Education

State Launches “DEP CONNECT” to Engage with Communities

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The state is launching DEP Connects, a new opportunity from the state regulatory agency to provide communication to residents about DEP programs and to hear from community members across the state. They will hold events in each of the six regional areas across the state.

Sign Up to Get Notices

We highly encourage you to sign up to get information on when the DEP will hold an event in your region so you don’t miss any opportunity to be heard.

Report on Coal Mine Bonding in Central Appalachia

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The Center for Coalfield Justice is a member of the Alliance for Appalachia, which is a regional coalition of grassroots, non-profit organizations with the goals of ending mountaintop removal, putting a halt to destructive coal technologies, and creating a sustainable, just Appalachia.  They recently released a report on the state of surface coal mine bonding in four Central Appalachian states. Bonds are used for ensuring reclamation of mine sites, should a company be unable to finish reclamation. The report details the bonding programs in West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee, and recommends improvements that state and federal agencies should make to better protect communities and the environment.

Check out more information here:

http://theallianceforappalachia.org/report-coal-mining-bonding-central-appalachia/ 

OnePA EJ Team Learns about Environmental Injustice in PA Coalfields

 CCJ Executive Director, Veronica, describing the Coal Refuse Disposal Area or toxic valley fills to One PA Environmental EJ Team. 

CCJ Executive Director, Veronica, describing the Coal Refuse Disposal Area or toxic valley fills to One PA Environmental EJ Team. 

On Earth Day we want to challenge you to learn about the impacts to our environment and people's health in your region. This year we provided a coalfield tour to One Pennsylvania's Environmental Justice Team to help show folks living in Pittsburgh how fossil fuel extraction just a short drive outside the city impacts not just the climate but also city's air and water quality. The attendees were shocked at the scale of the impacts on people and saw many connections to their communities where corporations are also putting their profits before people. At the Center for Coalfield Justice, we are excited to continue bridging the divide between our communities and communities in Pittsburgh. Together we can achieve healthy communities with thriving economies where all our folks have access to clean water, clean air, outdoor spaces, and healthy jobs. Make a donation today and support bringing rural and urban communities together

Ordinance Struggles in the Mon Valley

 CCJ Board member and Clean Air Council representative Lois Bower-Bjornson giving part of the presentation in California Borough. 

CCJ Board member and Clean Air Council representative Lois Bower-Bjornson giving part of the presentation in California Borough. 

Residents of West Pike Run Township and California Borough are at various stages of the zoning ordinance process, attempting to create protective safeguards around homes, schools, and farms from unconventional oil and gas development, or “fracking.”

Last month, CCJ and Clean Air Council teamed up through our work with Protect Our Children to host an informational meeting in California Borough. Residents there can expect a draft ordinance allowing “fracking” activity within Borough lines for the first time to be released soon: this draft has yet to be released to the public.

A longer-running campaign has been ongoing just across the municipal line in West Pike Run Township, where Protect West Pike Run Township members, who are all concerned, local residents, have been speaking up in support of a 1,000 foot setback distance from the edge of a well pad. Their current ordinance follows state standards of a 500 foot setback from the wellbore. Residents have also raised numerous concerns about super well pads, which would be permitted well pads that take up 30 acres of land and can hold upwards of 20 wells per pad. With the 1,000 foot setback distance, one such proposed super well pad would not be permitted on land owned by residents who do not want it, easing the burden on them to fight for their rights.

Both of these campaigns, while at various stages, are ongoing and could use support. If you’re interested in supporting or joining with these residents, contact Sarah Martik at 724-229-3550 x.1 or at smartik@coalfieldjustice.org

Going Solar!

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CCJ is now a partner at Solar United Neighbors of Pennsylvania, a group that helps develop and manage co-ops within communities so that people have access to solar energy at a more affordable cost. By joining together, community members are able to create a demand for a large amount products, which contractors can then order in bulk to save on cost. Because we are organizing within a geographic location, contractors also save time and money on travel, which results in an additional cost-saving for co-op members.

To get involved, join CCJ and Solar United Neighbors at an informational meeting on Wednesday, March 28 from 6:00-7:30 at W&J’s Swanson Science Center (Room 005).

For more information on Solar United Neighbors, visit their website or call our office at 724-229-3550.

A Hazy Future: Pennsylvania's Energy Landscape in 2045

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by Sam Rubright, DrPH

FracTracker Alliance released the report: A Hazy Future: Pennsylvania’s Energy Landscape in 2045 on January 10, 2018, which details the potential future impacts of a massive buildout of Marcellus Shale wells and associated natural gas infrastructure.

Industry analysts forecast 47,600 new unconventional oil and gas wells may be drilled in Pennsylvania by 2045, fueling new natural gas power plants and petrochemical facilities in PA and beyond. Based on industry projections and current rates of consumption, FracTracker – a national data-driven non-profit – estimates the buildout would require 583 billion gallons of fresh water, 386 million tons of sand, 798,000 acres of land, 131 billion gallons of liquid waste, 45 million tons of solid waste, and more than 323 million truck trips to drilling sites.

Read more and see the study here.

Parent's Know Your Rights Training

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Our friends with Washington County United are hosting a training for parents to know what your rights are with your children that are in school on Thursday, December 7th from 6 PM to 8 PM at the LeMoyne Community Center (200 N Forrest Ave, Washington, PA 15301). This training will help you learn what rights you have as a parent, what rights your child has, and how you can use these legal protections to help make sure your child has the resources they need to succeed.

