Environmental activists trade notes on current fights

by Randy Cunningham

(Plain Press, October 2015) Social media has become an important part of activism, regardless of the issue.  But when all is said and done there is no substitute for activists getting together in the flesh to trade notes and war stories about their current organizing. They did just that on Sunday, September 20 at a forum sponsored by the Cleveland Environmental Action Network (CLEAN) at St. Paul’s Community Church on Franklin Ave. After a Puerto Rican vegetarian rice and beans lunch that sent this reporter into new realms of gourmet delight, those in attendance heard reports from four speakers.

Kathie Jones from Sustainablemedinacounty.org reported on the effort to stop the NEXUS pipeline that will blast its way on a southeasterly route from Toledo through Medina County and points south.  Its purpose is to transport natural gas from fracking fields in Ohio to Canada where it will be used to process Tar Sands crude into a form that can be transported through pipelines. Jones described the assorted roadblocks put before activists by local politicians who approve of the pipeline. Sustainable Medina County has attempted to put on the fall ballot, a county charter change to stop pipeline activity. Petitioners in Athens and Fulton counties joined in Sustainable Median County’s effort.  Secretary of State of Husted vetoed the charter language. A recent Supreme Court decision rejected most of his arguments but invalidated the petitions because of a technicality. Activists from all three counties will try again next year.

Tish O’Dell, Ohio organizer for the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) and founder of MADION (Mothers Against Drilling in Our Neighborhoods) in Broadview Heights was blunt in her view of the status of communities being fracked (hydraulic fracturing for natural gas) in Ohio. The communities are resource colonies of the oil and gas industries and they have no rights under the state laws enacted by bought and paid for politicians at the State House in Columbus. They have rights on the other hand – the right to be poisoned by fracking operations and the right to have their local democratic right to self-governance repealed with fracking exemptions to home rule. O’Dell discussed the fate of their local charter before the courts and their determination to continue to fight for it in a movement that has been described as a campaign of civil disobedience by communities instead of individuals.

Gerald Strothers from East Cleveland described the campaign to remove a construction materials recycling dump from a neighborhood on Noble Road that has destroyed the quality of life in the neighborhood with dust, odors and emissions that have harmed the health of local residents. Strothers is one of the principals of 44112news.com – a web site that is the bane of the powers that be in East Cleveland.  He discussed the power of using grass roots social media for local activists and ended his presentation with a video of local kids holding their own demonstration against the dump that was a hit of the forum.

Mike Foley, former Democratic State Representative from District 14, described the passage of Senate Bill 310 last year that for all effects and purposes repealed the renewable energy and efficiency standards that were passed before the Tea Party sweep of the 2010 elections. He said that the fight against SB 310 was hard fought, but did not have the needed rage to take it over the top. Foley described what happens in party caucus meetings before votes – a process that has been called sausage making in political lore. He ended his presentation by reporting on the billions of dollars in wind energy projects that have left the state, and the destruction of a promising solar energy industry that was starting to develop.

The panelists, CLEAN and those in attendance considered the event a success and CLEAN hopes to repeat it again in the coming year.

Randy Cunningham is a Cleveland chronicler of activism and an organizer for CLEAN.

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