Economic Justice

CCJ is at the Jacktown Fair all this week!

CCJ Community Organizer Heaven Sensky

CCJ Community Organizer Heaven Sensky

In an effort to reach as many people as possible to discuss Economic Justice for Greene County, The Center for Coalfield Justice will be present at both fairs in the county as well as Rain Day.

The Legendary Jacktown Fair kicked off this past Tuesday, July 16th in Wind Ridge, Pennsylvania. Attendance to the fair is free, and folks from near and far come to experience the small town tradition that is the Jacktown Fair. That said, CCJ has been participating in the fair with a tabling space in one of several buildings onsite. 

Fair attendees are prompted with one question from CCJ- "What is your hope for Greene County?" CCJ's booth features a trifold board displaying the plethora of "hopes" folks have for their community. In conversing about our hopes for Greene, we have been discussing the 10 year Comprehensive Planning Process that the County Commissioners are currently presiding over. We have been informing as many people as possible that the public comment period should be opening over the course of the next week, and that their hopes for Greene are valid... and worth sharing. 

We are also having fun engaging folks at the fair with our original Kerplunk game, where participants play each other in "holding up the pillars of their community" through a series of scenarios that are on par with the challenges of living in a community that teeters on the impacts of the fossil fuel industry. You could win a free CCJ T-shirt or a $25 gift card! 

The people at Jacktown have been kind and engaged in the work that we are doing, and we are eager to make ourselves available to the community beyond economic justice, including how we may be able to help individual community members to navigate the effects of the fossil fuel industry in their personal lives. 

We encourage YOU to stop by the Jacktown Fair to see us from today through Saturday, July 20th. You won't regret it- and afterall.. "You can't die happy ‘til you've been" to the Jacktown Fair!

For more information about CCJ’s Economic Justice Campaign, to make suggestions, or for volunteer opportunities, contact Heaven Lee Sensky at heaven@coalfieldjustice.org or 724-229-3550 Ext. 103.


On the Road to Improving Our Economy

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The Center for Coalfield Justice launched an extensive Economic Justice Campaign at the beginning of May 2019. The campaign kicked off with a month-long on-foot door knocking canvass across Greene County. We knocked 1,374 doors and had 212 conversations with folks. The canvass was successful in helping spread the word to encourage the community to join us at two Economic Workshops in both Waynesburg and Carmichaels. In addition, we engaged with folks at their doors and over the phone around their experiences in Greene County and their ideas for the future. 

The workshops were a big success. Attendees forged an original conversation, with multiple points of view, in a civilized and productive manner. Discussions included hopes for the County’s future, the history of the county, the lives and experiences of attendees, and a deep dive into the declining mineral value tax revenue, made possible by of our research partnership with MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology). 

Due to positive feedback and a drive in the community for continued engagement around this issue, CCJ is planning to hold additional meetings to dive deeper and continue facilitating and uplifting civilized discourse around conversations concerning the future of Greene County. We are looking forward to encouraging residents to engage in active involvement and participation in forging the County’s economic future where everyone has access to good paying jobs. 

As the County Commissioners embark on creating Greene County’s 10-year Comprehensive Plan, it is imperative that the public has transparent access to not only the process but the content of this plan. That being said, the Comprehensive Plan public comment period should open in mid-July and CCJ is working to inform and educate the public on how to make comments and have their voices heard.  

CCJ will be facilitating and implementing a questionnaire/survey about our local economic needs for all candidates running for Greene County Commissioner. With the help of volunteers across the community (that means YOU!), we want you all to help us draft this questionnaire to candidates with your questions. CCJ will be at the Jacktown Fair, Rain Day, the Greene County Fair, and the Washington County Fair to discuss and receive feedback around Greene County’s current economic opportunities and what needs to improve for everyone to thrive in the community. We will be receiving comments and ideas for our candidate survey and we will be helping folks to navigate the Comprehensive Plan public comment process. Look for us in the tabling sections of the fairs- we would love to hear from you! 

