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tv   Democracy Now  PBS  September 5, 2017 12:00pm-1:01pm PDT

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09/05/17 09/05/17 [captioning made possible by democracy now!] amy: from pacifica, this is democracy now! have you heard from exxon since the hurricane? >> no, ma'am. amy: how about fema? what about the red cross? >> no. amy: do you feel forgotten in the shadow of the second-largest refinery in this country and the shadow of the exxon mobil refinery? >> i would say yes. i would say yes. amy: as the death toll from hurricane harvey tops 63, we will look at the fallout from the historic storm in a special report from houston, texas, the epicenter of the fossil fuel
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industry in the united states. we will take you on a toxic tour of the city from the flooded oil refineries spewing contaminants into the air of neighborhoods, so often poor communities of color. plus, we attend a fundraiser to pay for the funerals of four rescue volunteers who were electrocuted when their small boat was swept away by churning floodwaters. they were undocumented. then we visit with the father of the environmental justice movement dr. robert bullard after he returned to his houston home after a mandatory evacuation. >> how can we make invisible communities visible yucca those communities who have been inundated of pollution before the storm yucca when a storm like this, happens, it exposes that vulnerability. amy: all that and more, coming
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up. welcome to democracy now!, democracynow.org, the war and peace report. i'm amy goodman. north korea carried out its strongest-ever nuclear test sunday, just days after the u.s. and south korea wrapped up their massive joint military drills on the korean peninsula. north korea has long objected to the annual drills, which include tens of thousands of troops. north korea claims it tested a hydrogen bomb, although experts have disputed this claim. on monday, the un security council met to address the test. nikki haley accused north korea of begging for war. president trump tweeted -- "the united states is considering, in addition to other options, stopping all trade with any country doing business with north korea." experts say this proposal is next to impossible since ceasing trade with china, brazil, germany, mexico, and other countries would spell economic catastrophe for the u.s.
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trump also blasted south korea for being open to initiating peace talks with the north, tweeting -- "south korea is finding, as i have told them, that their talk of appeasement with north understand one thing!" trump is also preparing to withdraw from a trade agreement between the u.s. and south korea. on monday, protesters gathered in los angeles, atlanta and other u.s. cities to demand president trump not cancel the program daca, or deferred action for childhood arrivals, which gives nearly 800,000 young people permission to live and work in the united states. the protests came amid reports president trump is considering canceling daca today, that he would cancel daca in six months, a window designed to allow congress to legislate the issue between now and then.
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attorney general jeff sessions is scheduled to make an announcement about daca today at 11:00 eastern time. this is juliana nascimento at a protest in los angeles. >> daca means a lot to me because it actually supports me to keep going to school, to prepare myself to become someone in the future. if the president does not sign the paper to support that time it will take away daca for me and my sisters. i am a family of eight girls. it gives us a permit to work, to go to school. we do need that support. for him to do it is important for us to feel support from our president. amy: in texas, the devastating from hurricane harvey continues. at least 63 people have died, more than 40,000 homes have been lost and as many 1 million cars have been destroyed. the center for biological diversity says flooded oil refineries and chemical plants have released as much 5 million pounds of pollutants into the air. among those who have died were volunteer rescuers alonso guillen and tomas carreon, who had driven more than 100 miles
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from lufkin, texas, in order to help rescue people. their bodies were found on friday after their boat capsized days earlier. his mother told the houston chronicle she tried to come from mexico to u.s. to bury her son, but was turned away by border patrol agents. she said, "when we are with god, there are no borders." after headlines, we'll spend the rest of the hour bringing you voices from the ground in houston. california governor jerry brown declared a state of emergency in los angeles county sunday morning as more than 1000 firefighters battled the largest wildfire in los angeles history. the la tuna fire erupted on and quickly grew to encompass friday more than 7000 acres just north of los angeles, the
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second-largest city in the united states. the fire shut down the 210 freeway and forced hundreds of people to evacuate. the caribbean and southern coast of the united states are preparing for hurricane irma, a powerful category-four storm churning west across the atlantic ocean. both puerto rico and florida have declared states of emergency. the storm is expected to make landfall on the island of anguilla on wednesday, and then continue toward the u.s. coast. in more climate-related news, more than 100,000 people have been forced to evacuate their homes in nigeria because of widespread flooding in the center of nas chari a. -- nigeria. in south asia, the historic flooding that has killed more than 1200 people has also destroyed as many as 18,000 schools, leaving as many as 1.8 million children unable to go to class. president trump has nominated republican oklahoma congressman jim bridenstine to head nasa, the national aeronautics and space administration. bridenstine has no science credentials and has repeatedly denied the human impact on climate change. nasa conducts a significant amount of global climate change research. in 2013, bridenstine took to the house floor to demand president obama apologize for funding climate change research. >> global temperatures stopped rising 10 years ago.
