Nurses Stand Up to Chevron with Richmond, California Residents

By: DeAnn McEwen, RN

Power without Pollution! It’s not just a slogan, but an urgent call put forth by nurses who are committed to the health, well-being, and safety of our communities! A day after the nurses hosted a "Main Street Campaign Environmental Justice Workshop" at their headquaters in Oakland, they turned out in nearby Richmond, California at the Planning Commission hearing to bear witness to the life-threatening health impacts of Chevron’s planned expansion project of it’s coastal refinery.

RNs outside of Richmond, CA City Hall
RNs outside of Richmond, CA City Hall.

The Chevron project would send our community down the dangerous path to refining extreme fossil fuels and dirtier crude. In a community already facing increased rates of asthma, cancer, and low birth weight babies, this project will make our air quality more hazardous and our neighborhoods dumping grounds for even more toxic chemicals.

Soot pollution is a pervasive pollutant that has endangered our community and it remains a year-round threat to our health.

photo of nurses at Richmond, CA refinery hearing and protest.
Nurses stand with Richmond, CA residents at refinery hearing in protest of Chevron expansioin plan.

As nurses we are particularly concerned about the disproportionate effects of toxic pollutants on the health of our community’s most vulnerable members. Children and infants are at greater risk due to their still developing lungs and respiratory systems. The elderly, and people with pre-existing respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and cancer all face greater risks than the general public. Low income and working families, because they are more likely to live near heavily traveled roadways and industrial districts also suffer more, when coupled with the fact that these families also are less likely to have adequate health care coverage and this creates a real crisis in our community.

Several RNs testified on the health impacts the Chevron refinery is having on the community.
Several RNs testified on the health impacts the Chevron refinery is having on Richmond communities.

Nurses are on the front lines of treating those who suffer from soot and other toxic pollutants released during drilling, fracking, pumping, transport and refining of crude oil. As the nation’s most ethical and trusted profession, nurses on a day-to-day basis how important pure water, fresh air, and clean soil is for children and families. You may not be a nurse, but you can join nurses to help prevent harm and relieve suffering. Ethically and morally, we know that if we can prevent harm, we have a duty to do so. Nurses stood united with other human rights and environmental justice groups to prevent the toxic expansion project from moving forward. Big oil and special interests should not be allowed to profit at our expense. We can create more jobs and healthier communities by investing in sustainable, renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power.

Nurses support Richmond residents.
DeAnn McEwen seen left with fellow RN.

Many people thanked the nurses for advocating for their health and emphasized what a difference it makes to have nurses speaking to these issues.  One woman who was hospitalized in the explosion said how heartened she was that nurses cared so much for the community. After the last of the public comments, the commissioners each took a turn making their own comments. Commissioner Martinez and Commissioner Reyes gave special thanks to the nurses of CNA for being present and shedding light on the health impacts. Both also referenced our RNs talking about the threatened Doctor’s Medical Center closure and made a point to say that the community needs to do something about it (one suggested that seeing as though Chevron sent 15,000 people to the ER in 2012 when the refinery exploded, perhaps Chevron should be required to fund the hospital to stay open as a condition of this project proposal).


DeAnn McEwen is a Registered Nurse and a Nursing Practice Specialist at the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United.