For more information about CCJ’s Economic Justice Campaign, to make suggestions, volunteer, or if you have any ideas about research for us to work on through our partnership with MIT, contact Heaven Lee Sensky at heaven@coalfieldjustice.org or 724-229-3550 Ext. 103.

CCJ and allies plan trip to D.C. to lobby for black lung benefits for coal miners

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The Center for Coalfield Justice along with the Alliance for Appalachia is planning a trip to Washington D.C. to talk with lawmakers about black lung benefits for coal miners.  We demand that these important benefits be secured. Here is a more in-depth look at the issues surrounding the Black Lung Trust Fund.

The trip will take place from July 22-24. Miners living with black lung have decided to take their issue to Washington, DC. A coalition of groups led by several local Black Lung Associations are working to support a large contingent to travel to Washington DC for a day of action. 

We expect to fill 1-3 charter buses to bring 80 or more miners and their loved ones from across Appalachia to take this issue directly to Congress. 

The goal of this trip is to pressure Congress to acknowledge and address the Black Lung epidemic and to restore the black lung excise tax so that the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund, which provides black lung benefits to coal miners and their surviving dependents in cases where the miner’s employer has gone bankrupt, can remain solvent in the face of unprecedented need.

Miners living with black lung, their families, their doctors, their neighbors and allies have been reaching out to legislators for over a year. We have delivered thousands of petitions, letters, and postcards. Extensive government reports and investigative journalism have been published to expose the severity of this issue. Miners have sat down and politely explained that they are dying, and that this epidemic is growing worse every day. And yet, Congress has done nothing.  

If you are concerned, please use your voice to help with this cause.  

If you would like to join or have any questions or comments please contact Nick Hood at nick@coalfieldjustice.org or 724-229-3550 ext. 104.  

In addition, right now the Senate Finance Committee is currently examining longer term solutions to temporary tax policy.  The Health Tax Task Force, established by the Committee and which both Senator Toomey and Senator Casey sit on, is looking at the black lung excise tax rate that supports the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund. This is an opportunity for stakeholders to make our case for a long-term extension of the tax rate that Congress allowed to lapse at the end of 2018.  In addition, we have heard that the coal industry is lobbying the Task Force aggressively to not extend the tax rate. 

Please send this letter to our Senators today advocating to extend the tax rate and support coal miners suffering from black lung.



Greene County’s Economy Must Work for Everyone

Photo of people at Washington, PA Peoples Climate, Jobs, and Justice March.

Photo of people at Washington, PA Peoples Climate, Jobs, and Justice March.

It is clear that our economy and communities are changing in Greene County. At the Center for Coalfield Justice, we acknowledge that the only way these changes will include everyone is if we are all working together. As a result, CCJ has launched a canvass in Waynesburg and Carmichaels, where we are going door to door in these two towns to talk to as many residents as we can about what they need to thrive in Greene County in the next 5-10 years. Do people need access to better-paying jobs? Do we need more investment in our children’s education? Are there adequate protections for our air, water, and public health?

The past has shown that we cannot always count on elected officials to ensure that proposed solutions address people’s needs. Through our launching of this campaign, we plan to build an avenue for everyone to participate in visioning our economic future. We believe that this will help ensure that our County Commissioners, State, and Federal Legislators know what our needs are and will allow us to better hold them accountable.

In addition to the canvass, we are hosting community conversations about what we need to support our families in the coming years. Join us for one of three workshops across the county to provide input on what types of jobs we need and how we can all act together to improve our communities. Here is the workshop schedule:

  • June 11th 6:30-8:30 in Waynesburg at the Corner Cupboard Food Bank (881 Rolling Meadows Rd, Waynesburg, PA)

  • June 12th 6:30-8:30 in Wind Ridge at the Richhill Firehall (120 Ferrell Ave, Wind Ridge, PA)

  • June 13th 6:30-8:30 in Carmichaels at the American Legion (205 E George Street, Carmichaels, PA)