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global to pitcher changes, when they exist, correlate with sun output and ocean cycles. we know that oklahoma will have tornadoes when the cold jet stream meets the warm gulf air. we also know this president spends 30 times as much money on global warming research as he does on weather forecasting and warning. for this gross misallocation, the people of oklahoma are ready to accept the president's apology, and i intend to submit legislation to fix this. amy: in yemen, data from the world health organization says people have now been 600,000 affected by a devastating cholera epidemic. the ongoing u.s.-backed saudi-led bombing campaign has destroyed yemen's health, water and sanitation systems. the u.n. says less than half of yemen's health facilities are operational. the founder of the red crescent in yemen, abdullah alkhamesi, died thursday because of a shortage of materials required
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for a heart surgery. he was barred from traveling abroad for treatment because of saudi-imposed travel restrictions that have forced the main airport in sana'a to close. in syria, the local journalistic monitoring group raqqa is being slaughtered silently reports shelling by the u.s.-led coalition killed 14 people on saturday. among those killed was issa al hilal, who worked as a pharmacist, as well as his wife and brother. tens of thousands of people gathered in chechnya's capital grozny on monday in support of the rohingya muslim minority in burma, which is facing widespread violence and persecution from the burmese military. this is hasan mazhiev. >> it is unacceptable for the modern civilized world to stay silent when genocide is happening. ethnic cleansing of the whole people. we must not be silent. we must call the leaders of state, governments, everybody to stop that outrage. amy: hundreds of rohingya have
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been killed and tens of thousands forced into neighboring bangladesh amid the ongoing state violence. shocking police body cam video has surfaced of police arresting a nurse in utah for refusing the officer's demand that she draw a blood sample from an unconscious car crash patient. the police attacked nurse alex hundreds of fast-food workers
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walked off the job on monday for a nationwide day of action to demand a $15 minimum wage and the right to unionize. workers and their supporters gathered in boston, los angeles, pittsburgh, durham, north carolina, tampa bay, florida, des moines, iowa, richmond, virginia, and other u.s. cities. mcdonald's workers also went on strike at two stores in britain, marking the first-ever strike by mcdonald's workers in british history. in san diego, hundreds of people gathered to protest against a planned white nationalist rally. white have been demanding the park remove it iconic neural subpart -- celebrating their history and social movements. on sunday, the counterprotesters in support of the murals far outnumbered the white supremacist who showed up. on monday, indian country today media network announced it has temporarily ceased operations. the network is the publisher of both the daily website and the magazine "indian country," first founded in 1981 by oglala lakota journalist tim giago under the name "lakota times." the website and magazine have won numerous awards and produced groundbreaking coverage about violence against native women, challenges to the indian child welfare act, the achievements of native artists, activists and intellectuals, and the resistance at standing rock. and in minnesota group of native , a american youth have finished a three-week-long, 250-mile canoe voyage across northern minnesota to highlight the ecological threat posed by enbridge's proposed line 3 tar sands pipeline. the proposed line would carry
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tar sands oil from alberta, canada, to a terminal in superior, wisconsin. opponents say the pipeline would cross through the heart of minnesota's lakes, wild rice region, and 1855 ojibwe treaty territory. and those are some of the headlines. this is democracy now!, democracynow.org, the war and peace report. i'm amy goodman. we turn now to texas where the death toll continues to rise from hurricane harvey. at least 63 people have now died in the unprecedented flooding. the damage caused by the storm is staggering. more than 40,000 homes have been lost and as many 1 million cars destroyed. meanwhile, the long-term environmental impact of the storm is just beginning to be felt. the center for biological diversity reports flooded oil refineries and chemical plants released as much 5 million pounds of pollutants into the air during the storm. on friday night, another large fire broke out at the flooded arkema chemical plant in crosby, texas.
