Fracking

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

Screen Shot 2018-10-26 at 9.24.02 AM.png

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

IMG_1092.jpeg

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.


CCJ Speaks Out at DEP and in California Borough

Screen Shot 2018-09-24 at 11.09.18 AM.png

On Thursday, September 6, 2018, the Center for Coalfield Justice bookended their day by making public statements and public comments on issues related to unconventional oil and gas development.

The day began at an event at the Department of Environmental Protection’s Southwest Regional Office in Pittsburgh, where the Breathe Project organized a press event to draw attention to the Falcon pipeline permits. The Falcon, which would transport natural gas liquids to the Shell Ethane Cracker Plant in Beaver County, PA, is still undergoing review by permit engineer Dana Drake, despite over 101 deficiencies found within the initial draft of the permit. Shell’s responses, as we’ve seen, remain inadequate. Our Campaign Manager, Sarah Maritk, spoke at the event, encouraging the DEP to stop wasting resources to permit this unnecessary infrastructure, saying “Continuing to issue deficiency letter after deficiency letter after deficiency letter to a multi-billion dollar corporation that should know what it’s doing and that has argued that it is capable of constructing and operating this pipeline is an absolute waste of taxpayer funds.” A video of this action is available online through NoPetroPA.

Want to take action and ask the DEP to #DenyTheFalcon? Send a letter via this link!

The day concluded in California Borough, where council members held a second public hearing for a revised draft of their proposed zoning ordinance. CCJ members and supporters spoke out about the lack of protective measures related to setback distances from compressor stations and well pads to protected structures. CCJ staff attorney, Sarah Winner, educated the Borough about the importance of considering Article I, Section 27 (the environmental rights amendment of the Pennsylvania Constitution), while CCJ member and Borough resident reminded the Council that the decisions they make today have real consequences, saying “This isn’t like choosing who gets to play first base in Pony league. If something happens, you are the ones that have to live with it.”

To stay updated for to get involved in the campaign in California Borough, please email Sarah Martik at smartik@coalfieldjustice.org.



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.

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!

 

A Step in the Wrong Direction for California Borough

IMGP0555.JPG

Since the public hearing on Thursday, June 7, 2018, California Borough Council has discussed the new zoning ordinance at three different meetings. At the first, a general Council meeting, the ordinance was brought up, and we learned that there were two pages missing from the publicized draft. Discussion of provisions in Section 407 and 421 (the sections related to unconventional oil and gas development) was pushed back to the Thursday, July 6th working meeting.

The July 6th meeting was troubling. Some Councilmen and industry representatives are using the conditional use provision - where all unconventional oil and gas activity will be subject to a conditional use hearing - as an excuse for not establishing a protective ordinance.

  • Council has struck the provision that would require additional setback distances based on the horsepower of compressor stations, leaving only a 1500ft setback between a compressor and a protected structure.
  • One councilman, Mr. Mariscotti, is adamant that the distance between a well pad and a protected structure be measured from the wellbore as opposed to from the edge of the well pad. He also insists that 500ft is a sufficient distance.

  • As a “compromise” there was an idea to set setback distances of 600-750ft as measured from the wellbore. The current draft, though, includes a 500ft setback as measured from the wellbore.

These changes give no consideration to the fact that setback distances mandated by the state of Pennsylvania were set for political reasons and ignore the current public health data about “safe” and “protective” requirements. When Council members ask questions like “What does the state say,” or “Is this something you [industry] can live with?” they are ignoring their obligations under Article 1, Section 27 of the Pennsylvania Constitution to fully analyze their local situation.

This conversation was supposed continue on Thursday, July 12, but it was not. The issue was brought up under “Old Business” and the Council - at the advice of the solicitor - accepted changes and made plans to hold a second public hearing on Thursday, September 6, 2018. If you are concerned about these developments, please sign this petition - to be delivered at the second public hearing - voicing your concern and support for a protective ordinance.

