operating as designed” in response to the explosion. They should be demanding answers.
In 2012 a massive fire at a Chevron refinery in Richmond, California, sent toxic smoke billowing into the air about 10 miles northeast of San Francisco, sending more than 15,000 people to seek medical treatment for respiratory problems. Chevron ended up pleading no contest to six criminal charges related to the fire and paying $2 million in fines and restitution as part of a plea deal with state and county prosecutors.
Last year the company responded to ongoing anger and frustration over safety issues voiced by local government officials by running a hand-picked slate for local offices, funding them to the tune of $3 million for an election in a city of just over hundred thousand people.
Statewide Plastic Bag Ban on Hold – It’s Time for Local Action
The plastic bag manufacturing trade group American Progressive Bag Alliance has managed to derail the upcoming statewide ban on single use plastic bags.
From the Times of San Diego:
An attempt to overturn a state law banning single-use plastic bags will appear on the November 2016 ballot, Secretary of State Alex Padilla announced late Tuesday.
Opponents of the state law SB 270 needed to obtain 504,760 valid signatures from registered voters to qualify the referendum for the ballot.
Provisions of the controversial law, which was to go into effect July 1, will be suspended until after votes are cast in the November 2016 election.
San Diego Coastkeeper, an environmental group focused on protecting local waters has called on Mayor Kevin Faulconer to support a local ban on single-use plastic bags.
“It’s not surprising that after spending more than $3.2 million, 98 percent of which is from out of state, the plastic bag industry has bought its way onto the California ballot to protect its profits,” said Mark Murray of Californians vs. Big Plastic, the coalition of local officials and environmental, labor, and business groups supporting the state’s plastic bag ban. “Every poll shows that Californians strongly support the law…. We are confident that Californians will protect a law that is already in place in 138 communities and that will save marine wildlife, reduce litter and save taxpayers millions of dollars.”
According to data from San Diego County beach cleanups in 2014, plastics account for 46 percent of debris collected. Additionally, a new study this month from the journal Science, quantifies, for the first time, the amount of plastic going into the ocean from land — estimated between 5 and 14 million tons globally per year.
In San Diego, environmentalists said it’s time for Mayor Kevin Faulconer to revive the local ban. The City Council approved the measure last fall but it was set aside when the statewide ban passed.
San Diego Coastkeeper Matt O’Malley says this is an opportunity for Faulconer.
“”This referendum sets things back and that’s unfortunate, but it gives San Diego an opportunity to move forward on a local level with the bag ban,” O’Malley said. “We’re hopeful that Mayor Faulconer and City Council will reinitiate that process.”
The issue is expected to come up when San Diego Surfrider Foundation officials meet with the Faulconer on Wednesday. That group has long advocated for the ban as a way to keep the ocean clean.
Latest Twists in the Stadium Saga
The City Council voted yesterday to support keeping the Chargers in San Diego.
Councilmen Todd Gloria and David Alvarez announced a hearing for March 18th to discuss what they felt were “threshold issues” with regard to any stadium deal.
From the Times of San Diego:
“With the committee working on these issues concurrently, the city will be best positioned to meet the accelerated timeline sought by the Chargers for real progress,” they said.
Among the issues the councilmen said needed clarification:
- The funding sources for a stadium that Faulconer would find acceptable.
- The city’s capacity to issue future bonds.
- The amount the county of San Diego and other local cities are willing to contribute to the financing plan.
- How much money the Chargers will directly contribute to the project.
- The cost of moving the Metropolitan Transit System’s bus maintenance yard, which occupies one of the two sites under consideration for a stadium.
- And the price tag of a playing facility on the other possible site, next to Qualcomm Stadium in Mission Valley.
They also said the future of the proposed San Diego Convention Center expansion has to be resolved, because it could have an impact on where the Chargers stadium is located.
Meanwhile, the Metropolitan Transit System pointed out yesterday that building a stadium at the 16th Street and Imperial Avenue transit hub could add seven years to the construction timeline. Chargers counsel Mark Fabiani was quoted in the UT as saying the downtown site is “quickly becoming academic.” Later on in the day that assertion was walked back.
Then the possibility of monies for construction suddenly materialized.
From UT-San Diego:
A county “bridge loan” might be the way to finance a new Chargers stadium, Supervisor Ron Roberts told Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s stadium task force Tuesday.
In an hour-long, closed-door session, Roberts told the nine-member panel that the county could front the public share of the project, projected at $1 billion or more, until surrounding development begins generating cash flow.
Chances are that any county “loan” could be made without having to involve those pesky taxpayers. And, while the idea is that the “loan” would be paid back out of increased tax revenues once associated development occurs, it’s highly probable those payments would ultimately come by way of the city’s general fund.
There is no such thing as “free money.”
What Do These Numbers Mean?
The San Diego Police Department released statistics yesterday compiled from traffic stops around the city.
Allegations of racial profiling surfaced last year after a series of articles in Voice of San Diego examined local police practices.
Here’s the 10News report about yesterday’s data dump:
The report shows police made more than 144,000 stops in 2014. It breaks down the information by race: Asian/other, Black, Hispanic and White drivers.
It shows that black drivers made up 14.9 percent of the arrests, yet comprise only 5.8 percent of the population. Hispanics made up 34.7 percent of arrests and are only 26.6 percent of the population…
“…That suggests there could be a problem with racial profiling. We certainly hear it anecdotally from members of the community,” said ACLU policy director Margaret Dooley-Sammuli.
The report raises as many questions as it answers, in my opinion. So look for more analysis in the near future.
The Native American Take on the XL Pipeline Deal
President Obama vetoed a Republican-led attempt to authorize construction of a pipeline to carry Canadian tar sands oil to the Gulf of Mexico for export yesterday. You’ve probably heard the jobs vs environmental arguments along the way as this project has been covered in the media.
But…there is more than meets the eye going on here, as this excerpt from Quartz.com explains:
The Rosebud Sioux, also known as the Sicangu Lakota, reside on a reservation that includes all of Todd County, South Dakota, and additional lands in the four adjacent. That land, originally encompassing all of South Dakota west of the Missouri River, was entreatied to the greater Sioux nation in 1851 and 1868, but has been gradually reduced to its current boundaries by decades of territorial whittling by the federal government. Only in 1934 were the Rosebud Sioux officially recognized as a self-governing nation—see the Indian Reorganization Act—and thus formally allotted ownership of land that, prior to the arrival of European colonists, had been theirs for centuries…
…Keystone XL brought this hard-won spirit of sovereignty under threat. The plan to expand an existing oil pipeline system, linking oil-rich tar sands in the Canadian province of Alberta with refineries and distributors across the U.S., would essentially bisect South Dakota, cutting straight through Rosebud Sioux tribal land. A longtime topic of concern for environmentalists, the Keystone XL pipeline raised hackles, being yet another instance in which the American government attempted to circumvent Native sovereignty in the pursuit of economic gain.
Passions boiled over in November following a vote in the US House of Representatives approving expansion. In a press release issued in response to the vote, Rosebud Sioux tribal president Cyril Scott said, “Authorizing Keystone XL is an act of war against our people.” It was a statement intended to stoke passions, and perhaps rightfully so.
On This Day: 1836 – Samuel Colt received U.S. Patent No. 138 (later 9430X) for a “revolving-cylinder pistol.” 1919 – The state of Oregon became the first state to place a tax on gasoline. The tax was 1 cent per gallon. 1995 – Frank Sinatra sang before a live audience for the last time. It was at a private party for 1,200 select guests on the closing night of the Frank Sinatra Desert Classic golf tournament.
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