Environmental Justice

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.

Environmental Justice Public Participation Draft Leave Out Oil and Gas Permits

The DEP Office of Environmental Justice has released a draft Environmental Justice Public Participation Policy, under the guidance of the Environmental Justice Advisory Board and with input from the Environmental Justice Listening Sessions. The draft Environmental Justice Public Participation Policy is open for public comments until August 28, 2018. While there are some improvements to the policy document, it does not go far enough to adequately ensure environmental justice communities will be heard in the permitting process.

In particular, the draft policy still leaves oil and gas permits off the trigger list to kickstart increased public participation. This demand was raised at every Environmental Justice Listening Sessions and should be added to the new public participation policy. In addition, DEP should use language requiring the applicants to follow this policy rather than merely encouraging them to do so.

Sign this petition supporting CCJ comments and demanding stronger EJ Public Participation Policy.

Registration Open for Grassroots Organizing Summit

Register now for the Grassroots Organizing Summit starting Friday, October 12th through Sunday, October 14th at the Laurelville Retreat Center in Mount Pleasant, PA.  The Summit seeks to connect community organizers across Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Maryland, and Virginia working on petrochemical, fracking, and fracked-gas infrastructure. The Summit also seeks to better prepare emerging organizers and to reinvigorate seasoned organizers to face the challenges presented by the shale gas and petrochemical buildout in the Appalachian region. The Summit will hold equity as a core value and emphasize three areas of collaboration: skill & knowledge building, organizing strategy, and relationship & trust building.

The planning committee for the Summit is made up of representatives from the following organizations: Center for Coalfield Justice, Mountain Watershed Association, Protect PT, Marcellus Outreach Butler, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, Sierra Club Ohio Chapter, Sierra Club Pennsylvania Chapter, and One Pennsylvania.

If you are interested in applying please take a look at this page.  We will accept applications on a rolling basis, but we cannot accept any applications later than Monday, September 17, 2018. Priority will be given to applicants from directly impacted communities and grassroots organizations. Childcare and scholarships for attendance & travel will be provided for all who request support.

If you have any questions, please reach out to Nick Hood (at 724-229-3550 ext. 104 or nick@coalfieldjustice.org).  We look forward to seeing you at the Summit!

 

Green in 18' Campaign

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The Center for Coalfield Justice has teamed with 25 other environmental groups around the state to prepare the Pennsylvania Common Conservation Agenda. The agenda consists of a series of sound, fiscally responsible actions the winner of the 2018 governor’s race can enact to protect PA’s environment and conserve our natural resources for generations to come.

It is going to take a lot of public support for the agenda to gain sufficient traction with the candidates and the public. That’s why the coalition has launched the Green in ’18 campaign.  This campaign will try to attract volunteers who will attend campaign events held by the gubernatorial candidate and ask them about environmental issues. This will increase the importance of the environment as a campaign issue, help voters learn about the candidates’ plans to protect and improve the state’s environment, and generate support for the agenda.

To support this campaign, please like Green in ‘18’s Facebook page and visit the Green in ’18 website and sign up to volunteer.  We also encourage you to share this info with your network.  It is time to Rise Up for a Healthy Environment.

CCJ Attends Public Hearing to Advocate for No Increased Discharges into Mon. River

In a room full of UMWA members and miners from Contura’s Cumberland mine, the Department of Environmental Protection held a public hearing on the draft NPDES permit no. 033511, which would increase the permitted limits for sulfates and total dissolved solids (TDS) into the Monongahela River outfall 001 near Carmichaels, PA. CCJ Campaign Coordinator, Sarah, Community Organizer, Nick, and board members, Ken and Chuck, attended the event to stand up for common-sense permits.

At issue in this permitting decision is the fact that the Monongahela River was only recently considered to be recovered for sulfates. Now that it is no longer impaired, Cumberland Mine is seeking to increase the sulfates they can discharge into the river, pushing the river to 84% of its assimilative capacity - meaning that it is extremely close to the highest level it could safely take, a level that CCJ finds to be illegal and unreasonable. Unlike permits for new discharges, the mining company is seeking an increase in the level they may discharge, and workers testified at the public hearing that jobs would be on the line in this situation. However, the company is currently operating within the existing permit requirements without the threat of job loss. They also, according to permit documents, built a brand new water treatment facility for this outfall that they have never used in the past, yet they still have been in compliance with their existing permitted limits.

For those of our members and supporters who signed our petition asking the DEP not to authorize this permit, a copy was submitted with over 250 names attached to it. We expect to be contacted with a summary of the public hearing soon, and will keep you informed of any updates on this NPDES permit.

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.

