Local Black Community Fights Back Against Expansion of Natural Gas Plant in AZ

Local Black Community Fights Back Against Expansion of Natural Gas Plant in AZ

For years, pollution has driven residents out of Randolph, Arizona, a community built in the 1940s by black agricultural migrants. Now, residents are fighting back against the expansion of a nearby natural gas plant, demanding its developers halt plans to double its size. The Salt River Project, as it's been coined, would serve the growing Phoenix Metro Area while also emitting carbon dioxide and threatening the health and quality of life of residents.

ABC15 Arizona: Gas plant plans in Coolidge concern neighbors, environmental groups, Februrary 2, 2022.

Why This Matters

The fight by Randolph’s residents to save their community is yet another chapter in America’s long history of environmental racism. A recent study by the American Chemical Society (ACS) found that areas redlined in the 1930s still suffer higher levels of industrial pollution today. The connection is obvious to Jeff Jordan, resident and leader in the fight against the Salt River Project’s expansion. “The system has failed us,” said Jordan. “Our experience has shown that. Particularly for economically disadvantaged people, particularly for people of color.”

For Jordan, Randolph is worth fighting for. “This is my home,” he said. “This is my heritage. This is who I am.” Other residents, though, have been worn down. “It impacts people’s hearts, and they don’t want to be around this,” Jordan said. “It’s kind of like they’ve oppressed us for so long that people here are almost out of gas. They don’t have the fight anymore, so they just get up and leave.”

Greenpeace: What is Environmental Racism?, March 19, 2021.

HEI State of Global Air: Air Pollution & Climate Change: The Impacts on Global Health, December 8, 2021.

Doubling Down On Carbon

Developers of the Salt River Project insist its expansion won’t harm residents. They say increasing natural gas is the only way cities can reduce their reliance on coal, adding that it will allow “time to adopt renewables at a measured pace.”

Not everyone is convinced. Drew Shindell, a professor at Duke University, told NBC News, “We should be going all-in on renewables for the sake of climate, public health, energy security, etc.” And Sandy Bahr, the Director of the Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon Chapter, echoed Shindell’s sentiment, saying the project “is not taking climate change seriously enough.”

Cleo Abram: Fracking for Clean Energy. Wait, What?, January 18, 2022.

CNBC: Why Air Quality In The US Is So Bad, April 22, 2021.

WW0: A Conversation on Health and Climate, August 6, 2020.