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then on sunday, authorities set fire to six remaining containers of chemicals in what was described as a controlled burn. the company continues to refuse to inform local residents of what chemicals burned at the site. this weekend, democracy now! headed to texas with democracy now!'s renee feltz and hany massoud, both from houston, to get a closer look at the environmental and public health impact of hurricane harvey and related flooding. houston is home to one quarter of the petroleum capacity refinery in the u.s., including the entire gulf coast and the percentage increases to have. some are run by exxonmobil, valero, and saudi owned motive of. this weekend, we took a toxic tour of the facilities along the houston ship channel, where some of the plants that spew toxins into the air are located in invalids so often poor communities of color. our guide was bryan parras,
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organizer with the sierra club's "beyond dirty fuels" campaign, and tejas -- texas environmental justice advocacy services. our visit came as the number of people who died from harvey rose to at least 63, including the first reported death of a volunteer rescuer who was also a of daca, the deferred action for childhood arrivals program. the body of alonso guillen was found friday after he disappeared wednesday when his boat hit a bridge and capsized. his mother told the houston chronicle she tried to come from mexico to the u.s. to bury her son, but was turned away by border patrol agents. she said, "when we are with god, there are no borders." as we began our toxic tour in houston, we stopped at a fundraiser that was set up to pay for the funerals of four undocumented rescue volunteers who were killed when their small boat was swept away by churning floodwaters last monday and ran into downed power lines. they were electrocuted.
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brothers yahir vizueth, benjamin vizueth, their uncle gustavo and their friend jorge perez - were electrocuted when they fell into the water. another brother, jose vizueth, survived along with two british daily mail journalists who were also on the boat to document rescue missions. all of them suffered severe burns. they clung to trees until they were discovered the next day, some 18 hours later. at sunday's fundraiser, we spoke to family member stepheny jacquez. >> they were a group of five men out rescuing people. they went out on a different part of town to save families affected. they had a boat. they said, why not? we can help. we want to help. of sevend a total people, two families. then they heard on the east side of town was getting flooded horribly, so they said, well,
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now we are headed that way to see how we can help. on the way over there, they were trying to cross the bayou. they lost control of the boat. i'm not exactly sure of the details. wreckedt control and with an electricity pole. they had to jump out of the boat . when they jumped in the water, they all got electrocuted. three of them were saved the next at 11:00 in the morning. amy: and that was jose, the brother -- journalists that were on the boat were saved. within the next day or so, we heard news of yahir being found, one of the three brothers on the boat. jorge was also found. we were still missing two. they were found on thursday.
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we took it upon ourselves, gathered a search group. inre was around 100 people the search. around 3:00 p.m., we found gustavo behind the neighborhood. the search continued. we were missing one more. he was found by boat. >> my name is elizabeth. these four guys were undocumented. they did not have papers, that is true. they did not care. they still risked their lives and saved a lot of lives. renee we going to head out on our toxic tour with bryan parras . >> there are some relatives that are undocumented. we are fearful of any attention that they would draw to themselves by asking for help. we are texas. people are proud. they do not like to ask for help. but we need it. we all need it right now. we are in denver harbor right now, just north of buffalo
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bayou. amy: we are going to continue here from this terrible story of four heroes who were killed as they were trying to save people, for you to take us on this toxic tour of houston. >> yeah, i mean, this isn't normally a stop. veryis emblematic of very, strong part of these neighborhoods. we are just driving on 610. this is the on ramp. we are going north right now. what you're looking at is manchester. this is the beginning of the petro metro. this goes on for 30 plus miles all the way to galveston bay. it even wraps around galveston to to texas city and then baytown and onwards to port arthur, beaumont.
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amy: can you talk about what has happened to this industry in the midst of harvey? >> yeah, so a lot of these plans had to go into emergency shutdown prior to the storm coming. that is a precautionary move, but it is one that they know is going to happen, particularly if a hurricane is coming. over the years, they have done nothing to prevent the toxic release of the chemicals that are sent out while these shutdowns are happening. amy: this area did not get flooded? >> i don't believe this area got flooded. it was ok. but the smells from all of the burn off from many, many refineries is something that they had to contend with. it is something i could smell even two miles from here. this is westway. these are storage tanks.