Additional Discharges Possible into Mon. River from Cumberland Mine

 The Monongehela River near Carmichaels, PA

The Monongehela River near Carmichaels, PA

The Cumberland Mine is renewing their water discharge permit, and it will increase the amount of sulfate pollution into the Monongahela River, which is a major drinking water source for southwestern Pennsylvania. The discharge is located just a few miles upstream from the Carmichaels Water Authority drinking water intake. The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) will hold a public hearing regarding the NPDES Water Quality Permit for the Cumberland Mine Coal Refuse Disposal Facility on August 9th, 2018 at the Greensboro VFD/Church Building, 384 Stoney Hill Road, Greensboro from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m.  The nature of the public hearing is to solicit concerns and comments regarding the draft amended NPDES permit for the Cumberland Mine Coal Refuse Disposal Facility.

The Monongahela River is considered to be no longer impaired for sulfates, so the mine is increasing the amount of sulfates they will discharge into the river, without taking into consideration the other mine discharges in that area.

The site has three (3) NPDES outfalls located in Monongahela and Whiteley Townships, Greene County. We encourage you to attend the public hearing where Department representative will be available to receive written and verbal testimony regarding the draft NPDES permit. Testimony will be placed into public record for the draft NPDES permit and considered by Department staff in the review process.

If you have any other questions, concerns or comments please contact Nick at the Center for Coalfield Justice at (724) 229-3550 x4 or by email at nick@coalfieldjustice.org.

Register Your Access to Broadband

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Beginning in February 2018, an 11-month study dubbed the “Pennsylvania Broadband Mapping Initiative” launched.  The study hopes to determine the amount of high-speed internet access that residents of rural Pennsylvania have and then provide potential solutions to the problems, based on previous models of success.  

The study is quick and easy.  All you need to do is:

  1. Access the website
  2. Click the “Start Test” button and,
  3. Wait less than 30 seconds.

The information published includes each device’s IP address but does not include personal identifying information about you as an Internet user.

More than 5.1 million tests — including more than 740,000 in the past three months — have already been conducted in PA since its inception in 2008. This previously collected data will provide a valuable baseline for the study that began on Feb. 1 and will continue to stretch throughout the rest of the calendar year.

The study will identify areas where broadband access does not exist, define characteristics of communities with lower levels of access, and offer examples of successful intervention that might be successful in Pennsylvania’s communities. We know that access to fast internet is lacking in many communities in Greene and Washington Counties. Access to Information is vital and the internet is the best means for the spreading of information, so, it is very important that everyone has an opportunity for internet access.  

Alliance for Appalachia Creates New Teams

 View of Smokey Mountains at Highlander Center in Tennessee. 

View of Smokey Mountains at Highlander Center in Tennessee. 

The Center for Coalfield Justice attended the most recent Alliance for Appalachia Steering Committee Meeting, where member groups decided to try a six month trial period that involves a restructuring of the current “teams” with a hope that the new teams are more issue specific and inspiring to those who choose to be apart of them.  Also, plans were started for a trip to DC with the goal of meeting with decision makers and sending a clear message that people in Appalachia want a healthy future, rather than more coal mining.

Previously, only an Econ Team and a Federal Team had existed.  Now, there will be 4 groups; Corporate Accountability Team, Citizen Enforcement Team, New Economy Team, Black Lung Team and an Internal Communications Team, which will have representation from each team. Below are the description of the teams, please contact Nick at nick@coalfieldjustice.org if you want to get engaged in any of the teams.  

The Corporate Accountability Team will focus on planning regional actions to put pressure on corporate targets, especially Jim Justice and Alpha Natural Resources.  

The Citizen Enforcement Team hopes to convene a space for member groups to learn from each other’s work around water monitoring and enforcement, organize trainings, share resources, and contribute data to the Appalachian Citizen Enforcement Database. Also, they plan to share strategies between states on enforcement-related issues such as citizens engagement in bond proceeds, tracking and challenging mine permits, submitting citizen complaints, using the clean water act to enforce the law and more.  

New Economy Team will focus on real solutions/research around building wealth by moving resources to acquire and redistribute land. Research Community Reinvestment Act and Land Trust Connect resources to communities/people trying to purchase land.

Black Lung Team will focus on a DC Action Planning Team around Black Lung Trust Fund that will expire at the end of the year and advocate the renewal of the fund in order to protect former and current mine workers.

Internal Communications Team will keep the connectedness and coordination between teams and increase transparency of the Coordinating Committee work. This Team will be comprised of representatives from each of the new teams who will join a coordinating call monthly.

The new teams were formed with the mission of the Alliance in mind and will continue to move forward the efforts to end mountaintop removal, put a halt to destructive coal technologies, and create a sustainable, just Appalachia.    

After the six month trial period, the Steering Committee and member organizations will assess the progress and vote whether to keep the new structure with more issue-specific teams, or make additional changes.  The DC trip may be upon us before you know it, so stay updated!

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