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Energy Justice Network - Services and Projects

Our services are as wide-ranging as the needs of grassroots community groups.  Since our capacity will always be far smaller than the demands on us by a large number of grassroots individuals and community groups, we focus on providing services that ensure that everyone gets at least the most critical starting points they need.  This often involves spending an hour or more on the phone with new activists, providing information on the hazards associated with the technologies they’re fighting, advising them on effective strategies to win, linking them up with other activists they should connect with, recruiting them to appropriate issue-based email discussion lists and whatever else seems appropriate.  The goal is to provide direct support, but also enable grassroots activists to network effectively with one another so that they are supporting each other.

Services we provide include:

Community organizing support and advice – We answer questions of all sorts from grassroots activists, coach people on everything from open records laws to making the best use of public hearings to debunking industry propaganda to building an effective and strategic community organization.  In select communities, our support will go far deeper, such as to facilitate meetings, develop strategies, set up websites and social media, conduct research, develop written materials, and anything else that a grassroots group would need to do for themselves, but can’t yet.

Recent examples:

  • We put a woman in Florida fighting a plan for one of the nation’s largest gas-fired power plants in touch with a woman in Georgia who had contacted us the previous month, fighting the gas pipeline that would carry fracked gas to the Florida power plant.
  • Once our anti-fracking organizer heard from a professor in western PA who is fighting the dumping of radioactive fracking waste into her local landfill, we put her in touch with local activists who have fought landfills in the area, another local activist with a 25-year history of fighting for cleanup of a nuclear waste site who could help her understand the radiation readings, an activist with a national anti-nuclear group in DC who has experience with deregulation of radioactive waste in PA, and an activist in eastern PA who led the fight that successfully closed a landfill that was full of radioactive-contamination from nuclear industries in the Philadelphia area. These people may never have found one another, but in one phone call, this new activist is now able to connect with the best and brightest whose experience can help her win the changes she seeks.

Network-building – We put people in touch with others who are important for them to talk to, because they’re in the same area, are in connected fights, or are working to stop the same company, technology or fuel.

With coal, oil and nuclear on the decline, natural gas and biomass/waste incineration are still poised for major growth despite their incredible ecological harms, from toxic exposure in communities, to climate hazards shown to be worse than coal.  These fuels are not a bridge to a clean energy future, but are major barriers, absorbing subsidies and investment dollars to build infrastructure intended to last decades.  While we have a great network against biomass and waste incineration that we need to continue to strengthen, we’re starting to build a new national network of grassroots leaders fighting the new wave of 200-some gas-fired power plants that are driving the demand for fracking.

Email discussion lists – We administer email lists that connect grassroots activists on specific issues.  We have lists on natural gas, nuclear, coal, several types of incineration (separate lists for trash, biomass, tire and poultry waste incineration), ethanol biorefineries, electric power transmission lines and more.  Our lists on nuclear, gas, coal, trash and biomass incineration are the most active, with hundreds of grassroots leaders involved in each.  These lists form a sense of community, where far-flung activists support each other’s efforts, enabling more victories.  People share news items, testimony, action alerts, updates from their local battles, technical and policy questions and answers and much more.

Conference calls – We host bi-monthly conference calls for those in our most active issue network, on biomass incineration, facilitate a steering committee of grassroots leaders and monthly network-wide calls where people share presentations and updates and seek advice from each other.  We aim to do the same as we develop a new network soon to help communities stop the onslaught of hundreds of new fracked-gas-fired power plants.

Information / research – We critique technologies that communities face.  We collect government, academic and industry data, as well as documents found through grassroots groups’ experience with facilities, and develop it into web content, factsheets and other resources that compile this hard-to-find information into well-documented, accessible critiques of dirty energy and waste technologies.  Some samples:

Speaking / training – Presentations are usually about the dangers of (and alternatives to) certain energy and waste technologies.  Some are about climate or energy policies, or skills trainings in anything from researching corporations to student organizing to non-violent direct action.  We speak at college campuses and at activist conferences like PowerShift, where we tabled and taught several hundred students across four workshops and gave a tour of a fracking site to others.  We also speak at kick-off “town hall” style meetings when concerned community members bring us into town to speak about the consequences of a proposed polluter.  We’ve sparked the creation of new grassroots community groups in several communities, leading to victories in each.  A list of some of the many speaking topics that Mike and Alex have presented over the years, are available at www.energyjustice.net/mikeewall#speaking and www.energyjusticesummer.org/frack-university/

Community environmental justice field organizing – Particularly in areas between Virginia and New York (as our field organizers are in DC and Pennsylvania), we work hands-on with community groups to get them the varied types of support and training they need.

Limited legal and technical support – Legal and technical support is highly demanded by grassroots groups, and there is never enough expert support to go around.  We provide limited support, helping people understand technical issues in permits, connecting them with experts where possible.  It’s rare that we’ll work on technical comments on permits, but we’ll do so in strategic cases.  Rather than focus on appealing permits, we aim to provide support in more strategic and affordable ways.  We often help activists with computer issues, including establishing and hosting websites.

