With CRLA’s help, Matheny Tract low-income residents are victorious in their health and safety demands

August 21, 2012


Phoebe Seaton (310)980-6494 pseaton@crla.org
Ruby Renteria (559)233-6710 ext. 313 rrenteria@crla.org
Ashley Werner (559)233-6710 ext. 315 awerner@crla.org

With CRLA's help, Matheny Tract low-income residents are victorious in their health and safety demands

Planning commission of the City of Tulare requires protections and improvements for Matheny Tract as a condition of allowing a waste processer to set up shop just over a mile from the community.

Tulare, California

Due to pressure from the Matheny Tract Committee, a multi-racial coalition of low-income residents of Matheny Tract, and with help from California Rural Legal Assistance Inc.'s (CRLA) Community Equity Initiative (CEI), the planning commission of the City of Tulare obtained agreements from Colony Energy LLC to develop an advanced odor management plan to ensure that residents won't be harmed from noxious odors from the waste processing plant. Matheny Tract is a disadvantaged unincorporated community (DUC), adjacent to Tulare, in the City's sphere of influence, but not included in the City's jurisdiction. With the help of CEI staffers Ruby Renteria and Ashley Werner, the Matheny Tract Committee sent a sharply worded demand letter to the planning commission, which made its decision last night in Tulare.

Colony Energy LLC, the waste processor, must also install street lights throughout Matheny Tract, a major feat for residents, who identified streetlights as a critical, yet hard to achieve, improvement to their community. "This is a tremendous win for the members of the Matheny Tract Committee. The residents spoke with one voice to ensure that their community is taken into account during important planning decisions", said Ruby Renteria, CRLA CEI Community Worker. "Until recently, the city of Tulare was dismissive of the community, and now they have no choice but to listen and even support demands that benefit the health and safety of low-income residents," said CRLA CEI Director and attorney Phoebe Seaton.

Long time Matheny Tract resident and grandmother, Ofelia Zaragoza stated, "Thanks to the strength of the community and the support of CRLA, public officials are taking us into account. We hope, and we will ensure, that they continue to do so."

The waste management plant is an anaerobic co-digester plant, which processes food waste simultaneously with manure. Since the community is downwind of the plant, there was a lot of concern among local residents about odors. Matheny Tract, like many DUCs, lacks a sewer system, or access to clean drinking water. Matheny Tract residents began working with CRLA to demand access to basic municipal services and infrastructure, like adequate public transit and a public sewer system. This is the latest victory for the group and joins other recent victories such as an award of two grants - one to lay the groundwork for connecting Matheny Tract to Tulare's sewer system instead of needing to rely on septic tanks and the second to plan for improved transit and walkability.

California Rural Legal Assistance, Inc. (CRLA)

Founded in 1966, CRLA's mission is to fight for justice and individual rights alongside the most exploited communities of our society. Through a network of regional offices in 20 California cities and communities, CRLA provides legal services to over 40,000 people through specialized programs focusing on the needs of farm workers, housing, environmental justice, education, individuals with disabilities, immigrant populations, LGBT rights, and women, children and families.

For more information on CRLA, please visit: www.crla.org.




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