CCJ Speaks Out at DEP and in California Borough

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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

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

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  We look forward to seeing you at the Summit!


A Step in the Wrong Direction for California Borough


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 with any questions about the ordinance, the process, or ways to get involved!

Paddle Against Petro, a Monday morning success!


“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:

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

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




California Borough Holding Public Hearing on New Fracking Ordinance


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 or 724-229-3550x.1!

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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

Anti-Falcon Support at DEP Hearings

Nearly 500 concerned residents of Beaver, Washington, and Allegheny Counties gathered on April 3, 4, and 5 in their respective counties to raise their concerns over the Falcon Pipeline. CCJ attended the hearings in Beaver and Washington Counties to represent our members and supporters.

Specific to Washington County, CCJ is concerned that the pipeline will be built in an area where subsidence places the integrity of the pipeline at a greater risk, and therefore would place those living in the pipeline’s path at a greater risk. In 2015, an ATEX pipeline in West Virginia ruptured, causing an explosion which damaged the nearest house 700 feet away. Subsidence in Washington County can be difficult to predict for two reasons: first, a lot of mining within the county happened a long time ago, and mine maps for these legacy areas are not always accurate and are sometimes nonexistent; also, if mining utilized room and pillar techniques, the surface may not have subsided yet, meaning that the subsidence event could still happen. Washington County also has large karst formations, which are responsible for the sinkholes that are a growing problem with the Mariner East pipeline. Karst also allows pollutants to travel swiftly and widely, meaning that a spill in a karst-heavy area would affect a larger area than in an area where there is no underlying karst. These more localized issues, coupled with the broader effects to the Pittsburgh region, raise the question of whether Shell can safely build, operate, and maintain this pipeline.

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One of CCJ’s major concerns over the proposed plans for the Falcon Pipeline is the fact that, should the pipeline leak and contaminate the headwaters of the Ambridge Reservoir, 30,000 people would be without safe drinking water. The lack of safe drinking water is already an issue that affects so many across the country, whether by lead pipes or de-watered wells, and it is unconscionable that we would add to this crisis by permitting an unnecessary pipeline.

While anti-Falcon residents were in the majority at these hearings, a group of pro-Falcon residents were also in attendance. Predominantly industry representatives or union workers, stressed the importance of new jobs for reviving the Rust Belt. “Jobs” was not the only pro-Falcon claim made at these hearings: check out our infographic to see just what was said and how the major points were not quite accurate.



The Plastics Problem


Last week, our Community Organizer, Sarah, participated in a meeting in Houston, TX to learn more about plastics and to discuss the various ways that groups across the country can come together to support anti-plastics work at every part of the plastics chain. Here are her thoughts:

After visiting Houston, I’ve come to the daunting conclusion that it is impossible to go through everyday actions without touching or using plastic. I’m so much more aware of it now, from the various types of plastics in my Dunkin’ Donuts coffee cup to the plastics in the microfiber cloth I keep in my car to wipe the coffee I inevitably spill when trying to drink hot coffee while driving. Throughout the plastics chain, we live with varying degrees of plastics exposure, with some experiencing different elements of it than others. Because we live in the shale fields, we live with unconventional oil and gas activity in our backyards. The natural gas liquids are then sent to a “cracker” plant to be turned into plastics. At the point of sale, plastics allow processors to ship foods over long distances to be sold (think: salads and sandwiches at Starbucks that were made in Rhode Island instead of in-store). Consumers then purchase products made of or packaged in plastics, sometimes in overwhelming quantities (think: meal-prep delivery services like Blue Apron and low-priced microfiber bedsheets). Plastic is then either recycled, incinerated, or tossed in landfills or the ocean. Even some plastics that consumers think they are recycling end up being burned, contributing more carbon pollution to the air than coal-fired power plants. In the end, our water is either full of plastic bags and bottle caps or microparticles of plastic that were washed into our water systems. Like I said, it’s daunting.

This is a monster of a system that has been in place for decades. The task we now face in the Ohio River Valley is to stop another head from growing. The Petrochemical buildout that is planned for this region is designed to support an increase in plastics production and use. At CCJ, we fight it from the source by supporting communities’ efforts to keep unconventional oil and gas activity away from homes and schools while advocating for a just, sustainable future that does not rely on fossil fuels. Other groups and organizations like Break Free From Plastic, Upstream, and GAIA work to tackle the problem from other points in the chain.

The good news is this: there was consensus among the groups in this meeting that now is a real opportunity to affect change. On a nation-wide scale, people are becoming more aware of the problem, and are interested in learning more about how to tackle it. There are so many small changes you can make to your daily life that would make a difference. There are massive campaigns you can take part in to elevate your voice in favor of a cleaner earth fueled by cleaner energy. To find out more, and to take action, check out Upstream’s website or contact us at the office.

CCJ joins regional response to petrochemical buildout

This screen shot shows the planned route of the Falcon Pipeline network and its associated facilities.  The interactive map can be found here:

This screen shot shows the planned route of the Falcon Pipeline network and its associated facilities.  The interactive map can be found here:

In November of 2017, CCJ joined a regional meeting at the People vs. Oil and Gas Summit to discuss the planned petrochemical buildout for the Ohio River valley, focusing primarily on the Shell Ethane Cracker Plant, the Appalachian Storage Hub, and the Falcon Pipeline. Various organizations throughout the region - from Pennsylvania to Kentucky - came together to identify what was known about each project, but also to plan how to move forward to protect our air and water quality.

Background Information:  

The Shell Ethane Cracker Plant in Beaver County is a proposed plant where oil and gas would be transported to be broken down into ethylene and polyethylene. Ethylene, in turn, is used to make plastics. The process of “cracking” the oil and gas to make ethylene, though, can release pollutants like nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, and particulate matter into the air. They also can emit volatile organic compounds that react with other compounds in the air when exposed to sunlight, causing smog. Pittsburgh’s air quality, while significantly better than it was years ago, still remains in the dirtiest 6% of U.S. cities. While legislators like to say that they are not spending money on the Cracker Plant, the tax credits to Shell Chemical will value $1.65 billion over 25 years, the largest tax break in PA history.

The Appalachian Storage Hub (ASH) is a proposed underground storage area. One hundred million barrels of natural gas liquids would be stored in a yet-to-be-built system underground, utilizing underground caverns, salt caves, and other voids. Once natural gas is extracted from the Marcellus, Utica, and Rogersville shales in West Virginia, Kentucky, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, it can be stored underground until it is ready to be sent through a pipeline network to its destination. When the Aliso Canyon storage facility had a leak in 2015, the carbon footprint is said to have been larger than the Deepwater Horizon storage leak in the Gulf of Mexico, with further-reaching consequences.

The Falcon Pipeline Network is a planned buildout of a 97.5 mile high-pressure pipeline, similar to the Mariner East 2, that would transport ethane through Ohio, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania to Shell’s Ethane Cracker Plant in Beaver County. Pipelines, particularly highly pressurized ones like this, leak: the high consequence areas (HCAs), or areas that would be affected by the vapors leaked from the pipeline, include more than 8,700 residents, 5 schools, 6 daycare centers, and 16 emergency response centers.

CCJ is working with allies to convene regional efforts to protect public health and safety from the threats posed by these projects. Not all of these projects are in our communities (the falcon pipeline cuts through northern Washington County)but we will feel the effects of increased fracking - and in some cases we already have, as we are hearing from more landowners being asked to sign leases. Our communities are already overly-extracted and the risks to water and air quality will affect the region at large. We continue to support and stand for the people who are most impacted by fossil fuel extraction and its related activities.