Events

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



Our 13th Annual DRYerson Festival is Just One Month Away!

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We can’t wait to see all of your friendly faces on June 22nd at Ryerson Station State Park! DRYerson is a very special event for us, as much of our work has focused on defending and protecting this beautiful and important piece of Greene County - and its only state park - so that it can be enjoyed for generations to come!

Please join us in Pavilion #2 of the Park, beginning at 1 p.m. A map of the park and its general location can be found here. Check in at the registration table when you arrive to be entered in the drawings for door prizes!

There will be live entertainment with the lovely and talented Bree Otto, and fun and games for both adults and kids.

We will be serving picnic- and cookout-style food and drinks, including snow cones and cotton candy! Reusable foodservice will be provided by Our Children Our Earth: Toys, Silks & Eco-Goods so that we can avoid as much waste as possible.

As you can see on this map, there are numerous hiking trails. Feel free to explore the park while you’re there. You can even bring your furkids, but kindly bring them on leashes so that they don’t disturb other attendees.

Let us know you are coming to the event by registering on this page. Call us at the office (724-229-3550) if you would like to volunteer or want to know more about the event! We hope to see all of you there! Also, stay connected to other event plans at our Facebook event page!



Join Us for CCJ's May Open House

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Each month, the staff of the Center for Coalfield Justice looks forward to hosting our CCJ Community Open House because you - our members and supporters - are the heart of our organization. You are why CCJ exist, and you help to guide our plans and actions.

At last month’s meeting, Veronica Coptis, our Executive Director, presented on the history of CCJ and how we approach working with communities. This month, Nick Hood, one of our community organizers, is going to present our new Fracking in the Coalfields Virtual Tour! This tour has been quite a while in the making, and we look forward to watching it with you and hearing your thoughts and comments.

CCJ’s Community Open House is held on the last Tuesday of each month in our office from 6-8 p.m. This month, the date is May 28th, and CCJ will be providing sandwiches and drinks. Any other contributions of food or drink are welcome!

For the month of May, we are making an additional ask of our members and supporters: please bring some nonperishables for the Waynesburg Food Bank, the Corner Cupboard, who has generously agreed to host one of our Economic Workshops in Greene County on June 11th.

If you’re able to join us, please let us know by emailing or calling Lisa DePaoli, our Outreach Coordinator, at lisa@coalfieldjustice.org or 724-229-3550 ext 101 or commenting on the Facebook event page. As always, our meetings are held in our office at 14 E. Beau Street, Washington, PA.

We look forward to seeing you!


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!


Love is STRONG

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There are two kinds of people on Valentine’s Day: the romantics, covered in red and pink and hearts, and the cynics, who avoid Hallmark stores like the plague. Rarely do these groups find common ground. Through our work, though, we all live the shared value of love.

Love for our friends brings us to the streets to protect them from environmental, racial, and social injustice. Love for our allies allows us to trust that someone will stand in solidarity with us when we raise our voices. Love for our kids shows us how to hope for a better future. Love means that we persevere, despite industry’s buckets of money and politicians’ blind eyes and our own exhaustion.

Love is strength. Love is resilience. Love is resistance. And that’s something to celebrate.

CCJ looks forward to building resilience and forging common ground throughout southwestern PA with you. To support that work, please make a donation to CCJ below.


Happy Valentine’s Day!

Veronica, Heaven, Nick, Lisa, and the Sarahs



Give us your feedback for a chance to win a prize!

We all filled out the survey! Will you?

We all filled out the survey! Will you?

The team at the Center for Coalfield Justice is excited to announce that we will be holding quarterly meetings for our members and supporters! (Our first one is March 21st) You are the center of our work; without you, we wouldn’t exist. This year we want to engage more directly in person with you.

Please fill out the survey below to guide our planning for these quarterly meetings and help us to have a better understanding of how you may want to get involved. There are so many fun and exciting things we could do!

Can We Get to Zero Carbon? Panelists Weigh In

The coal industry has undeniable impacts on our communities but also on our global climate. It’s not alone.

The coal industry has undeniable impacts on our communities but also on our global climate. It’s not alone.

On January 29, StateImpact Pennsylvania and WESA sponsored an event at the Energy Innovation Center in Pittsburgh during which three panelists - Paulina Jaramillo, a professor of engineering and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University; Ivonne Pena, an energy analyst working with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory; and Greg Reed, a professor of electric power engineering at the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School - discussed the possibility of achieving zero carbon emissions.

Part of the panel’s discussion focused on differentiating between carbon emitted for electricity versus for energy systems such as heating homes and transportation. The panel referenced the decarbonization of electricity as “low-hanging fruit.” Currently, technology exists such that renewable energy sources like wind or solar could be responsible for turning lights on throughout the country, although getting that electricity to homes through the grid would require investments and major updates. However, we don’t have ways to operate airplanes, for example, on carbon-free energy sources. The panel stressed that new technologies would be needed to address all the needs of our energy systems.

This, from a policy perspective, creates two ideas to consider in moving forward. First, our current policies are often not written in a way that would allow for advancements in and uses of new technology. Batteries, for example, are not always included in policies aimed at bringing renewable energy sources into homes, despite the fact that batteries are required in most parts of the country to keep a consistent, reliable flow of electricity. Additionally, current policies aimed at going zero carbon almost always are tied to technology as opposed to goals, meaning that wind and solar are prioritized over other forms of carbon-free power generation that could work better. The panelists also stressed that carbon capture and sequestration technologies must be developed, not to offset use of high-carbon sources like coal, but to clean the existing carbon from the air: most climate reports indicate that not only do we need to go to zero on carbon emissions, we need to go negative.

As a CCJ staff member, it was difficult to attend this event without the opportunity to talk directly to these experts. When asked a question about the climate impact of methane emissions from the natural gas industry, one panelist basically said that “in no way is natural gas worse than coal.” However, because of the way industry is required (or not required, more accurately) to report their total methane emissions, we can’t know their true cost to our climate. There are far more regulations on the coal industry, and they have stricter reporting requirements. This panel, because it was focused solely on the climate perspective, ignored other impacts that the oil and gas industry has on communities: water quality, air pollution, and nuisance concerns were not addressed. Their claims that natural gas has a place in our energy and electricity systems moving forward because it can support a reliable system isn’t an unreasonable thought, but any idea that it must remain a part of these systems flies in the face of the climate and justice crises this industry helps perpetuate. And finally, there was a lot of focus on Pittsburgh being the innovator in natural gas and energy industries of all kinds but a failure to recognize the sacrifices made by workers and low income communities along the way. It is detrimental to speak so positively of the gas well transition as a positive step in renewable energy for communities hit by the gas industry; especially during a time at which the gas is being extracted for plastic production NOT energy.


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.