Over 50 participate in Grassroots Organizing Summit

From October 12-14th, Mountain Watershed Association hosted a Grassroots Organizing Summit for leaders working on issues related to shale gas and petrochemical development in our region. To make the Summit a success, we partnered with several regional organizations, including Center for Coalfield Justice, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition (OVEC), Sierra Club Ohio, Protect Penn-Trafford, One PA, and Marcellus Outreach Butler.

Over 50 participants attended the Summit, including community members directly impacted by the shale gas industry, Native leaders, and regional allies working in environmental justice communities. As the petrochemical industry plans to develop a “plastics belt” in the Ohio River Valley, which will rely on more fracked gas and fracked gas infrastructure, we felt the need and urgency to come together to continue building a coalition to protect the water, communities, and people we love. Summit attendees represented communities in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland, and West Virginia, with guest speakers in attendance from Winnipeg, Manitoba; St. James Parish, Louisiana; and Detroit, Michigan.

To lay a foundation for this coalition, we focused on strengthening relationships with each other and gaining a broader understanding of the communities that have been resisting extractive industries for decades and longer. We heard stories from grassroots leaders, ranging from First Nations in Canada to the Louisiana Gulf, who have been fighting for years to protect their communities from the health and environmental impacts of the petrochemical industry. Their insights showed us how we could better align our organizing efforts in the Ohio River Valley with the work that has already been happening across North America so that our movement could be stronger together.

Moving forward, we hope to continue skill-sharing and discussing regional strategies to protect our communities in face of the planned petrochemical expansion in our region. In the meantime, we are thankful that the Summit gave us the opportunity to build trust and relationships among organizers so that we can better rely on each other while we face the challenging work ahead.