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Critical Community Connections

As a lifelong resident of the Mahoning Valley, I am connected to its history.

Unfortunately, that includes historic environmental injustices that hurt these communities. Having grown up in Youngstown, I still experience pollution caused by steel mills and local industry to this day. I witnessed extractive out-of-town businesses exploiting our natural resources. And I saw firsthand the impacts of the train derailment and unnecessary toxic chemical burnoff in nearby East Palestine.

Without a doubt, our region has been hit hard. Despite this, my connections with community members, elected leaders, and Ohio Environmental Council colleagues creates space to envision — and work toward — a healthier future. Our recent work in Youngstown demonstrates the importance of cultivating these connections for good.

On behalf of the OEC Action Fund, Chris Colόn, Northeast Ohio Regional Director, speaks at the December 2023 Youngstown City Council meeting in support of their moratorium, or pause, on SOBE’s expansion. Credit: Sarah Lowry of the Community Foundation of the Mahoning Valley
SOBE Thermal Energy Systems, LLC is located in downtown Youngstown, Ohio.

In early 2022, SOBE Thermal Energy Systems announced it would expand operations at its gas-fired steam plant with unproven advanced gasification technology to provide more capacity for Youngstown customers. Immediately, local residents formed SOBE Concerned Citizens and voiced their worries about burning tires, plastic, and e-waste in their backyard. Hearing these concerns, I alerted OEC’s policy and legal experts. Ultimately, we determined this technology would produce more greenhouse gas emissions and pose significant public health uncertainties for the surrounding community.

As a result, I connected the OEC with the community to advocate against SOBE. We amplified concerned resident voices and provided science-backed testimony to inform decision makers. And in December 2023, Youngstown City Council passed legislation that established a year-long pause on the plant’s proposed future operations.

Your support of OEC’s Field Advocacy program is critical to our ongoing efforts to protect our health and environment in Youngstown and communities throughout Ohio.

While our work to stop SOBE is not yet done, we will continue to make progress for our communities when we connect, work, and advocate together.