If awards got out for annual stories, the Austin Watershed Safety Division’s lately launched 2020 “State of Our Environment” could be a powerful contender for its in-house manufacturing of a video documenting the East Austin neighborhood’s profitable battle in opposition to a petroleum storage tank farm within the early Nineties.
Environmental Officer Chris Herrington and Kaela Champlin offered the video to the Environmental Fee at its June 16 assembly. Herrington credited Champlin with doing the heavy lifting on manufacturing, with in a position help from the ATXN crew, which supplies town’s video and dwell feeds of Metropolis Council and fee conferences.
Titled “Tank Farm: Organizing for Justice,” the storytelling video is informed by way of the voices of people that led the David and Goliath battle to close down a 52-acre tank farm and power the relocation of oil giants Chevron, Star Enterprise, Citgo, Coastal States, Exxon and Mobil.
The video credit embrace a particular dedication to former County Commissioner Ron Davis, who battled the tank farm as the pinnacle of the East Austin Technique Workforce, or EAST, an umbrella group of neighborhood associations made up of Black residents. Davis died this 12 months in February.
In 1991, EAST joined forces with a newly shaped social justice group known as PODER – Folks Organized in Protection of Earth and Her Sources – led by Susana Almanza, Sylvia Herrera and Antonio Díaz.
The 2 teams started mobilizing residents and researching the positioning’s poisonous emissions and their correlating well being results on residents dwelling close to the tank farm. The Austin American-Statesman flooded the zone with tank farm information protection, assigning a crew of reporters to research the positioning and canopy the environmental justice motion taking form in East Austin.
Environmentalists west of Interstate 35 stood in solidarity with the tank farm opponents, however PODER and EAST leaders insisted that East Austin residents could be the central voice of the battle.
Almanza, the documentary’s fundamental narrator, recounted how the coalition took its issues to native and state leaders. Metropolis Council on the time, except Council Member Gus Garcia, was not keen to get right into a tangle with Massive Oil. “It just about fell on deaf ears with the Metropolis Council,” Almanza mentioned.
They took the problem to Travis County, the place they discovered allies in former County Choose Invoice Aleshire, Commissioner Marcos De Leon and County Legal professional Ken Oden.
The commissioners voted to kick in $350,000 towards a civil and prison investigation of the tank farm. Former Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos and Rep. Glen Maxey additionally took up arms alongside residents.
The story traces the historical past of injustices in opposition to folks of coloration again to the 1928 grasp plan, which pressured the residents into areas east of I-35 to dwell alongside a rising variety of industrial websites. In 1948, the tank farm arrived within the neighborhood close to Springdale and Airport Boulevard. “As a result of these racist insurance policies and practices, industries such because the tank farm had been capable of exist alongside residential areas,” the Watershed report states.
Not the entire environmental commissioners knew the historical past of the tank farm. Commissioner Audrey Barrett, who known as the video “sensible,” famous that she was unaware of this historic battle, having moved to Austin lower than six years in the past. “There are such a lot of youthful activists and so many more recent folks to Austin who additionally care concerning the surroundings who might not know concerning the tank farm,” she mentioned.
Commissioner Pam Thompson recalled that she was among the many environmentalists west of I-35 who rallied in opposition to the tank farm alongside East Austin activists.
Chair Linda Guerrero, who grew up in Austin, recounted how neighborhood life continued to thrive despite the intrusive petroleum tanks. A park adjoining to the poisonous website remained a gathering spot for festivals and menudo cook-offs. Produce stands offered residents with contemporary vegatables and fruits. “It was like every little thing went across the tanks, they usually had been very, very enormous they usually had been obstructive, however the neighborhood continued to work round them previous to them being eliminated,” Guerrero mentioned.
The tank farm website, deemed unsafe for housing as a result of it has been remediated to industrial requirements, has now began a brand new chapter with Metropolis Council’s latest unanimous approval for an workplace complicated on the property.
Because the Watershed report states, “It’s important that we perceive the legacy of environmental injustice and racism that’s the historical past of this location.”
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