As a resident of California Borough, this experience has been confounding. I have known most of the Council members for most of my life. Their kids played baseball with my brother, they worked in the concession stand every Friday night for football games, and they can be seen almost year round taking walks throughout the streets in town. They’re great people. It is clear to me, though, that there are some members of Council who cannot take their personal values - where they care deeply about their neighbors and believe in a sense of community - and extend them to what they view as “political” decision making. To me, this issue is not political. It’s not political when your neighbor’s kid develops asthma because a well pad was put too close to the school. It’s not political when your best friend’s well water is contaminated because of an underground leak no one could detect and no company willingly reported to the Department of Environmental Protection. It’s not political when there’s a real risk that a well pad or a pipeline could blow up and burn everything within a half-mile radius and beyond. I do not want to have to buy a ticket to a spaghetti dinner to benefit sick kids or a distraught family because some Council members and some vocal community members wanted to receive royalty checks.

The Borough’s committee and regular meetings (both open to the public) are regularly scheduled for the first and second Thursday each month. If this is an issue that concerns you, I encourage you to reach out to your council members by calling the Borough at 724-938-8878. Please reach out to me at 724-229-3550 or smartik@coalfieldjustice.org with any questions about the ordinance, the process, or ways to get involved!

Paddle Against Petro, a Monday morning success!

35628907_2157805264235535_2486608033694613504_n.jpg

“Kayactivists” from three states joined together for our first ever Paddle Against Petro. Members of organizations from Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia took to the river to protest the Northeast US Petrochemical Construction conference taking place inside the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, with top executives from corporations like Shell and Chevron as well as Pennsylvania State SenatorCamera Bartolotta in attendance. Kayactivists were joined by some land lubbers who spoke about the effects the petrochemical buildout would have on their lives, from people living near proposed cracker plants in Beaver County, PA and Belmont County, OH to people living in areas where fracking will increase to meet the demands of plastics production in other areas of the world.

“Industry markets this as a mega-petrochemical hub game-changer for our states,” said Dustin White, project coordinator for Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition (OVEC) and resident of Charleston, WV. “In reality, this is a deadly game where out-of-state companies profit while the rest of us lose a chance at a healthier, more sustainable future.

“When it comes to the health and economy of our region, coal companies dug the graves, fracking companies built the casket and now petrochemical companies want to put the nails in the lid,” White added. “We deserve better than a continued legacy as a resource colony where workers and communities have to sacrifice themselves for profit.”

Check out the live stream below: 

More than 60 organizations have added their support to a sign-on letter that was sent out to leaders and legislators in three states. The sign-on letter campaign continues and may be used for the next petrochemical industry conference in the fall. Anyone wishing to add their individual name or the name of a new organization is encouraged to do so.

Here is the link to the organizational sign-on letter:

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSd2NpHrVJixDLDoEoKc-EBUNN_4pi-rRfGeL7B7CTUs6Dcjeg/viewform

Here is the link to the individual sign-on letter:

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSexw2SwBQl3-HasBftbDZmuJKNyu83NWLROSuxxnH_MZ5FPTA/viewform

Here is the link to the spreadsheet with organizations that have signed on so far:

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1JiHSxC1AA3FLAZY6Vf3x4LF2DeqLKtJB37Mhunso-Cc/edit#gid=378352332

 

 

 

California Borough Holding Public Hearing on New Fracking Ordinance

IMGP0555.JPG

California Borough, a municipality in Washington County situated along the Monongahela River, will hold a public hearing for their new draft zoning ordinance on Thursday, June 7th, 2018 at 5:30 pm in the Municipal Building. Sections 407 and 421 address compressor stations and unconventional gas wells.

There is currently no active drilling within the Borough - home to California University of Pennsylvania, The Village Early Childhood Education Center, and California Area School District - and this is the Council's first time writing an ordinance to regulate the industry. Residents have been meeting to discuss needed changes to the ordinance with the support of the Center for Coalfield Justice and the broader Protect Our Children coalition.

Here's how you can help: if you or someone you know lives in the area, make a plan to get to the public hearing. You can also sign and share this petition, which will be delivered to Borough Council Members.

For more information, contact Sarah Martik at smartik@coalfieldjustice.org or 724-229-3550x.1!

Screen Shot 2018-05-29 at 12.51.45 PM.jpeg

Ordinance Struggles in the Mon Valley

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

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

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

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

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

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