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i am the sure what they have in here, you know? a lot of times it is really hard to know what these facilities are doing. as resell with the crosby situation -- as we saw with the crosby situation, they oftentimes claim because of terroristic threats, it is better to not inform the community. we have folks who don't really know what all of the threat are. and throughout the day, they have to hear alarms and bells and things go off that worry them. they cause undue stress and anxiety. we just passed by a house completely surrounded by tanks. across the street is hartman park. this is the only green space for the neighborhood here. literally, the park, one street is valero refining.
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i am going to stop here. this is a friend of ours. his grandmother lives here. during the storm, i was getting messages from her because they were really concerned about the crosby plant and how that might affect things here. of course, they were having to deal with the toxic fumes as well. i promised i would bring them .ome amy: the smell is intense. >> this is every day. this is not even as that as a dance. it is intense. is every day poison that people have to breathe.
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amy: is this every day the smell in the air? very normal.s lately, they have been feeling it more so with the nose and eyes. it is normal for that type of reaction. wear storeally bought masks that are not necessarily prepared for this type of -- amy: do they warn you when they close this plant down that more toxins would be going into the air? refineriesrom the told them. they found out during the tv's that they watch and family members that are on the lookout and let them know. amy: so you just delivered masks
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to them in the shadow of valero, this massive plant here in houston. >> it is shameful and really really upsetting to think that families who live here have to make modifications and change the way they live, to shelter in place in your own home, amy, to have masks on hand and to have painful reactions to just breathing. the itchy eyes, the throat, the headaches. and that is an everyday experience. we're going to approach the men who look like they're working on fuel pipes that go over a bridge. amy: we are going down to where they are fixing the bridge and the pipelines to these facilities. high. you guys working on the pipeline or the bridge? the pipeline? getting it ready to go back online? >> yes, ma'am.
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amy: what kind of damage? >> just minimal, but we can't comment. amy: what was the damage? >> we can't comment. i apologize. it was all from the storm. amy: what role do you think climate change has to do with all of this? >> [inaudible] amy: you think that would be a good place to start dealing with? >> nah. save your money. amy: are you working for valero? >> [inaudible] we do job for enterprise. amy: what is wrong with the pipeline? >> the water goes too high and we move the pipe over this spot that we have set up, move it over and we try to put it back in place. amy: because the water pushed it
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over? i see. are they going to be able to turn the pipelines back on soon? >> oh, yeah, pretty soon. maybe in an hour or two. it will be the same like before. renee: we heard the factories and the refineries shut down is dangerous, but now they're starting a backup. is that also dangerous? >> yeah, the same thing that happened during the shutdown is going to happen again during the startup. i don't know how long that startup process lasts, but if you can imagine all of the liquids that are in the pipes that feed into the facilities, you know, all of that has to get turned back on and it will take a good while four, you know, the system to be properly sort of running as it normally does.
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a lot of these facilities are not meant to ever stop. they just keep going. so that is what causes the dirty burns and the problems. safe athink that it is all when it is running normally. toxins intoputting the air. but when these other events, shutdowns and startups happen, it is even worse. amy: that is bryan parras taking us on our toxic tour of the houston ship channel, which continues in a moment.
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♪ [music break] amy: "texas flood" as performed by the texas blues musician stevie ray vaughan and double trouble. this is democracy now!, democracynow.org, the war and peace report. i'm amy goodman. in the wake of hurricane harvey, we continue with our toxic tour of houston, that petro met joe home to one quarter of the refining capacity in the united states. i was in houston this weekend
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with democracy now! hany massoud and run a feltz, but texan natives. our guide was bryan parras, organizer with beyond dirty fuels campaign and tejas. >> we are on our way to baytown. baytown is home to exxon. very, very old plant. the second largest refinery exxon has. it was inundated with water during the storms. it may still be. i haven't been there yet. but they had massive flares that were documented by usa today. burning these chemicals we were just talking about during their shutdown process. amy: did the epa give them waivers to burn all of this out or all of these companies to release toxins? >> yeah, so normally, in a regular situation, you know, they would be limited and how long they could flare. in this case, the pa gave them a waiver so that there were no penalties for exceeding those time limits. amy: we are looking at a sign that says "kinder morgan warning: gas line crossing." >> and 20 feet behind it is someone's home.
