Sunday, March 13, 2016

AN ENVIRONMENTAL INJUSTICE IN SAN ANTONIO:



How San Antonio, Texas resembles Detroit and Flint, Michigan

Almost all have heard of the ongoing water crisis in Flint, yet few have heard of the actions that led to this event – how a sequence of bad decisions, intended and otherwise, led to the people of Flint drinking highly contaminated water for over a year.

Many citizens, especially from marginalized communities, are now sick with lead poisoning and other issues. This crisis was brought about by a decision to form a public--‐private
Water utilities partnership in Detroit.

These consequences of development  and water privatization do not lie solely in the Detroit--‐Flint area. San Antonio has entered into a public--‐private partnership with Abengoa
Vista Ridge in order to build the Vista Ridge Pipeline – a 142--‐mile pipeline that will bring water from the Carrizo aquifer to San Antonio.

In October 2014, City Council unanimously voted to approve Vista Ridge. Access of information to the public and forums for feedback were limited and despite heavy protests from residents of San Antonio and Burleson County, City Council unanimously voted to raise water rates to build the Vista Ridge Pipeline  in November 2015.

As  a result, water rates in San Antonio are being sharply increased at an unsustainable rate – by 2020 many ratepayers’ rates will have doubled. Even more, Abengoa Spain, the parent company, became bankrupt in December and in February Abengoa Vista Ridge asked investors for 30% more investment and in March for an $885 million loan from the
state.

The City of San Antonio is disregarding these obvious signs of a defaulting builder and discontent ratepayers and is continuing to throw its full support behind the project. Residents  have been opposed to the building of the pipeline from the very start due to many environmental and social justice concerns.

Too often working class communities and communities of color end up subsidizing the wealthier and whiter communities. This can be seen in the increased water rates which are set to increase even more at a level unsustainable for many ratepayers – the poor, communities of color, the elderly, and large and single--‐parent households. This is occurring while commercial and development water rates are being decreased.

City Council and the Chamber of Commerce have fought hard to portray San Antonio as “Water City, USA” in order to draw in new development. However, San Antonio, along with the entirety of Texas, is not a water abundant area. This development will lead to a lack of water conservation, an increase in development and gentrification, and thus an increase in population displacement. These burdens will be disproportionately and unnecessarily placed on the backs of marginalized communities, just as they were in Flint.

Many citizens have recognized this and protested the Vista Ridge decision. Yet, just as in Flint, their concerns have been pushed to the side in favor of more development and outward growth – neither of which will benefit the ones paying the most for this project.

For interviews or more information please contact Gianna Rendon at esperanza@esperanzacenter.org or call (210) 228--‐0201.


This statement is written on behalf of the Mi Agua Mi Vida Coalition which is composed of the Sierra Club, Esperanza Peace and Justice Center, Southwest Workers Union, Fuerza Unida, Bexar Green Party, SEIU, San Antonio Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance and the American Indian Movement.

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