Fracking

Fighting for Freedom from Plastics on this Independence Day

On July 4th, many Americans forget the history of the United States. July 4th, 1776 was the date that the Declaration of Independence was published, letting England know that the American colonies considered themselves free and were dissolving the “political bands” that tied the two together. Just as Cinco de Mayo is not Mexican Independence Day, July 4th is not the day that we won our independence (that’s September 3, 1783 when the Treaty of Paris was signed, ending the Revolutionary War).  

Internet meme inspired by  The Office

Internet meme inspired by The Office


To be fair, the first step in kicking any bad habit - be it a tax-crazy king or biting your nails - is to decide that the habit is no longer acceptable and to declare that its time is coming to an end. One of the biggest of our collective bad habits is plastics. 

This month is #PlasticFreeJuly, and people around the world are committing to reducing or eliminating their plastic use throughout the month, ditching coffee to-go cups and shampoo bottles in favor of cute, reusable travel mugs and shampoo bars. 

Don’t let getting down with the red-white-and-blue at holiday parties stop you from kicking your plastics habit! Here are some ways to go plastic-free (or reduced-plastic) on your holiday:

1) If you’re traveling, BYOR (bring your own reusables). If you, like so many, are the ultimate shopper and don’t have a to-go dinnerware kit already but it’s too late to order online, you can purchase almost everything you could need in portable sizes anywhere that camping supplies are sold. If you’re not so big on shopping, bring one of those Tupperware containers that you got from your grandmother that will still be around and in use by your own grandkids (you know what I’m talking about). Throw your container, utensils, and a cup into a bag - you’re all set! 

📸: Dianne Peterson,  Our Children Our Earth

📸: Dianne Peterson, Our Children Our Earth

2) If you’re hosting, offer reusables. You can ask people to scrape and rinse their own plates, cutting down on your cleanup later: I’m sure if Emily Post had known about our plastic crisis, she’d support this. If you don’t have enough reusables, encourage people to bring their own (see #1), buy paper/compostable products, and put out separate receptacles for refuse and composting. It’ll cut down on the cost of buying disposables if you ask people to keep their plate as long as possible, too. 

3) Look for plastic-free or reduced-plastic drink options. Drinks like water and lemonade are easy to serve in Pinterest-worthy coolers - don’t waste your money on bottled water. Pop/soda/sodapop is available in recyclable aluminum cans, both 8oz and 12oz sizes - grab the 8oz if you typically pick up a lot of half-full pop cans at the end of the party. 

4) Go for glass. Yes, that craft brewery may have great brews, but there may also be plastic on their aluminum cans! Cans are often wrapped in plastic shrink-wrap because smaller breweries order their cans in bulk but don’t need too many of one particular variety. Investing in a reusable growler can often save you money when you return to get refills - always a good option - and single-serve glass bottles can be recycled at most local recycling facilities. (Glass, unlike plastic, can be recycled repeatedly and still retain its integrity.) 

The plastic shrink wrap is particularly noticeable on the black can. Can you see it?  If you can’t do cans right, wine, keep to glass.  📸: Sarah Martik

The plastic shrink wrap is particularly noticeable on the black can. Can you see it?

If you can’t do cans right, wine, keep to glass.

📸: Sarah Martik


5) Decorate responsibly. Do you really need the plastic table confetti? Will anyone notice the plastic firework cupcake picks? Why go with a frilly plastic wreath that you’ll toss at the end of the day when you can get crafty and make one to use every year? There are plenty of ways to have a cute party without the plastic! 

6) No styrofoam. Your fork pokes through styrofoam plates, and styrofoam coolers don’t work, anyway. If your only option is single-use plastic disposables, for the love of all things frugal and environmentally-friendly, don’t go with styrofoam. 

As you’re declaring personal freedom from plastic, don’t forget that people won’t join in your revolution (like the French did for the colonies) if you don’t tell them about it! People are going to notice if you’re using bamboo utensils: a simple “I’m doing what I can to eliminate unnecessary plastic in my life,” is a great way to open a dialogue. If you want to be like the Marquis de Lafayette and turn the political tide in favor of Independence, consider moving beyond personal changes. Advocate at all levels of government, and add your voice to the movement to #BreakFreeFromPlastic













CCJ Organizer Attends Frontline Oil and Gas Summit led by Indigenous Leaders

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The Frontline Oil and Gas Summit took place May 16th through the 18th in Ponca City, Oklahoma. The conference was held in the epicenter of oil and gas development in the battleground state of Oklahoma, only miles from ConocoPhillips 66 massive refinery, and surrounded by fracking operations as far as the eye could see. The conference was led by an Indigenous Ponca Nation elder, Casey Camp-Horinek.