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someone lives right here. amy: there is not much regulation in texas, is there? >> this is what people look at when they say there is no zoning. these are the sorts of situations it happen. we just drove by new pipelines, which makes me think there have been some breaches thomas m leaks, something, you know, or else why are these pipelines here? it looks like they're doing repair jobs right here in this person's backyard. amy: we are sending a front of a motive a plant, run by a ramco of saudi arabia. it is the largest oil refinery in the country right here in houston, texas. right behind us is a warning
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sign for a pipeline that says energy transfer partners. energy transfer partners bill the dakota access pipeline. we just passed high plains or equipment for kimber morgan, motive a, the largest oil refiner here, energy transfer partners, which makes the dakota access pipeline, all within a few large -- yards of each other. >> this is the concentration that exists here. amy: and directly next to a neighborhood. >> this is another predominately mexican-american neighborhood. this is the definition of a fence line community. amy: as opposed to a frontline? >> as opposed to a frontline. there is a distinction when folks say frontline community's, of course, there are a lot of people who live near different toxic sites, but a fenceline community is literally ordered by these facilities like you see here. it is not just above ground, it is the many pipelines below the
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ground. there have been studies done out that the pipelines are also leaking benzene from the ground. so you are getting rained on from above and you're also getting gassed from below. there is no escape. riding over the bridge and below us is the ship channel that empties out to the galveston bay. to the left is exxonmobil, the second-largest refinery in the
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country. this is a plant that was inundated with water. we are coming to check it out because we just heard it is coming back online. amy: as we are going around on this toxic tour to the exxonmobil refinery here in baytown, bryan parras and crystal stopped at a local church to deliver them food and clothing. can you tell us your name? >> my name is pastor carbon. we are here in baytown, texas. we did get hit hard. instead of crying, we are helping. help -- thatring is how it goes, you know? it is not easy. them a a rural low-income community. the water was up to here. and they are still living in there. they are afraid of coming in getting help. >> i didn't see a lot of furniture in the streets. >> not here. this is low income. i had a lady that this morning, i had to beg her, please, get some rescue guys to go in. she said, that is all i have. if i throw it out, what am i going to live in? i said, i would rather you not live in there -- you have to choose, live in there or
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honestly die from cancer. the mold is turning black already. amy: why are they afraid to get help? >> well, we have different laws in place. what we're doing is just taking names and the addresses, and some people think that immigration is going to take them. -- we tell them, this is a place of refuge. this line right here divides us from the city and divides us from anything else. this is a safe haven. you can come and be here. amy: a lot of people are afraid to seek help or shelter because they are afraid they can be taken by -- >> immigration. we have sb4 in place. that is a big one here. i have people that say, "i can't give you my address or phone number.
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but for me to get help, guys like you bring help, but then i have cities that ask for documentation. how many people did you feed? is the truck getting to people who need it? renee: what is across the street? >> the entrance of exxon, the oil refinery. that is what we got in our backyard. amy: how does that affect people who live here? >> man, i don't know how to answer that one. amy: do many of the people who live here work there? >> yes and no. yes i know. i got a lot of guys that work in the refinery. they got to maintain the families, so. right now they are not working. we're helping out. i have a guy that is not going because the area has been
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flooded. i know it goes with that, but at the end of the day, he is not actually working no more. amy: do they get paid if they're not working? >> no. there are contractors. being a contractor, they don't get paid. amy: what is in the air and water? >> there are different chemicals that are around. i will give you an example. water cross over 225, the released is the water from the refinery when it leaked out. out is some of what is here. amy: so the refinery is not back on? >> not yet. i don't know how long until they start it back up. right now it is off, so it is not working. renee: [inaudible] >> they did not call nobody. well into youry nothing else. just shut it down. right here, if you look right behind that tree is a flare.
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as we were out here, giving early for, you still get the impact of the flares. raging?the flare always >> no, just last time. when the hurricane was here, day and night. amy: the flavor it's not all the time, but when the plant closes down? >> i can't say. when they get an upset, they burn. for as, we are in the community. where can i go? amy: what is the cancer rate? >> it is big.
