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Community Care in the Face of Crisis

When disaster strikes, it really does take a village to protect one another. In the aftermath of Norfolk Southern’s hazardous train derailment in East Palestine on February 3, 2023, Ohioans took this to heart.

It is the OEC’s core belief that every Ohioan deserves to breathe clean air, drink clean water, and play without worry in their communities. Accidents like the Norfolk Southern train derailment and toxic chemical spill jeopardize Ohioans’ ability to live safe and healthy lives and perpetuate historical environmental injustices in our state.

But in times of high stress and fear, Ohioans know one thing to be true: we’re in this together.

The OEC honored River Valley Organizing, a local nonprofit advocating for East Palestine residents, with our “Community Champion” aware at the 2023 Green Gala. Credit: Marisa Twigg

It’s likely we all know someone who lives in a town or neighborhood like East Palestine. Ohioans often talk about how small our state truly feels — everyone seems to know almost everyone. These community connections that stretch from Lake Erie to the Ohio River and every village in between keep Ohioans moving forward together when we’re knocked off our feet. Especially when the knocking is done by a multibillion-dollar company that pollutes our towns and disrupts our livelihoods.

Together, Ohioans called for agencies to hold Norfolk Southern accountable and make them pay. Together, Ohioans advocated for two-person rail crews and requirements for train inspection detectors — making Ohio the first and only state with these critical requirements. Together, Ohioans raised awareness about the need for stronger emergency response to environmental disasters. And together, Ohioans shared what they could to make sure the East Palestine community had what they needed to keep their families safe, their businesses afloat, and their communities together.

Amidst the trials and tribulations, we’re proud to see the people of Ohio continue to work together to fight for accountability and resources to protect each other.

During a March 2023 visit to Capitol Hill, the OEC joined with River Valley Organizing to advocate for increased support and resources for East Palestine following the train derailment. We also attended the Environment and Public Works Senate Committee shown here. Credit: Marisa Twigg

This is what fighting the climate crisis looks like: communities across villages, across counties, across the state coming together to lift each other up while holding polluters accountable for the disastrous messes they make.

With considerable gratitude for the continued support of thoughtful, concerned OEC members like you, we’ve been able to help coordinate legal support for East Palestine residents, deliver jugs of water, convene policymakers and experts, lobby lawmakers at the Ohio Statehouse and on Capitol Hill, and so much more. As we navigate the long-term phase of this environmental disaster, we will continue to work in solidarity with our partners, on-the-ground advocates, and residents fighting for transparency, accountability, and justice.