The summit honored the idea that “Environmental Justice means always standing with frontline communities most impacted—and recognizing that the center of the storm is often where innovation and courage meet to propel our movements forward.  We neglect organizing in “sacrifice communities” to the detriment of our movement for meaningful change.”

Casey is a tribal leader within the Ponca Nation, in addition to a movement leader for environmental justice across the entire world. The conference welcomed 160 organizers and activists, 75% of which were living on the frontlines of oil and gas development, including CCJ Organizer Heaven Sensky. Participants spent three days sharing their personal stories with one another and building solidarity across oil and gas frontlines all across the United States, including Alaska. Over the sharing of meals and traditional Ponca ceremonies, participants gained immense power by coming together in support of one another’s work across their widespread places of home.

Casey brought together her immediate and extended family to provide meals and comfort for the guests of the Ponca Nation, who got to share much needed joy from several of her grandchildren as they shared blessed water and laughter with all in attendance.

On the last day of the conference, the Ponca Nation led the summit in a march past the ConocoPhillips 66 refinery to a billboard newly erected by the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) foundation. The billboard is part of a larger effort to improve policy and increase awareness around the staggering epidemic that is the murder and trafficking of indigenous women across the United States. The MMIW works in Ponca specifically because the presence of work “man camps” in places of high oil and gas activity is a direct threat to the safety and well being of indigenous women.

As the march passed the refinery, Casey’s son, Mikasi, shared with all of those who participated that their community is ravaged with childhood cancers and increased asthma. Given its closeness to the refinery, specifically within 12 miles, the soil on their entire reservation is legally considered contaminated and unsafe to farm and eat from.

What is happening to the native Ponca Nation of Oklahoma as a result of oil and gas development resonates directly with the multifaceted issues surrounding oil and gas development  in the coalfields of Southwestern Pennsylvania.

For more information about the conference, visit https://frontlineoilandgas.org

To learn how to support the Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women Organization, visit https://mmiwusa.org

For any questions or to learn more about supporting others in their fight to protect their communities, you can email Heaven at heaven@coalfieldjustice.org



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.


In Marianna: What Can You Do When Fracking Is Your Neighbor?

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On Thursday, February 7th, a community meeting was held in the Marianna Volunteer Fire Hall titled “What Can You Do When Fracking is Your Neighbor?”. The meeting was hosted by a series of organizations, some local; some from farther away, including The Environmental Health Project, Earthworks, The Environmental Integrity Project, and the Clean Air Council.

The Borough of Marianna is a small rural community located in the southeastern region of Washington County, Pennsylvania. Washington County has the most fracked wells in the state of Pennsylvania, with 1,146 currently. According to FracTracker, there are presently no wells drilled within the borders of Marianna; however, fracking development surrounds the rural community and will be moving within the borough soon enough.

The sponsoring organizations gave several different presentations, all of which demonstrated different ways residents can engage and preempt potential hazards to their health and land as a result of fracking development occurring nearby. As stated earlier, fracking has been prevalent in the surrounding community for quite some time now and will be on the increase in the coming years.

Sarah Rankin, with The Environmental Health Project, provided a plethora of information for community members. The organization’s purpose is to collect data from individuals living near well sites regarding health impacts and changes due to fracking in their area. To do so, community members who are impacted can answer a health assessment questionnaire available here, with an opportunity to control “how and with whom [their] information is shared.” The organization uses this data to consult with individuals about ways they can mitigate health impacts based on their symptoms. They also use collected data to produce and spread information to educate people about protecting the health of the communities affected in the region. In addition, they provide their research findings to health care providers and public officials who are making decisions around fracking in the region. Residents living within a 3-mile radius of a fracking operation can request an air or water monitor from EHP to be used in their home free of cost. EHP monitors the air and water quality within the homes of residents and uses the data to mitigate any health impacts of those individuals and/or to present information to the DEP to request mitigation. EHP also suggests that, particularly for individuals with private water supplies (i.e., a well or spring), community members regularly monitor their water for conductivity based on the locality’s standards for water consumed.

