Pixley residents challenge Tulare County over experimental hydrogen project with no environmental review

On March 4, Pixley Residents for Environmental Justice, represented by Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability and Chatten-Brown Law Group, filed a lawsuit in Tulare County Superior Court challenging the County of Tulare’s approval of a 28-acre industrial hydrogen plant in the community of Pixley. 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 5, 2024

MEDIA CONTACT
Jill Hindenach, Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability, 202-494-6309, jhindenach@leadershipcounsel.org

Pixley, CA — On March 4, Pixley Residents for Environmental Justice, represented by Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability and Chatten-Brown Law Group, filed a lawsuit in Tulare County Superior Court challenging the County of Tulare’s approval of a 28-acre industrial hydrogen plant in the community of Pixley. 

The County failed to adequately analyze and mitigate the impacts of the hydrogen project on residents and their neighborhoods and to comply with California’s environmental laws, relying on the erroneous determination that the project is exempt from environmental review.

“Pixley refuses to be a sacrifice zone for experimental projects that put our lives at risk,” said Rosendo Rodarte Saldivar, Pixley Residents for Environmental Justice representative. “We are already surrounded by polluting industries, making our air unsafe to breathe, our water unsafe to drink, and our families, friends, and neighbors sick from all the contamination. We are standing together to ensure the impacts of this project on our community are fully understood.”

“Without a full environmental impact report, impacts from hydrogen production and cumulative impacts from the supporting industries will be unknown and unmitigated,” said Perry Elerts, Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability staff attorney. “It is critical the project undergoes proper environmental review to ensure there are safeguards in place for the potential of mixed chemical reactions and leaks from the transport of ethanol and carbon dioxide to and from the facilities.”

The project, proposed by Proteum Energy, LLC, includes the construction and operation of an ethanol-to-hydrogen plant to produce, store, and transfer large quantities of hazardous, volatile, and explosive materials and poisons, as well as future plans for carbon storage and sequestration, which would require underground transport and storage of carbon dioxide via an interconnected pipeline system. 

“It is shocking that Tulare County approved a massive project that will be using poisonous and explosive materials in an area not zoned for that use through an exemption from the California Environmental Quality Act,” said Josh Chatten-Brown, Chatten-Brown Law Group managing partner.

Pixley residents are vulnerable to pollution exposures from various sources surrounding their community, such as heavy truck traffic transporting biofuels and agricultural products and heavy agricultural operations, including exposure to pesticides, dairy operations, and the production of factory farm gas. Many residents already suffer from ailments and poor health outcomes, including high rates of cardiovascular disease and severe breathing problems. The hydrogen plant may exacerbate these pollution burdens and health risks.

“Our community dying is the cost of all these polluting projects. What will the future of Pixley look like if we don’t keep fighting?,” said Maria Arevalo, Pixley Residents for Environmental Justice representative. “Pixley needs investments, not more pollution. We were here before these projects, and we will keep advocating for our concerns to be addressed. Our concerns have been ignored, so we are making our voices heard through this litigation.”

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Pixley Residents for Environmental Justice is a community organization formed by Pixley residents to advocate for just land use policies and practices that ensure access to clean air, clean and affordable drinking water, and investment in the community to improve community conditions and reduce pollution exposure. 

Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability works alongside the most impacted communities in the San Joaquin Valley and Eastern Coachella Valley to advocate for sound policy and eradicate injustice to secure equal access to opportunity regardless of wealth, race, income, and place. Leadership Counsel focuses on issues like housing, land use, transportation, safe and affordable drinking water and climate change impacts on communities.

​Chatten-Brown Law Group provides legal representation to those who wish to protect California’s natural resources and the health and wellbeing of its residents. Chatten-Brown Law Group is committed to environmental protection, representing environmental non-profits, community groups, and individuals seeking to enforce state and federal environmental laws.

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