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Oakland Groups Take Legal Action to Stop Toxic Diesel Pollution from Cannabis Growing Facility in East Oakland

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OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA – Today nonprofit organizations Environmental Democracy Project and the Center for Environmental Health (CEH) joined with a resident group called the Oakland Cannery Collective to take legal action to stop a diesel-powered cannabis growing facility located in East Oakland from releasing cancer-causing diesel engine exhaust into the air. 

Since July 2020, the Green Sage facility has been operating large (>1,000 horsepower) diesel generators 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, emitting more than 13,000 pounds of diesel engine exhaust per year. Though they have been cited multiple times by local agencies for permitting, building code, and fire code violations, the company has ignored these warnings and has gone so far as to increase the number of generators. 

More than 80,000 people live in East Oakland, and over half of residents self-identify as people of color. CalEnviroScreen, a mapping tool that measures pollution burden across different spectrums of social, economic, and racial difference, shows that residents proximate to the facility are already highly impacted by multiple sources of pollution. 

“Justice demands the immediate removal of these unpermitted generators,” said Tanya Boyce, Executive Director of the Environmental Democracy Project. “Two years of diesel fumes blowing through the residents of the Cannery and the community at large is more than enough. We are not against the cannabis industry, but physical health, mental health, and economic development need to be consistently balanced and managed by governmental officials if environmental justice in historically redlined Black and Brown communities is going to be anything more than a slogan.”

“The enormous generators operating for two years outside our homes without air quality permits has been devastating to our community,” said Alistair Monroe of the Oakland Cannery Collective. “Our health and safety have no chance so long as the government fails to regulate the environmental impacts from the cannabis industry. The poor air quality, continuous eyes burning from constant dust particles and smoke soot and the coughing haunt us daily. We live in a danger zone, not an artistic community for a healthier way of life.”

“It is well documented that communities of color are exposed to more pollution from nearly every source, including hazardous air pollution,” said Kaya Allan Sugerman, director of CEH’s Illegal Toxic Threats program. “Industries moving into East Oakland and being allowed to pollute without repercussion is environmental racism in action, and we demand protections that ensure the same regions are not continuously exposed to hazards that surpass state safety levels.”

“Diesel engine exhaust is made up of a slew of toxic substances including carbon monoxide, lead, soot, arsenic, and benzene,” said Dr. Jimena Diaz Leiva, Science Director at CEH. “Exposure to diesel engine exhaust is associated with adverse health effects like headaches and dizziness in the short-term and over time can cause lung cancer. It is unjust for residents of East Oakland to be exposed to these cancer-causing emissions because of unpermitted operations.” 

Local air pollution regulators (the Bay Area Air Quality Management District) will hold a board hearing tomorrow, June 28 with the potential to force Green Sage to stop its diesel generator activity immediately.