Local environmental ordinances – We’re developing a legal toolbox for grassroots groups to use to stop polluters with strict local environmental laws.  Our founder, Mike Ewall, has been helping communities stop polluters with local ordinances since blocking a statewide nuclear waste dump siting effort in the mid-1990s, in part by getting counties to adopt strict local ordinances regulating the multi-state nuclear dump.  Since 2006, he has helped Pennsylvania communities stop proposed air polluters through the use of local ordinances adopting the nation’s strictest mercury and dioxin air pollution laws.  Now an attorney (since 2011), he has mapped out most U.S. states’ policies on whether local governments are allowed to adopt stricter air or waste laws.  He’s taught popular Continuing Legal Education (CLE) courses on this topic at public interest environmental law conferences.  See www.energyjustice.net/ordinances/ for more.

Energy Justice Map – We’re building an ambitious mapping project akin to a “Facebook for grassroots facility fighters” (see www.energyjustice.net/map/).  Designed to meet informational and networking needs of grassroots activists, this interactive site tracks existing, proposed, closed and defeated dirty energy and waste facilities, the corporations behind them, and the people and groups fighting them.  It allows grassroots activists to share information on themselves, their group, and the polluters they’re fighting, to share documents and to learn what polluters are in (or planned for) their area.  Some groups are using the site to upload and share permit documents on facilities they’re fighting.  Key features / plans include:

  • Advanced search features to enable people to find answers to questions we often get asked, including ones as crazy as this one we were once asked: seeking a list of all International Paper paper mills that burn tires and which have electrostatic precipitators for pollution controls.
  • Connections to related online resources, including CO2 emissions data, renewable energy potential maps, coal ash generation, air quality, and political information (linking users from state profile pages to their federal legislators, their voting records and campaign contributions).
  • International application – while the data is U.S.-focused so far, it has country-specific landing pages for international use.
  • Sophisticated environmental justice mapping – we’re currently working on providing the most detailed census demographics layers available online, enabling users to easily overlay the latest race and class data down to the neighborhood level to show how polluters tend to target low-income and minority communities.  See www.justicemap.org for our preliminary work on this.  These tools are now integrated into our main mapping site.  Also, see our newest tool to analyze the race and class trends in an entire industry!
  • Cradle-to-grave industry mapping – we aim to map not just energy production and waste facilities, but the entire chain of key energy industries, particularly coal and natural gas.  For example, we’d like to map from the coal mines to the power plants to the coal ash dumps, and from the fracking lease maps and wells to the pipelines and compressor stations to the power plants and LNG terminals.  On biomass, we’ve done the first project to show the logging associated with feeding a biomass incinerator, in Burlington, VT – showing maps of the logged areas, and photos of some of them.  See: www.energyjustice.net/map/mcneil/
  • Early warning system – we aim to design an email alert system that will warn subscribers in target communities of proposed polluting facilities in their area, as soon as we or other users enter it into our system.  This would include a highly-customizable Google News Alerts-style interface where people can sign up for updates when there is new information on facilities in their area of concern, whether by geography, technology/fuel or company.  Our goal is to get people up-to-speed in time to act and stop proposed polluters as early as possible.  Currently, we gather a lot of information on proposals from industry information sources and grassroots word-of-mouth, but lack the capacity to alert everyone needing to know about these plans.  Having an automated and crowd-sourced system will help make this possible.

Environmental and Economic Justice Maps – We can help you use JusticeMap.org to create your own environmental justice map for your community or region.  This allows you to visualize racial and class injustice.  You can use the map online or print it. In addition, you can do basic Geographical Information Systems analysis - by comparing who lives near a dirty facility to who lives further away.

Policy analysis/development – We dissect various energy, climate and waste policies for their impacts on the communities we serve.  We’ve testified and commented on various policies to close damaging loopholes.  While our legislative drafting and advocacy work has mainly been focused at the local level, we’ve also worked on some state and national policies, helping stop some particularly dirty bills.  Our grassroots network has also developed a platform outlining solutions on energy and waste issues.

Student organizing & internships – We help train the next generation with internships and volunteer opportunities, and by getting students working in solidarity with impacted communities in their areas.  We have an extensive history of involvement in the student environmental movement, from working with the Student Environmental Action Coalition since the 1990s to co-founding Energy Action Coalition in 2004, to founding the state-wide student environmental networks in Pennsylvania and Ohio.  Our campus organizing resources include a Campus/Community Organizing Guide on how students can work in solidarity with impacted communities.  See: www.energyjustice.net/campus/

Energy Justice Summer – a summer program for college students and others who'd like to live and work together for a summer in Pennsylvania's shale fields, supporting communities in their struggles against fracking and related natural gas infrastructure.  See: www.energyjusticesummer.org

Environmental activist calendar – We’ve developed an activist event calendar where users can centralize information on upcoming events.  It’s the only system that tracks events by type and geography, so that users can focus in on events most relevant to them, enabling everything from national conferences to local town hall meetings to show up, without having to see the local meetings from areas that aren’t local to the user.  See: www.energyjustice.net/map/calendar

Action Alert system - Tired of using online petitions like change.org where you don't get all of the contact info from those who sign?  So were we, so we made our own system, which Energy Justice member groups can also use (joining is free!).  You'll get the full contact info from all who sign, and can target state or national legislators by district, or other email targets.  Unlike change.org, the message will go to the target, and direct from the signer's email.  Messages and alerts can include links and images, too!  Contact us if you're interested.