During these conversations, we hope people will share their experience of living in Greene County, how they view the current local economy and access to jobs, and discuss what people need to support their families and thrive in our area. If you have any questions please call our office at 724-229-3550 or email Heaven at heaven@coalfieldjustice.org

Dinner will be served at the meetings starting at 6:00 PM and the program will start at 6:30 PM. There is space for 25 people at each workshop but if there is more interest than we have space, we will host additional meetings. We can provide childcare, travel support, and meet other access needs by request. Please note any needs in the registration form:

In addition, CCJ has been working with the Massachusetts Institute for Technology to research the status of our economy in relation to fossil fuel extraction. We have also worked with FracTracker to map the energy company-owned land in Greene County and will be publishing these results soon.

The Pennsylvania Solar Congress

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The Pennsylvania Solar Congress took place on Sunday, February 24th 2019 in Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania. CCJ staff attended the event to help support solar expansion and to learn more about the industry. The event was hosted by Solar United Neighbors at the Community Forge building, a public community space dedicated to create inclusive opportunities for community members. Solar United Neighbors is a tri-state non-profit organization that advocates for access to solar power for individuals. The organization describes themselves as “..a community of people building a new energy system with rooftop solar at the cornerstone. We help people go solar, join together, and fight for their energy rights.”The Pennsylvania chapter of Solar United Neighbors hosted the state-wide congress in February to discuss pressing issues in solar power policy, ways in which individuals can obtain solar power, and ways for attendees to get involved in grassroots organizing for solar growth going forward. The event also offered opportunities for attendees to view a showcase of some electric vehicles, and a presentation on Driving Electric. In addition, the event was sponsored by the solar installer EIS, and Tupelo Honey Teas, who provided tea and food prepared with solar energy.

The event was widely attended, with several people in the space having traveled from the eastern side of the state. Attendees learned the basics of how solar works on a home or small business, and the incentives that are available to Pennsylvanians . This included information about a 30% federal tax credit available before the end of 2019. According to Solar United Neighbors, homeowners can install solar panels for under $8,000 if they can benefit from a tax credit of that magnitude, and by participating in a solar co-op. The event also featured a panel of homeowners, all of whom have installed solar panels on their homes. The panel was able to answer a variety of questions from attendees, such as how solar panels impact roofs, and how cost savings compare across different heating systems and the square footage of homes. . Overall, a key theme of the Pennsylvania Solar Congress was to support PA House bill 531, addressing community solar access in Pennsylvania. Solar United Neighbors explains community solar on their website, saying that it “offers the benefit of solar to those who can’t, or prefer not to, install solar panels on their homes. These projects enable individuals, businesses, or organizations to purchase or lease a “share” in a community solar project. If you join a community solar project, you receive a credit on your electric bill each month for the energy produced by your share.” At this time, community solar is outlawed in the state of Pennsylvania. Currently, the organization is working to expand solar co-op opportunities into Washington and Greene counties. A solar co-op, in this case, is an organized group of buyers who pursue installation of solar panels in one order, at a bulk price.

To learn more about the work Solar United Neighbors is doing to expand solar power in our region, click here.

In addition, The Center for Coalfield Justice and Solar United Neighbors will be holding a Solar Festival in Greene County on September 28th, so please be sure to save the date!


Why the coalfields need a Green New Deal

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This week, the Office of Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez released the “Green New Deal Resolution.” The resolution outlines the goals, motivations, and responsibilities of the Green New Deal: a call for a collective effort to respond to climate change in a way that takes into account the economic, environmental, and social justice implications of changing climate conditions.

“A bold vision is desperately needed in our current climate and economic crisis. It is critical that as the resolution turns into policy, we listen to workers and frontline community members to drive the solutions” - Veronica Coptis, Center for Coalfield Justice Executive Director

Living in the coalfields, we all know that a plan to fight climate change won’t work unless it takes into account the needs of those most at risk - those who live with the everyday impact of pollution, environmental degradation, or resource extraction. We live in a place where our environmental concerns are inseparable from our economic concerns. The Green New Deal resolution has evolved over time to be more inclusive of communities like ours - and we support its language about fair transitions for our workers, diversifying our economy, and giving power to frontline communities.

