Lab assists west Fresno County in clean-energy future

Felipe Perez gives out information about COVID to fieldworkers (Download Image)

Firebaugh former mayor and current council member and Socio-Environmental and Education Network member Felipe Perez gives out information about COVID to fieldworkers in the community of West Fresno. Image courtesy of Minerva Uribe-Robles.


Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) will provide technical assistance to 30 disadvantaged communities in west Fresno County to provide a future in clean-energy projects, including carbon capture and storage.

The project is part of the Department of Energy’s Local Energy Action Program (LEAP) that aims to facilitate sustained community-wide economic and environmental benefits primarily through DOE’s clean-energy deployment work. This opportunity is specifically open to low-income, energy-burdened communities that also are disadvantaged and/or are experiencing direct economic impacts from a shift away from historical reliance on fossil fuels. Under Communities LEAP, DOE matches selected communities with technical assistance providers who assist them with bringing their clean-energy planning and economic development vision to life. 

The West Fresno County C-LEAP cohort 2 is part of 30 communities that were selected to have technical assistance from a national laboratory, in this case LLNL. Its focus will be clean-energy planning and development, carbon capture and storage. It is led by a non-profit from the Central Valley, the Socio-Environmental and Education Network (SEEN), which has worked with west Fresno County disadvantaged communities since 2016 on STEM education, environmental justice and climate resilience. It also involves the participation of community leaders and Firebaugh former mayor and current council member Felipe Perez and Mendota mayor Victor Martinez. (SEEN members are lead author of California’s 4th Assessment for the San Joaquin Valley Region).

According to LLNL principal investigator Minerva Uribe-Robles, the proposal contemplates two low-income and disadvantaged cities in west Fresno County: Mendota and Firebaugh. These cities also have some of the worst air pollution and unemployment rates in the nation and are isolated linguistically with more than 95% of its households having no one over age 14 who speaks English very well; most speak Spanish.

“The intention of the project is to ensure fair community involvement in potential carbon removal deployments by first building community capacity thorough bilingual (Spanish-English) education and outreach on diverse carbon sequestration technologies, community-engaged decision-making and the knowledge of community benefit plans and community benefit agreements,” Uribe-Robles said.

At that point, the team will assess community interest priorities on technologies. This region has been assessed in the Roads to Removal report as having great potential for biomass carbon removal and storage (BiCRS) and direct-air capture (DAC) and may improve air quality and job creation in west Fresno County communities.

A quantitative and qualitative report will be drafted and provided to Fresno County officials to help them understand the opinions of residents in West Fresno County region about clean energy and carbon management options.

“The community in west Fresno is hesitant about carbon management projects, but jobs are desperately needed in these two cities,” Uribe-Robles said. “By working with the community through this technical assistance we hope to increase the success of future clean energy projects and economic development in this region.”

This is not the first LEAP project that Uribe-Robles has led. Stockton's C-LEAP (originally headed by former LLNL researcher George Peridas) is very different than west Fresno County's because previous engagement had taken place with Stockton communities where they determined they needed technical assistance on modeling potential leakage scenarios in the Delta.

The West Fresno County C-LEAP is centered on community capacity building where communities can decide for themselves what specific type of technical assistance they might prefer involving clean energy and carbon-management projects.