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it is big. for years, you take the street right up across the refinery, they had -- there was a city project that was there. they were affected by gases. they eliminated them completely. exxon got them out. amy: are you concerned about climate change? >> yes and no. yes and no in the sense that we are seeing the effect right now. when it comes about climate and anything else, we are seeing it right now. i will give you an example. when in history have we seen a flood like this? do with climate change. it has to do with what is going around the world. for me to live here so many years and suddenly, a flood of this magnitude, i mean, it is unbearable.
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unbearable. amy: what do you think of the fact that president trump denies climate change, that the fossil fuel industry or human beings have anything to do with climate? we just got to look at what our signs are, our effects. i know we pulled out of an important treaty, which is climate -- amy: the paris climate accord. >> i think that was a big mistake for us as a country. i think we have to have rules. we have to have regulations. amy: have you heard from exxon since the plant shutdown, since the hurricane? how about fema? federal emergency management agency? >> we don't got them here. we as churches, as part of the city, working with the city, we're on our own. amy: what about the red cross? have they been here? >> nope. we were at a shelter for five days. the city put a response together of pastors to help out. nobody else. amy: president trump is deciding on daca, whether to end it, dreamers, their ability to stay and work. >> that affects me. it affects me as a church. it affects me as -- it affects us all. we have people who don't have papers. we have to protect them, too.
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they are human beings. their kids grew up with us. i'm going to take to get out of here? no. it is hard. it hurts all of us. it hurts our economy. sometimes we think it is not going to hurt our economy. i have people that need our help. they work most of amy: do you feel forgotten in the shadow of the second-largest refinery in this country, in the shadow of the exxonmobil refinery? >> i would say yes. amy: we're here at bay county manual temple church. it looks out on the second-largest refinery in this exxonmobil in baytown. a number of them have lost everything, but there helping other people getting clothing, whatever deliveries come in. now we are going to go inside and take a look. people took refuge here.
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pastor, you're showing us video of exxonmobil. what are you looking at? >> you see the different colors? that is the chemicals. amy: this is exxonmobil underwater. and this is the kind of water that came to you and inundated people's homes. what a on right there. amy: what is your concern? >> benzene is a carcinogen. forene is an additive gasoline and for diesel. it is a byproduct of what the refinery does. i will tell you, it is one of
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superfund site in the middle of the river. amy: bryan, tell us what this superfund site is that we are standing at on the edge of the jacinto river, under an overpass -- i don't even see any sign says a "danger." >> there is one little sign. amy: why should we be concerned? >> this is one of the most dangerous superfund sites here in the houston area. it has dioxin, a very, very highly toxic substance. it is an underwater superfund site, but you can kind of see the mound of rocks in the middle of this river. nearby. amy: explain what is in the superfund site. who built it? why is it here? what happened during the storm to it? >> a lot of those questions as to what is happening, we don't know. there have been articles about the epa not being out here to do testing. it is an old paper mill waste site. they basically dumped a line of their old waste product.