According to EHP,  “Research is mounting on the emissions from Unconventional Oil and Gas Development (UOGD) at all stages and on health effects experienced by nearby residents. Many of the toxic chemicals that have been found in air and water samples around UOGD operations have well known adverse health effects. For example, benzene is a known carcinogen (cancer-causing), toluene is a neurotoxin, and hydrogen sulfide irritates the lungs and can cause asthma. Noise and light pollution is associated with hearing loss, sleeplessness, and other health issues. Prolonged stress can also lead to significant health problems like heart disease, cancer, and depression..”  

The Environmental Health Project also offered information regarding the health of workers in the industry, citing that “People who work in the unconventional oil and gas development (UOGD, commonly called “fracking”) industry have an annual fatality rate of 27.5 per 100,000, which is more than seven times higher than the rate for all US workers.” Workers are regularly exposed to wastewater, silica, diesel, lead and various other chemicals. EHP suggests that workers visit their website to learn more about their rights as employees, and/or discuss their experience with an EHP representative.

Earthworks is a national organization that conducts research across communities affected by fracking development. According to Leannn Leiter, Earthworks uses a FLIR GF320, a camera used across the industry to identify emissions, leaks, and “events that occur during routine oil and gas operations, or because of faulty equipment, accidents, and intentional releases by operators.” Earthworks has invested a lot of resources to building out their FLIR operation, which can be utilized by communities seeking reliable, visual data to support their efforts to protect themselves and others from harmful emissions. The camera displays the release of hydrocarbons, a compound of hydrogen and carbon, such as any of those which are the chief components of petroleum and natural gas, not just heat. This is useful for community members because the organization uses this technology to respond to the concerns of local people. Earthworks encourages residents to pay attention to odors, changes in vegetation and wildlife near their homes, changes in the sounds coming from facilities as well as changes in operation, as these are examples of potential increases in emissions. Much of what Earthworks uncovers is due to faulty equipment and/or increased emissions as a result of something on a site that can be fixed. You can report these concerns to Earthworks at 202-887-1872, extension 130, and you  can learn more about the work Earthworks is doing in our region by checking out their publication “Country living, dirty air,”  which includes research from Washington County.

Lisa Graves-Marcucci, with the Environmental Integrity Project, explored the prevalence of piecemeal permitting in the oil and gas industry whereby original permits for minor emissions are distributed in a series. These minor emissions permits are then later amended to actually include much greater emissions levels. This denies right-to-know opportunities for the community, public notices, and an actual understanding of the impacts of an entire operation. The organization also presented on issues of zoning in our region: given that much of rural Pennsylvania is not zoned, major industrial sites are popping up legally in agricultural communities.

To close out the meeting, Lois Bjornson described the work of the Clean Air Council and projected a number of photographs of the various impacts of hydrofracking, including the wells and pipelines associated with it.   

As a CCJ Community Organizer, it was pleasing to see a turnout of 15-20 people in the space. I look forward to engaging more with rural communities like Marianna, where community members are facing the direct impacts of the oil and gas industry. I am interested in pursuing more meetings that look like the one held at the Marianna Volunteer Fire Department and having the opportunity to engage in conversations with more rural community members.

Tour Reflection by Alexandra Cheek

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Alex is a geology student at California University of Pennsylvania who is interning with The Center for the spring semester. Last week, she went on CCJ’s “Fracking and the Coalfields” tour with Executive Director Veronica Coptis. Below are her reflections on the experience.

An Afternoon in the Coalfields

We were standing in Enon Cemetery on a snowy, overcast morning. There amongst the gravestones and coal, I listened to Veronica tell the story of the Bailey Mine Complex that loomed over us with its twinkling lights and industrial clatter. As the largest underground mining operation in North America, the Pennsylvania Mining Complex (Bailey, Harvey and Enlow Fork) longwall mining operation is just about the size of Manhattan, but underfoot. We discussed “clean coal”, which, spoiler alert, doesn’t exist, and how intertwined southwestern PA’s people and politics are with the coal industry.

