CCJ's Response to Department of Health Determination on Washington County Cancer Cluster

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The Center for Coalfield Justice will continue to follow and support the community around concerns of environmental impacts on increased cancer occurrences in children following the report released by the Pennsylvania Department of Health stating that there is no apparent cancer cluster in Canon-McMillan nor Washington County. We know from our allies across the coalfields and other rural communities across the country that often times communities with lower populations do not fare well under the strict guidelines of public health interpretations. Furthermore, following outreach from community members around the methodology of the study, including what cases were included, we will continue to work to increase public awareness of environmental impacts and government transparency in addressing this public health concern.  

Remember Today and All Days to Care for Our Environment

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Earth Day is the most celebrated secular holiday in the world.  We all live, work, play, love and depend on this planet. Today is a day to celebrate our planet and perhaps find a way to replenish it and clean it up.

You might consider some of these ideas for you on Earth Day: plant trees or flowers, clean up a roadside or park, go for a walk at a stream, make a rain barrel, make a recycling bin, make bird feeders and/or share your knowledge!

Let Earth Day activities inspire you to make permanent changes in your life. Decide on new, eco-friendly habits and try your best to implement them throughout the year. While Earth Day is one day out of the year to focus on the environment, it takes daily dedication to create long-lasting positive change.  Every little bit counts, and these little things can add up to massive changes.

Today we urge you to soak in the beauty of this planet and to think about how we want to leave it for the generations that follow.


Save the Date for the 13th Annual DRYerson Festival!

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Spend the afternoon with the Center for Coalfield Justice and your neighbors and friends  as we celebrate the progress we’ve made in our fight to protect Ryerson Station State Park. The 13th annual DRYerson Festival will be held on Saturday, June 22nd from 1-4 PM at Pavilion 2 in the Park. This year’s celebration will feature live music from Bree Otto (you loved her last year, and so she’s back), games (with prizes), a soaking-wet-sponge toss (all the fun of water balloons with no waste), and other fun surprises! The festival is pet-friendly, and our staff highly encourages you to bring your pooch on a leash (or a cat if your cat will let you put a leash on him/her) to join in on the festivities! Summer classics like hot dogs, pasta salad, and watermelon will be offered throughout the day, but this year we’ll also be serving summertime fun in the form of snow cones and cotton candy. Again this year, in order to speak to our values and support another one of our campaigns, we will limit our use of plastic, so we will have reusable plates, cups, and utensils provided by Our Children Our Earth: Toys, Silks, and Eco-Goods. Worried that you’ll only be able to make it for a brief time? Fear not - we’ll have door prize drawings throughout the Festival for everyone who checks in at the registration table!

Let us know you are coming to event by registering here. Call us at the office (724-229-3550) if you want to volunteer or want to know more about the event! We hope to see all your friendly faces there!


Petrochemical Disasters - Present and Future

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A massive fire at an Intercontinental Terminals Company (ITC) petrochemical plant in Deer Park, Texas took four days to extinguish but is still causing major health and environmental concerns. Tanks containing naphtha, xylene, and pygas caught fire, and air monitoring detected benzene, toluene, other VOCs and particulate matter in the air for a wide radius. (For more detailed coverage of the timeline, chemicals, etc, see this statement released by our allies at Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services.) On March 27, 2019, the Texas Department of State Health Services issued a warning not to eat fish caught in the Houston Ship Channel, a warning that was echoed by the EPA. Amid the crisis, ITC encouraged residents to submit any claims related to the incident to them; however, in the claims submission process, they included some fine print that stated once payment of a claim had been made, the claimant waived his/her right to sue. In the span of a week, residents of Deer Park and the surrounding areas were bombarded with crucial, and often conflicting, information, which can be exhausting in and of itself.

Watching this unfold via the news in Pennsylvania, it’s easy to watch and think “those poor people,” but also to have a disconnected view because we “don’t know them.” They’re not our neighbors. Texas isn’t culturally the same as Appalachia or Pittsburgh. We may have never even been to the state. But we do know the people who were impacted. They are people who have been impacted by extreme energy extraction, production, and use. They are people whose government is influenced by industry money. They are people who every day live with industry in their backyards, and who are far outmatched dollar-for-dollar by companies. They are people who want clean air and clean water - and more, they want to be able to trust when officials tell them that their air and water are “safe.”

In Appalachia, a massive petrochemical buildout is underway, a buildout meant to protect corporations from the climate change-related risks their infrastructure in the Gulf faces and to help gas and oil companies to hedge against the competition from renewables. This buildout is designed to produce polyethylene pellets that can then be used in plastics manufacturing - when we already have a crisis of plastics pollution. The fracking boom has already been changing our landscape for over a decade: presently, there are 1,696 active unconventional gas (fracking) wells in Washington County and 1,309 in Greene County, but petrochemicals will ensure that even more wells are drilled. The real impacts of this buildout on public health, entire economies, and the environment will be devastating - the petrochemical industry is already devastating many places where people have lived with it for longer than we have even been talking about it. Remember: cheap plastic is not cheap. We cannot breathe or drink money. No matter where we live.

Our allies at Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services, a grassroots group, and Earthworks, a national group, have been doing great work to make sure people are informed and safe. Please click the links above to learn more about them and to donate if you can.