We want to draw attention to a few of the Green New Deal’s resolutions and goals that make us particularly hopeful about the potential of this. We are excited to envision a future where our government is accountable to these principles.

The resolution calls for, with “transparent and inclusive consultation, collaboration, and partnership with frontline communities,” a government-launched mobilization to “achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions through a fair and just transition for all communities and workers.” We are particularly engaged by the aim of a just transition. We believe that a fair economic transition is possible for our region’s future - and with national support for our transition this future becomes even more possible. The resolution explains what this transition would require:

“And be it further resolved, that to achieve the Green New Deal goals, a Green New Deal will require… directing investments to spur economic development, as well as deepen and diversify industry in local and regional economies and build wealth and community ownership, prioritizing high-quality job creation and economic, social, and environmental benefits in frontline communities and any communities, such as those reliant on greenhouse-gas intensive industries, that may otherwise struggle with the transition”

For those of us living on the frontlines of fossil fuel extraction, climate/environmental justice is inseparable from economic justice. If we consider energy, we must also consider the people involved in and affected by the energy industry; if we want to build resilience to environmental change, we must also build a diverse and resilient economy. The New Green Deal strives to address both climate change and economic inequality. Through this, it gives our community hope for a better future.

Contact us if you want to discuss this in more detail.


Greene County is Updating Comprehensive Plan

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Greene County’s current comprehensive plan will expire in 2020 and the county is in the process of updating it’s comprehensive plan. A Comprehensive plan serves as a document designed to guide the future actions of a community. It presents a vision for the future, with long-range goals and objectives for all activity that affect the local government. Comprehensive plans are critical documents for local government to access funding sources to support the vision of the region.

The county is currently in the planning process and an advisory committee of the Greene County Planning Commission is working to draft the new comprehensive plan. The 50 member advisory committee has been meeting since March to develop the plan that will help define what the county hopes to accomplish over the next 10 years in terms of community and economic development.

The advisory team is hosting a series of open house-type public meetings to share about the process and get input from residents on what should be included in the draft plan. This is your opportunity early in the process to share whether you are concerned about an increase in development in your rural community, a need to have increased access to broadband and cell service, diversifying employment opportunities, or any other visions, hopes you want to see the county work towards.

The public meetings are scheduled as follows:

Tuesday, September 18th from 4 PM to 7 PM

Jefferson Fire Hall

1483 Jefferson Rd

Jefferson, PA 15344

Wednesday, September 19th from 4 PM to 7 PM

Center Township Fire Hall

RR 21 Box 397

Rogersville, PA 15359

Thursday, September 20th from 4 PM to 7 PM

Carmichaels Fire hall

420 W George St

Carmichaels, PA 15320

Tuesday, September 25th from 4 PM to 7 PM

Mon View Park Roller Rink

377 Sr2014

Greensboro, PA 15338

Thursday, September 27th from 4 PM to 7 PM

Franklin Township Municipal Building

568 Rolling Meadows Rd

Waynesburg, PA 15370


This is the beginning of the process to get public input on the comprehensive plan and once the draft plan is complete the county will notice a 45 day public period and potentially a public hearing. If you need assistance getting to any of these meetings or want to make sure concerns are raised in your absence please contact Veronica at veronica@coalfieldjustice.org or call 724-229-3550. CCJ will have a team member at all meetings.

If you want more information on the comprehensive planning process you can contact James Protin Jr with Mackin Engineering Company at jprotin@mackinengineering.com.


Register for Washington PA People's Climate, Jobs, and Justice March

On September 8, thousands of rallies will be held in cities and towns around the globe to demand a world with clean air and energy, healthy, family-sustaining jobs, and thriving communities that work for all of us.