Over the course of the afternoon, we navigated through Greene and Washington counties, following well traffic all over rural southwestern Pennsylvania. Looking out the window were signs that directed the different energy corporations down the winding, crumbling, nearly single lane country roads to their respective well pads. If you weren’t in the direct path of a brine or water truck though, you could look in almost any direction and see the familiar shape of a drilling rig in the distance. We visited valley fills with their earthen dams holding back surface mining refuse, on the hillsides stark gaps in the trees where pipelines were constructed. I can’t imagine that most of the residents within these counties could have envisioned the long term effects that mining or the shale gas boom would have on the infrastructure, air quality or the landscape in their towns, let alone the not too distant future environmental impacts.

As a geology student, resource extraction and the positive and negative impacts associated with them is something that’s discussed pretty regularly, though it’s not quite the same as visiting an area that has truly been affected by it. As we hit one of our last stops, Ryerson Station State Park, Veronica talked about the emotional ties that she and many others in the area have with the park and the grief they experienced after the loss of Duke Lake. If you’re not familiar with the story of Duke Lake, in 2004 the 62-acre lake needed an emergency drawdown after cracks occurred in the dam as a result of subsidence from longwall mining operations. Duke Lake had been a hub of activity for many residents who enjoyed fishing there during the summer.

After the tour, I tried to imagine what it would be like to look out my window or drive down the road and every day encounter all of these impacts and not feel totally despondent. Or perhaps even worse, not realize the full impact on my health or environment because it’s all I’ve ever known. It’s not by chance that this type of development occurs here, and the fact that this area is abundant in resources isn’t the only reason. The areas where extraction is occurring most are often areas of poverty, without access to educational resources to make the decisions at hand or the legal resources/support to make them aware of their rights or defend them when necessary. Going on the tour gave me a personal insight to the issues that are the norm in Washington and Greene County. If you have the opportunity to chat with a CCJ team member or request a tour, I would strongly recommend doing so.


Tour Reflection from Mimi Wahid

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Mimi Wahid is an intern from MIT working with The Center for the month of January. Last week, she went on CCJ’s “Fracking and the Coalfields” tour with Executive Director Veronica Coptis. Below are her reflections on the experience.

Coalfields Tour Reflection: What does it mean to be undermined?

As an intern at the Center for Coalfield Justice, I’ve heard a lot about undermining these past few weeks. I’ve been told about what happens when creeks and streams are undermined: sometimes the creekbed fractures, the water drains, the groundwater systems are affected. Something geologically permanent can disappear overnight. I’ve seen images and videos about what happens when a building is undermined: the foundation cracks, walls can shift, properties are abandoned. Something formerly sturdy can become unsafe. I’ve started to understand what the economic and environmental impacts of undermining—meaning, mining underneath structures and water sources—are. But on the tour of the coalfields I took last week, I saw what it looks like when an entire community is undermined: when a community’s power is weakened, when their strength is removed from underneath them like a seam of profit-producing coal, when respect, trust, and security are piped away like wet natural gas.

I rode in the front seat of Veronica’s car and listened as she told stories of the region. As we drove through Greene County, Veronica pointed to her right at a valley she used to play in with her siblings. She told us about how, in what felt like an overnight transformation, her favorite place to recreate on turned into a coal refuse disposal area. Sudden and dramatic transformations of land were present all throughout the tour. New roads cut through previously forested hillsides to accommodate heavy truck traffic. Valleys transformed into toxic hills as they were filled in with coal refuse. Our tour began at the Bailey Mine Complex coal preparation plant, where our attention was directed to the massive silos that store coal. Across the horizon, Veronica gestured towards two fracking well pads that, apparently, didn’t exist a few years ago. She explained that, before the wells were built, she used to point out this view as an example of the beautiful, undisturbed forests that CCJ fights to protect. In just a few years, the tour stop transformed from a message of hope to an example of the presence and power of the extraction industry.

