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Environmental justice in action

Submitted by News Desk on Sun, 08/03/2008 - 10:00pm

During Richmond's recent public hearings on expansion plans for the Chevron refinery, Dr. Henry Clark was there to speak on the potential health consequences of the project on residents around the oil processing facility, particularly people in disadvantaged communities.

As executive director of the West County Toxics Coalition, a group he founded 22 years ago, Clark has been a tireless advocate on environmental justice issues before the phrase was commonly used. Five years ago, Contra Costa County recognized the cause by adopting an environmental justice policy, and last month supervisors formally accepted an Environmental Justice Framework submitted by Contra Costa Health Services for inclusion in the county health department's policy.

Supervisors took the occasion to pass a July 22 resolution officially honoring Clark "for over 25 years of dedication and struggle on behalf of environmental justice in Contra Costa County and beyond."

As defined by Contra Costa Health Services, "Environmental justice refers to the fair treatment of people of all races, cultures and incomes by identifying, advocating for and adopting laws, regulations and policies that reduce disparity in the exposure to toxics in the environment."

Clark's years of advocacy have made him synonymous with the issue, said county Supervisor John Gioia.

"Ever since I started public office life in 1988 — even before — Henry has been considered a leader in West County on environmental justice issues," Gioia said. "I think nobody would argue that he is the preeminent environmental justice advocate in the county."

The West County Toxics Coalition has grown to 1,000 members since 1986 and won numerous awards.

Clark, who has received individual recognition as well, hasn't confined his involvement to the coalition. He serves on the board of the North Richmond Center for Health and has been active with the North Richmond Municipal Advisory Council, the county Hazardous Materials Commission, the board of Green Action and California Communities Against Toxics, to name a few.

"Obviously, some people will agree with the stands he's taken and some will disagree," Gioia said. "But I think they all will agree he always stands for the inclusion of the community and for full transparency on the nature of projects. There's respect. Even people who come out of industry respect him."

WEST COUNTY FREEBIES: The free monthly Point Richmond summer concert series returns Friday with a pair of Americana music acts. The outdoor program on Park Place at Washington Avenue starts at 5:30 p.m. Opening act the Rock Soup Ramblers will play "a rousing hybrid of country, pop and Americana." They will be followed by the group Houston Jones, "a high-octane Americana quintet inspired by bluegrass, folk, blues and gospel influences" formed by original members of The Waybacks.

The seventh annual concert series in the historic commercial district is presented by Point Richmond Music and highlights a different musical style each month. More details are online at

# Old Town Pinole again offers music and a movie under the stars in Fernandez Park this week. The Saul Kaye Band, which has just released the CD "A Taste of Paradise," plays at 6:30 p.m. Thursday in the park, 595 Tennent Ave. The computer-animated feature "Bee Movie," with the lead role voiced by Jerry Seinfeld, will be shown at sundown Friday.

AROUND THE WEST SIDE: Volunteers are needed to help Saturday with trash and weeding along the banks of Wildcat Creek at 1869 Rumrill Blvd., near Folsom Avenue in San Pablo. The workday is from 1 to 4 p.m., and participants should wear long pants, long-sleeved shirts and sturdy shoes. The city will provide tools and light refreshments. For details, call 510-215-3037.

# The Friends of the Richmond Public Library is holding a Grab-a-Bag Book Sale from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday in the adult reading of the main library, 325 Civic Center Plaza. Fill a bag with up to 10 books for $2, with proceeds supporting programs and services the friends sponsor at Richmond library branches. Details: 510-620-6561.

# About 150 members of the classes of 1972 and '73 from El Cerrito High School celebrated their 35th reunion in Oakland last weekend. The El Cerrito High School Archiving Project is trying to gather alumni information for those and every other class since the original school opened in 1941 in preparation for the opening of the new school next year. Gauchos from every class year can send their contact information to and at the same time sign up for the ECHS Archiving Project Newletter.

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