The Center for Coalfield Justice and Washington County United are bringing these issue home in Washington, PA to demand our local officials take action on economic, environmental, and social justice starting at 10 AM downtown in Washington and concluding with a cookout.

Private companies and corrupt politicians have been benefiting off our community's resources and labor for too long. We can have a living wage, sustainable jobs that do not treat working-class families and families of color as disposable, but we need the political will to get there. If you are tired of not having access to quality jobs, education, and a healthy environment join us in the streets to demand action!

We can change the national narrative that the coalfields, small towns, and rural communities are happy with the status quo. Together we can create the change needed in our community.

Register to attend the march and stand up for justice in southwestern Pennsylvania.

Want to help with outreach, making art, or speak at the event contact Nick at nick@coalfieldjustice.org.

Miners’ Benefits in Jeopardy if Congress Does Not Act

The Black Lung Disability Trust Fund has been around for about forty years, providing benefits to miners and, in some cases, to their surviving dependents to help them recover from the increasingly prevalent and powerful disease pneumoconiosis. “Black Lung Disease” was coined as a term because of the way the dust buildup inside the lungs can make them appear black. The Disability Fund has been in financial jeopardy for years, with expenditures consistently exceeding revenue, but the situation is about to become worse in 2019 when the excise tax that resources the Fund is set to decrease by 55% despite the fact that more than 25,000 people rely on its benefits as of 2017. Recently the cases of Black Lund have been increasing

Funding for the Fund comes from the Black Lung Benefits Revenue Act of 1977, which assesses a tax on operators per ton of coal mined. Not all miners are eligible for benefits: some operators cover expenses related to the disease, but others do not, and some operators are no longer is existence, leaving their former miners with bills to pay on their own. This is where the Fund kicks in. According to a report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO),”The current tax rates are $1.10 per ton of underground-mined coal and $0.55 per ton of surface-mined coal, up to 4.4 percent of the sales price. Therefore, if a ton of underground-mined coal is sold for less than $25, than the tax paid would be less than $1.10. For instance, if a ton of underground-mined coal sold for $20, than it would be taxed at 4.4 percent of the sales price, or $0.88” In some years, though, this income has covered less than 40% of the cost of the program, forcing it to borrow money from other funds, creating debt and resulting interest payments that take up even bigger chunks of its budget.

The same report by the GAO outlines various scenarios that would help maintain the Fund, ensuring that eligible miners who need its support are able to receive benefits. The proposal the Center for Coalfield Justice and our allies through the Alliance for Appalachia would support is an increase in the excise tax levied on mined coal by 25%. This increase would add $0.27 to the tax on underground-mined coal - literally spare change.

The Alliance for Appalachia is planning a trip to Washington DC in September to speak with senators and representatives from Kentucky to Pennsylvania, raising awareness and advocating for policies that would keep the Fund intact.


For more information on the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund or on the upcoming advocacy trip, please contact Sarah Martik, our Campaign Coordinator, at smartik@coalfieldjustice.org or 724-229-3550x.1.

Get Your Marching Shoes Ready!

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Save the Date for Washington, PA People’s Climate March on September 8th. We are hosting the march with Washington County United, increasing access for our communities to participate in a national day of action.  We will be rising for Climate, Jobs, and Justice and demanding that our elected officials are voting to protect our communities from private corporations’ greed.

If you live in Washington or Greene County, you are living on the front-lines of fossil fuel extraction and the climate debate.  It is time to challenge the national narrative and show that people from the coalfields want and deserve clean air, clean water, and healthy jobs.

It is exciting that Washington, PA will join others, from Miami to Minneapolis to Mendocino, on September 8th to demand climate action from our leaders!

We are looking for our members and supports to be involved in planning and outreach for this event, so please consider getting involved! This is a great opportunity for those of you who want to be more active in the work CCJ does, as well as for students who are looking for volunteer hours for school or college requirements. Want to get involved or  have questions or ideas to share? Please contact Nick at CCJ at nick@coalfieldjustice.org.