While on the tour, I tried to imagine what it would feel like to watch the landscape around me transform; to see strips of trees clearcut to make way for pipelines, valleys filled with toxic refuse, and skies cluttered with towering cranes. I wondered how this might affect my sense of security in my home and on my land. I imagined that it would be difficult to feel powerful if I couldn’t predict or influence the changes in the air I breathe, the earth beneath my home, the water sources I drink from. On the tour, Veronica told us about the various resources, like coal and natural gas, that are extracted from Washington and Greene counties. But the tour also made me wonder about the intangible things that have been extracted: it seemed as though residents’ rights to clean water, sense of security on their land, and confidence in the region’s economic future had been removed as well. It made me wonder if there even exists a fair compensation for extraction of this scale and kind.

Going on CCJ’s “Fracking and the Coalfields” tour made me think more critically about what it means to be undermined. The tour showed me the effects of longwall mine activity through visible changes, like the empty bed of Duke Lake and the boarded up farmhouses that lined our drive. But it also showed me examples of undermining in another sense: places where the extraction industry has subverted, weakened, and removed power from residents. It reminded me of the importance of building and retaining power in communities affected by extraction. And it gave me deep respect for those with the strength to envision a different, more just, future for the coalfields.


Petrochemical Projects Given Green Light over Holiday Break

A drone’s eye view of the Mark West facility in Houston, PA, where the PA leg of the Falcon pipeline will begin.

A drone’s eye view of the Mark West facility in Houston, PA, where the PA leg of the Falcon pipeline will begin.

The PA Department of Environmental Protection issued water permits (Chapters 102 and 105) for the PA leg of the Falcon Pipeline to be built, run, and operated by Shell. This pipeline will carry ethane, a natural gas liquid, from Houston, PA’s MarkWest facility to the Ethane Cracker Plant in Beaver County. Concerned residents from Washington, Allegheny, and Beaver Counties - all of which will be impacted by the Falcon - raised concerns at a series of public hearings hosted by the DEP in early 2018. In its permit decision, the DEP issued responses to these concerns.

Slightly west of us, the OH Environmental Protection Agency issued the air permit for the PTT Global Chemicals Cracker Plant to be built in Shadyside, OH. Like the plant in Beaver County, PA, this cracker plant will take ethane and use heat to crack the molecules into ethylene and polyethylene, which is used to make plastics. Because of its location so close to the Ohio/West Virginia border, residents of both states attended the public hearing to express their concerns with the plant. The Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity, Earthworks, and Freshwater Accountability Project have joined together to challenge the permit.

While the content of both permits is troubling, the manner in which they were issued was equally concerning. Agencies have a tendency to issue hot-button permits when they think people aren’t watching: The PTTGC permit was issued on December 21, and the Falcon permits were issued on December 20, 2018. This move is akin to the Trump administration’s release of a dire climate report on Black Friday - it is an obvious attempt to ensure that the people most concerned about an issue are distracted and unable to rally the public. This is cowardice in its most undemocratic form. If decision-makers are truly making decisions that are lawful and viewed to be what’s best for the people they serve, why the secrecy and circumvention of public input?

If these projects and the backroom dealings that allow them to move forward concern you, sign up here to join a growing coalition of individuals and organizations fighting to put people over petro. We need your voice in the fight.


EJ Groups Gather to Discuss Breaking Free From Plastics

CCJ attended a gathering in Pasadena, TX from November 5-7 to meet with other environmental justice groups working to fight against petrochemical expansions and buildouts. Our Campaign Manager, Sarah, attended the gathering, which brought together people from across the country, from the Gulf South to the West Coast.

CCJ previously attended a Break Free From Plastics gathering in Houston, but the consensus from that meeting was that environmental justice groups were not proportionally represented in the space, so groups like GAIA and TEJAS with support from Earthworks arranged this meeting. Groups like Portand Citizens United, 5 Gyres, and Louisiana Environmental Action Network attended the EJ gathering. Break Free From Plastics is a global coalition that raises awareness of plastics pollution and the connection between each stage of the plastics production process, from fracking to ocean dumping.

One theme that was constant throughout this gathering was that the same few players - Exxon, Shell, Formosa, etc - are seeking to rapidly expand. More than $200 billion in investments by 2025 will spur more than 300 new or expanded projects within the U.S. Almost all of these projects, though, are designed to support exports of natural gas liquids (NGLs) used for the production of plastics.