Do you know what to do if:
…Your child has an IEP?
…Your child is repeatedly suspended?
…Your child is criminally charged for a school infraction?
…You’re constantly called for behavioral issues in the classroom?
…You want the policy changed in your child’s school?

Come learn from experts who will help you learn what your rights are and how you can use them to help your child.

Food and childcare are available! We'll be meeting at the LeMoyne Community Center, which is wheelchair accessible. Please let us know if you have any questions or need any accommodations for the training.

RSVP Here

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Washington County United is a community organization coming together to fight for quality schools and an economy that works for all of us. We are part of the growing One Pennsylvania statewide network of community organizations working to tackle the roots of inequality in our communities.

Emerging leaders in the fight against the climate crisis

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Fourteen hundred concerned community members came to Pittsburgh from October 17-19 for the Climate Reality Project Leadership Corps training at the David L Lawrence Convention Center. Throughout the three days, participants heard from scientists and other experts about the current science on climate change and the crisis that will happen if we don’t act now. CCJ staff members Veronica Coptis and Sarah Martik and board member Lois Bower-Bjornson joined hundreds of others specifically from the Pittsburgh region to learn more about the reality of our environment and ways to create progress.

In the grand debate on climate change, it can be easy to think of the problem as a massive global one, and not to see how it will affect our communities in a very real way. In terms of weather and the environment, Greene and Washington Counties are at a higher risk for flooding and stronger heat waves. In terms of public health, rising temperatures mean that ticks are becoming a greater issue, and the risk of contracting Lyme disease is greater.  The worsening flooding would put more stress on our sewage and water systems.  Our communities’ local economies are also directly impacted by the global shift to address the climate crisis and shift to cleaner energy sources. We collectively need to decide to enact policies that would prevent these kinds of problems from worsening and to diversify our economy. We also need to plan to deal with the consequences of inaction; however, during our current political times we cannot rely on our government.

One of the most important takeaways from the conference is that, while it is a global issue, climate change can be tackled at the local level, and doing so will not only prevent some of those drastic consequences but also help improve communities. It’s easy to think that jobs in manufacturing and maintaining solar panels or wind turbines would be the only source of new jobs in a renewable energy economy, but one of the strongest sectors for job growth will be in retrofitting existing buildings to meet higher standards for energy use and efficiency. These are jobs that will pay for themselves because of the savings on energy expenses over time, but they also are impossible to outsource. In the fossil fuel extraction legacy areas throughout our entire region, there is also the opportunity to create jobs by reclaiming sites that continue to harm our health and environment.

We face real problems, as was thoroughly discussed at the Climate Reality Project training, but we also have real solutions that would both protect the environment and boost the economy. It is up to us to shift the political will in the United States because a world where people have jobs and clean air/water is the best-case scenario for our community, country, and world.

CCJ in Daisytown, PA for lease-reading training

 Ryan and attendees have a Q&A about unconventional oil and gas leases.

Ryan and attendees have a Q&A about unconventional oil and gas leases.

On Tuesday, September 19, CCJ held a workshop on the basics of unconventional oil and gas drilling leases in Daisytown, PA. Ryan Hamilton (Hamilton Law LLC) gave a presentation and answered community members’ questions like “How do I know who owns the mineral rights below my property?” and “If I am approached about leasing my land, but I don’t want to, will they be able to drill anyway?”

It’s important to remember that everything in the stock lease you are presented is negotiable. You can add an addendum and strike out details that are not in the best interest of you, your family, or your land. However, legalese can be confusing, and leases are primarily written to benefit the company, not the landowner. We advise that you contact an attorney to ensure that everything is in order.

If you have questions about unconventional oil and gas leases, or about activity in your area, please reach out to CCJ at any time by calling 724-229-3550 or emailing smartik@coalfieldjustice.org.

If you would like to reach Ryan Hamilton, please call 412-567-9799 or email ryan@hamiltonlawllc.com.

Living with the Effects of Shale Gas Extraction

 SWEHP Presenting in Buffalo Township (Photo Credit: Sarah Martik)

SWEHP Presenting in Buffalo Township (Photo Credit: Sarah Martik)

Living near a shale gas extraction site, compression station, or pipeline comes with some expected and some potentially unexpected effects of which all residents in the area should be aware.  The release of chemicals and particulate matter into the atmosphere is expected; however, an event like a well fire or pipe leak is not something you can predict.  The most important thing for residents to do is to be proactive:  document your health on a registry, and be prepared to respond in case of an acute disaster.

The Southwestern Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project (EHP) has an online registry where residents can document their health symptoms by filling out a questionnaire. The benefit of regularly updating your information on the registry is that researchers can use this data to find correlations between shale gas activity and health issues.  Knowing your symptoms and what causes them can help you add the right air filtration systems to your home and know what you should tell your doctor should you ever need treatment.  This information can also then be used when talking to legislators about why we need strong regulations on this industry.

In addition to being vigilant about your health, you should also make sure that you are prepared to respond in case of a disaster.  The EHP recommends that you contact your local volunteer emergency coordinator to get his or her recommendations for how to prepare an emergency kit.  Bottled water is important for any emergency situation; pliers are useful for turning off your gas valve to stop gas from flowing into your house; a whistle can be used to help first responders know where you are in the event that you are trapped.  Some disasters may require that you evacuate your home, and knowing your evacuation route can help all residents of your community get to safety quickly.

Thinking about these issues is not pleasant for anyone – when I listened to this presentation, I started to panic a bit myself – but being aware and prepared is the reality of being a resident of the shale fields, and it will help you if you ever find yourself in a dangerous situation.