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we know paper mills when they bleach their waters, there is a lot of dioxins that are the byproduct of that. some of the really nastiest chemical honor. amy: we see refineries in the background, then we see the superfund -- well, we see top of it -- site, then we see these circular -- what would you call these tanks? >> something obviously hit one of them. this one is tilted. one of them looks like it has been ripped apart, like its outer layer has been torn off. amy: has the epa been here? they havenowledge, not. there was a report out that said they had not been to any of the superfund sites. epa recently had issued some of their own press releases saying theyre monoring all of the
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sites, but i he not heard from anyone on the ground that has seen them. these areas are areas whe people fish, ski, swim. despite all of the industrialization of this area, it is still a water body and people are attracted to it and they want to use it. you can't swim. you can't breathe. you can't eat the seafood. it is a wasteland. amy: we just got word that the black smoke plume we see in the background just beyond the san jacinto river is the arkema chemical plant that makes organic peroxide. an area as wide as a mile and a half has been evacuated for days now. it looks like the plant and the local authorities have decided theo a controlled burn of rest of the property. it is not clear what chemicals are there because the company
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has refused to release that information. that does it for our toxic tour of houston. i am amy goodman for democracy now! ♪ [music break] amy: "home at last" by steely dan. steely dan's walter becker died sunday at the age of 67. amythis is democracy now!, democracynow.org, the war and peace report. i'm amy goodman. as congress resumes and begins debate on how to distribute
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billions in aid for houston and texas gulf coast, we return to houston to look at who stands to profit from the relief effort and who may not. this is democracy now!, democracynow.org, the war and peace report. i'm amy goodman. we are in the home of professor robert bullard who teaches at texas southern university. he used to be the dean at the arbor jordin mickey leland school of public affairs at tsu. been considered the father of environmental justice, deals with the issue of environment all racism, and that is what we're going to be talking about today in the aftermath of this hurricane turned storm harvey. most, whoseffected community's will be rebuilt. it is great to be with you, to get to meet you personally in your home, professor bullard. can you describe what happened you here at home yet so you were going to be flooded. >> i had been monitoring the storm. i had been watching tv and getting very little sleep. then we were informed that we
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had a mandatory evacuation. i heeded that call and tried to move as much of my belongings from downstairs to upstairs. actually, i used muscles that i had not used before in that process. i evacuated on tuesday and was able to call a friend and was able to take my little bag over until this morning. i came back this morning. amy: in fact, your home did not flood. >> no. the water came up to on the surrounding streets, and water came on the street up to the curb, but it did not flood. it was kind of a challenge getting out of the subdivision to get over to my friends house, but i was able to maneuver and avoid the water and drive my car in a way that i was not driving in the water.
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it was a challenge, but nothing like what other people have experienced. amy: you have written so much about and in so deeply involved in issues of environmental racism, environmental justice. do you see the issue of environmental racism -- i will ask you to define it first -- playing out here in houston around this storm? >> when we look at the color of vulnerability and which communities-- right greatest risk for disasters like this, historically, it is communities of color, those living in low-lying areas, areas that are .ery prone to flooding it is very difficult to get insurance -- not just flood insurance, but regular insurance. what harvey has done is expose
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those inequalities that existed before the storm. disasters like this white and exacerbate inequality. communities that are most at the kindsnot having of infrastructure in those areas in terms of flood protection, in terms of trying to get out, transportation, etc., i mean, it played out up close and personal . i think as we start to see some of the demographics in terms of amenities that will -- communities that will take longer to return, longer to get their house is back in order, longer to get their infrastructure back in order -- this is not rocket science. those communities and individuals, households that don't have that cushion to ward off that kind of disruption, it is always much more difficult
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for them to return. i don't see this any different in houston. we have to guard against building and rebuilding on that inequity. amy: we just did a toxic tour of toston over in baytown next the exxon mobil refinery. i think it is something like the second-largest refinery in the country. right by it, people flooded out. oo many have got t different aspects, but will one is the contract workers. they just lose their jobs when the refinery shuts down. and they also get flooded. the question is, who will get help and who want? but that issue, for example, while the republican texas congressional delegation largely help from thevast northeast during superstorm sandy, clearly, texas will get billions of dollars for fema and
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rebuilt overall. how is it determined who get support and who doesn't? those way it works is individuals in those communities, in those families and households that have the resources and the wherewithal to maneuver through this maze of bureaucracy of following information online, getting access to the different organizations that can assist and support, getting the fema grants and the loans and all those things -- it is not rocket science, but it is not easy to do that. if you have individuals who are used to getting online and getting access to information and processing that, they have a head start. there are lots of households right now that are actually hiring contractors, that have already gutted their houses, have already signed individuals
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on to fix up and remodel and bring their houses back to life. mystery as to which communities will somehow be the last to do that. these are the same communities that didn't have access to loans in terms of neighborhoods -- because of redlining. what we have to guard against is this rebuilding redlining that somehow allows more affluent communities to access the system, get their communities back in order, and those who are left behind somehow those areas will be the last two come back. so it has to be an equitable recovery, development, and to make sure those families that somehow -- who is to say that one community should be rebuilt
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or not rebuilt? those are policy decisions. if money is not invested in those areas and if infrastructure is not invested in those areas -- many of those areas and many of the communities in houston do not have the infrastructure to protect them from man-made disasters in terms of the flooding, like of infrastructure in terms of the protection. a lot of our neighborhoods just have open drainage ditches, goalies, and just very minimum kind of protection so it floods routinely. we're talking about this biblical flood. you can see i'm not only will they get washed out in terms of their homes, they will get washed out in terms of their income. amy: this is the 30th anniversary of the publication of your book "invisible houston: the black experience, boom and bust." talk about invisible houston.
