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Northeast Ohio Updates from the Field – March

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Letter from the Regional Director:

OEC Northeast Ohio: March 2023 Updates

Hello Friends in Northeast Ohio and Beyond, 

Since the devastating Norfolk Southern train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio in early February, I have been working alongside my colleagues at the OEC and with community leaders on the ground to monitor the impact of the train derailment and toxic chemical release on the community, and develop long-term regulatory and policy solutions to ensure an environmental disaster like this never happens again.

It has truly been a humbling experience. In my almost 2 years at the OEC, I have been part of a number of important projects, but nothing has compared to the level of teamwork and thoughtfulness, I have seen amongst this team. Learn more about the work we have done at OEC in response to the disaster, by clicking here. We are committed to amplifying the messaging of our partners at the grassroots level in support of the community. 

Chris colón, Chris Tavenor, Melanie Houston donating water to the residents of East Palestine

As we move into spring in the Mahoning Valley and the greater NE Ohio region, I want to highlight another very important step that OEC has taken. Recently, our team announced our opposition to the proposed SOBE Thermal advanced gasification project in the downtown area. In a blog post, I talk about OEC’s desire to be part of a clean energy future in Youngstown by leading the conversation about alternatives to the heating of fossil fuels. With this work, I ask any and all to reach out to me to get involved. 

Lastly in this edition of the NEO newsletter, I wanted to share some thoughts and reflections about the upcoming spring. In this time of growth and rebirth, so much change can at times be overwhelming. I know myself, the spring seems to be when my stress level is at its highest. I urge each and everyone of our supporters and friends to take some time to just breathe in nature over the next couple of months. In my own journey to health and peace, it has been the connection made with nature that has uplifted my soul and helped address unresolved trauma. As the days get warmer, remember to make time for yourself. Practice whatever you need to have a little self care. You won’t regret it. 

Chris Colón
Northeast Ohio Regional Director

Regional Events and Opportunities:

Youth of East Palestine Town Hall

April 1, 2023 | 1-3 PM

The Way Station Thrift Store of East Palestine (109 Rebecca St, East Palestine, OH 44413)

River Valley Organizing and Sunrise Movement Pittsburgh are hosting an informational panel for East Palestine youth aged 12-19 who have questions about their health and safety coming out of the Norfolk South train derailment. Youth will also have access to counselors and mental health resources and opportunities to take action. Food will be provided.

More information via Facebook and registration via Zoom (though it is an in-person event) 

Until Justice Just Is with Janice Kelsey

April 17, 2023 | 6 PM

YWCA Mahoning Valley (25 West Rayen Avenue Youngstown, OH 44503)

Janice Kelsey is a longtime civil rights activist who participated in the Children’s Crusade in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963. During this dinner and conversation, she will share her story and inspire your own justice activism. Grab your free ticket!

No More Enviro-Mentalism: Earth Emancipation Now!

April 18, 2023 | 3 PM

YSU Kilcawley Center (1 University Plaza Youngstown, OH 44555)

Join author Ben Price for a provocative discussion on the ineffective strategies and mindsets that environmental activists, organizations, and businesses have been deploying and the different ways we can advocate for our environment. This presentation is part of Dr. Ray’s Energy & Environment Speaker Series and sponsored by Ohio Environmental Council, Youngstown State University, and Citizens’ Climate Lobby of the Mahoning Valley. Tickets are free and registration is not required. Email Dr. Alexis Smith (CCL) for more information:

Regional Updates

Plans for 2023: Building an even bigger and better table

At the end of January, the OEC and our partners wrapped up the last training of our Building a Better Table series. After some post-program evaluation, we are pleased to announce we will continue Building a Better Table in 2023! We hope you will join us for these future events. In the meantime, we have no time to waste in building the skills of everyday environmental advocates in our region, so Fair Shake and the OEC held a Public Participation seminar on February 28. Participants learned about the opportunities that exist to make their voice heard at the federal, state, and local level on issues and projects that impact them. Thank you to all who participated!

Helping small businesses and farmer go solar

Through the federal government’s Renewable Energy for America Grant Program (REAP), small rural business owners and farmers can apply to cover a large portion of the cost of solar and other renewable energy projects, saving them money on the up front investment and on energy in the long run. At the end of February, the U.S. Department of Agriculture held a meeting in New Middletown to spread the word to local residents. 

Improving our environment through brownfield remediation

Last year, Sebring, Ohio was awarded $1.5 million from the federal government to remediate and redevelop a 20 acre brownfield site, the former site of pottery production for a dinnerware company, which left behind tons of lead contaminated soil. On March 20th, local leaders gathered to break ground on this project by beginning soil sampling.

OEC Updates

Continuing the call for HB 6 repeal after Householder found guilty

Early in March, former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder and former Ohio Republican Party Chairperson Matt Borges were found guilty for their role in the largest public corruption case in Ohio history — a complex scheme to pass House Bill 6. This decision is an important step towards justice and rectifying the wrongs that FirstEnergy and other utility companies have perpetrated on Ohioans. However, justice will not truly be served until Ohioans are no longer bailing out old, dirty coal plants on their monthly electric bills, and until Ohioans can trust that their lawmakers and the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio are looking out for them, and not corrupt special interests. We won’t stop until HB 6 has been fully repealed and Ohio has an affordable, clean energy economy that benefits everyone, not just fossil fuel companies and utilities. We will keep working until we have energy justice in Ohio. We hope you will continue to support our work for energy justice. 

You’re invited to our May 20 Green Gala

The Green Gala provides the unique opportunity for environmentalists around the state to come together, build our path ahead, and celebrate the accomplishments that bring us hope and heart. This year, we will be celebrating environmental champions from across the state, including: the Buckeye Trail Association, Cuyahoga County Director of Sustainability Mike Foley, Cincinnati City Councilmember Meeka Owens, and River Valley Organizing

Join together with hundreds of other committed members of the environmental movement to network, collaborate, and be inspired at this indoor and outdoor event. Heavy appetizers and beverages will be served. Register online before May 12!

Check out current openings at the OEC and our partner organizations.