These investments, however, do not come without an Achilles heel. Awareness is growing around the climate crisis, and countries, cities, and corporations around the world are reconsidering their use of single-use plastics and of fossil-fuel-based plastics in general. Lego, for example, is testing to find recyclable and plant-based alternatives for its colorful blocks by 2030 and is changing its business practices to eliminate contributing to landfills by 2025 by eliminating the little plastic bags within its boxes. Industry consultants McKinsey & Company theorize that modest improvements in recycling and more efficiency in packaging will result in a decreased 2.3 million barrels per day of hydrocarbons, whether from oil or gas, being used in the petrochemical industry. Single-use plastic bans and recycling requirements in the European Union are crucial to ensuring that those modest targets are hit and provide leverage for them to be exceeded. While recycling is not a true “fix” to the plastics problem, the organizing efforts of groups to address the consequences of plastic are clearly catching on.


What can you do to help stop the petrochemical buildout in Appalachia and stand in solidarity with those groups battling it out in Texas and Louisiana? Join our petrochemical mailing list (different from our CCJ mailing list) to take action, or donate!

Demonstrations Impact Shale Insight Conference

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Concerned residents from throughout the Appalachian region gathered in Pittsburgh on Tuesday, October 23 and Wednesday, October 24 for two connected actions designed to counter the Shale Insight Conference.

Conference attendees arrived at Howl at the Moon, a Pittsburgh dueling piano bar, to a red carpet entrance and eight petrochemical zombies, each dressed up and personified a different problematic element of the petrochemical industry. One zombie, for example, carried a fishing pole that had fished a Coke bottle out of the water - a reference to the fact that in a recent Break Free From Plastics brand audit, Coke is 2018’s #1 polluter of beaches in the world. Another wore a necklace of K-cups around her neck, which speaks to the fact that our “reliance” on single-use plastics is an industry-conditioned initiative.

The next morning, the major day of action began at Point State Park with a native-led water ceremony. Participants in the ceremony bought water from upstream of their homes to be blessed, and the water was then put back. Following the ceremony, participants walked along Liberty Avenue, stopping at the EQT building so that a member of the SayNo2EQT Campaign could speak to the company’s clear efforts to buy goodwill within communities. The group continued on to the Three Rivers Heritage Trail outside of the David L. Lawrence Convention Center for a rally, which highlighted indigenous land rights and protecting water for all people from the petrochemical buildout plans.

CCJ is excited to have participated in the planning for these actions, and honored to have our communities invited into the native communities’ sacred ceremony on Wednesday morning. The themes that all speakers explored - of leading with love, of being dedicated to protecting our water and air, and of joining together to support each other in struggle - were important to hear. We look forward to continuing to work with our partners, to connect with new allies, and to doing work that protects our region across a range of issues.

A petrochemical zombie walks Penn Ave. in downtown Pittsburgh. Photo: Sarah Martik

A petrochemical zombie walks Penn Ave. in downtown Pittsburgh. Photo: Sarah Martik

Organizers Build Relationship and Trust at Grassroots Organizing Summit

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CCJ recently hosted the Grassroots Organizing Summit with Mountain Watershed Association in Mount Pleasant, PA. Community organizers, frontline community members from the tri-state region attended along with allies in the gulf coast and native communities resisting fossil fuels for many years. The weekend was spent learning and growing alongside other Grassroots Organizers from around the region.  We built relationships, trust, and learned the importance of grounding our strategies in racial justice through a workshop from the Catalyst Project. The Catalyst Project helps to build powerful multiracial movements that can win collective liberation.  

This gathering was crucial in these racially-charged times in which we live and work.  It is important to recognize our privileges and ensure we are inclusive of everyone's lived experiences  From an economic workshop, we learned that the owning and professional classes, which hold 89% of the wealth in the United States, are predominately white. While the poor and working class have the highest amount of people of color there are also many white folks too and more people than the wealthier classes who are controlling our government and economy. By working together across race, we have the power to redefine our economy, communities, and democracy.

Hopefully, through dedication, awareness and advocacy we can grow and change the dynamic between white people and people of color.  We all live under the same stars and stripes, and they shouldn’t mean different things to different people. This gathering is the first of many we will need to have to shift our economy away from fossil fuels and plastics to one where all people are respected and have the ability to thrive.