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>> i wrote it 30 years ago. there is a huge population that is still invisible. houston's demographics, you know, a lot of people like to say we are one of the most diverse, ethnically and racial cities in the country come the fourth city in the country. we are racially and ethnically diverse. but when it comes to economics and power and decision-making, is tops. when we talk about this question of how invisible -- after we make invisible communities visible? those communities that have been inundated before the storm by pollution, and viral degradation, living on the fence line with very dangerous kinds of facilities. in a storm like this happens, it exposes those vulnerabilities and you have all this pollution, plants. and chemical that kind of pollution that is now exposed in the water and when the flood -- floodwater
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receives, it is going to leave residue. it is going to leave all kinds me school grounds, the playgrounds, on people's yards. how are we going to deal with the sediment that is left? we need testing done. we have to make sure it is safe. all of the mold. we learn from katrina that people want to get back in their homes. in some cases, they are rushing to get back without the proper protection. with the mold in those homes and people getting sick, we have to make sure that we provide equal protection and equal access to resources to make sure we do it right. amy: how do you do that? ,> we have to have strong community based organizations on the ground with the capacity to assist and support families and households that can get things right. that can pressure and apply the point of saying, "we need to
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make sure -- just because you don't have a car, just because you don't have a big bank account doesn't mean you should not be safe, that your community should not come back, and that you shouldn't have the same level of protection from the importance as if you were a middle-class white member of it. we have to ensure. houston is race segregated along racial and economic lines. this flight has really shown up. if you look as it goes, you can map where the vulnerability is and how resources have been allocated and distributed over the last 50 years. what we have to do is we have to map the resources that come to this area, and we can show and actually fight for it to make sure that the resources that flow
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invisible communities -- and this case, i wrote "invisible houston" in 1987. when i wrote it then, it was black houston. we're talking about a very diverse houston today. the latino population is a must 50%. when you talk about the invisibility and who the population lives, you're talking about not only in terms of flooding, but a disaster in terms of the environment, the pollution, the health threats, the potential for the kinds of impacts that we will see years to come. the most vulnerable in our society showed it. we have to protect our children, our goal vulnerable population. trump is a proud climate change denier. and does that mean to you how does that fit into this whole issue of climate justice in this country and around the
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world? and your governor as well, governor greg abbott? >> we are in a state of denial called texas. denybecause individuals the fact that climate change is real, that is almost like saying "i don't believe in gravity." but the fact is, the fact is. we are experiencing some very -- these storms are getting -- the fact -- amy: intense. >> houston has flooded in 10 years -- >> and frequent. >> will be talked about what is going on, even if you don't believe in climate change, we have to make sure that our infrastructure, hours 80 is built in a way that is resilient. even if you take climate change off the table, the fact that something is going on that is creating a tremendous vulnerability for not just poor
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people -- because when poor people were getting flooded, there was no concern. but now because when you do not protect the most vulnerability population, you put everybody at risk. we learn that in new orleans after katrina. we have to make sure we protect the most vulnerable population and rebuild with the idea that we will rebuild with resilience. we cannot just make houston like it was. like it was was very unequal. those populations that lived, for example, on those fence lines with those chemical companies, people say, well, what is happening at the chemical company that burned and .xploded -- they say it is safe the epa says it is safe. but i would like to know, where does the ceo of that company live? if it is so safe? you know what i mean? how about him camp out and live next door?
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people making decisions oftentimes don't have to deal with the kinds of issues that fenceline communities have to deal with. even when we are not talking about flooding. we're talking about the flooding of pollution and chemicals on communities, and people don't ask for -- to be polluted. it is without their consent. amy: dr. robert bullard teaches at tsu, historically black .ollege university, former dsu he is considered the father of the environmental justice movement. this year marks the 30th anniversary of his book "invisible houston." that does it for our show. a special thanks to anna massoud and renee feltz with me in houston and a hometown. hurricane irma has been upgraded to a category 5 storm. democracy now! is looking for feedback from people who
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