Environment

The People’s Port Authority leads rally against fossil fuel expansion in PVD

“If you’re not okay with something for your kids, then you absolutely cannot be okay with it for someone else’s,” said Rhode Island State Senator Cynthia Mendes (Democrat, District 18, East Providence). This, “is an opportunity to remind them that this is environmental racism in their backyard. It’s not a headline, it is not a campaign. It is something that people live and die from.”
Photo for The People’s Port Authority leads rally against fossil fuel expansion in PVD

Published on June 11, 2021
By Steve Ahlquist

“Five yers ago, barely anybody was really talking about this piece of Providence,” said Monica Huertas, executive director of the People’s Port Authority to the nearly 100 people at the corner of Allens Avenue and Terminal Road. “We came every single week sometimes, to demonstrate and to really show our voices and say ‘we don’t want LNG here.'”

Recently, adding to the air quality concerns that plague the Washington Park neighborhood near the Port of Providence (and contribute to some of the highest asthma rates in the country), a company called Sea 3 is seeking to build six additional LPG (Liquid Propane Gas) tanks in the Port of Providence, which will not only add to the air pollution in the neighborhoods, but will mark a major expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure at a time when climate change is a barreling, existential threat.

“Look at all the tanks [already in the Port]” said Huertas. “Not including the scrap metal, not including the pipes, Sprague, the chemical facilities that they have here, Sterecycle – When you add all that, and look at the cumulative impacts of what is done to our community… we’re saying enough is enough and we certainly can’t add six more tanks.”

The rally was held by the People’s Port Authority in cooperation with the Interfaith Coalition to Reduce Poverty and the Renew Rhode Island coalition, which includes Sunrise RI. Of particular concern is the fact that Sea 3 has asked to be excused from the oversight of the Energy Facilities Siting Board (EFSB). Sea 3, through their lawyer Nicholas Hemond, claims the expansion will be minor and that a full review of the project and its impacts is not necessary.

“If you have justice in your heart, that’s faith right there,” said David Veliz, the director and lead organizer of the Rhode Island Interfaith Coalition to reduce Poverty. “The Interfaith Coalition is a coalition of faith leaders, advocates, organizers that are united in the idea of fighting poverty and fighting inequality and you can’t get more inequality than the environmental racism that we’re seeing in this community.”

“The lawyer, the lobbyist for Sea 3, quoted in the newspaper promoting it, is Nick Hemond” noted Rabbi Barry Dolinger, the head of the Rhode Island Board of Rabbis. “And I don’t know him, but he is also the President of the Providence School Board. So the very person in charge of securing the future and education for children in Providence … that same person is the person trying to not have them breathe. It’s the same guy.

“You have to ask yourself, if you’re a Rabbi, ‘What would the prophets say?'” continued Rabbi Dolinger. “They’d be pissed!”

“We are motivated to protect the health of our patients from environmental threats,” said Sarah Hsu, who leads a group of 420 medical students across the United States, across 100 different medical schools.

“We know that exposure to things like oil and gas facilities can cause cardiovascular risks, asthma exacerbations, COPD exacerbations, heart attacks, pre-term births, all things that we don’t want to see,” continued Hsu. “The World Health Organization has already told us that climate change is the greatest public health threat of the 21st Century so we need to mobilize against it.”

“This area of the Port has become a hotbed of some of the biggest environmental polluters,” said Rhode Island State Senator Tiara Mack (Democrat, District 6, Providence). “For them, you can pick on Black and brown communities because ‘they do not know better.’ This is a community that has fought, not just for the past five years, with the city and the state to make sure there are comprehensive plans that come from the grassroots level to address the problems of environmental racism and reproductive justice that’s happening in this community.”

“…we have a mission on Earth, and this Earth is a precious gift that we have,” said Reverend Israel Mercedes. “We have to keep it. We have to preserve it. We have to clean it.”

“If you’re not okay with something for your kids, then you absolutely cannot be okay with it for someone else’s,” said Rhode Island State Senator Cynthia Mendes (Democrat, District 18, East Providence). This, “is an opportunity to remind them that this is environmental racism in their backyard. It’s not a headline, it is not a campaign. It is something that people live and die from.”

“Air pollution is substance abuse, which is harmful to human health said Terri Wright from Direct Action for Rights and Equality (DARE). “We can breathe. Oh sure, we can breathe. We can breathe in pollution, for free. What community can reach its full potential under these conditions?”

David Veliz led the attendees in a moment of silence for all the kids struggling with environmental racism and environmental hazards and all the parents who have to worry about taking their kids to the hospital.

Monica Huertas
Senator Tiara Mack
Terri Wright

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