Free Rides to Polls for Voters this Election Day!

A partnership between Clean Air, Community Power for Health and Justice, and Liberty Cab can help!  On November 7th the Liberty Cab Company will provide any Erie County resident a ride to and from their polling place free of charge. This is the second year that Liberty Cab has partnered up with us to drive voters to the polls. Last year, phones rang off the hook with voters requesting rides almost every two minutes.

“We know the importance that transportation access has in taking part in democracy. Transportation has always been a second thought with everything we do here in Western New York. It really should be part of the planning process. There’s a lot of people including seniors who want to exercise their right to vote,” said Bill Yuhnke, of Liberty Cab “We can’t let lack of transportation stop people from taking part in this process.”

But there is more to this project than just providing a free ride. Many our our members complain of big money and the corrupting of large donations to elected officials. The project aims improve voter turnout and engage with communities to combat the undue influence of money in our political system.

The more obstacles put in the way of voter participation the less people vote and hold elected officials accountable. In New York we have seen this in the form restricting early voting, and inaccessible polling centers. With less people participating in the political process, elected become more accountable to their donors rather than their constituents. The Liberty Ride to Vote project aims to counteract the effects of big money in politics by overcoming the obstacle of transportation to the polls.

Each voter who shows up diminishes the influence of every dollar spent trying to buy an election. Decisions are made every day by people we elect that impact our lives. The decisions electeds make should be based on the real needs of communities, not the desires of people who want to profit on the backs of working people, people with disabilities and their families.  One of the things that can weaken the control of big money is a flood of voters.

Residents can take advantage of this service by calling Liberty Cab at 716-877-7111, press 0, then use the code LibertyRide2Vote.  This service is not affiliated with any political party or campaign. This service is available only to Erie County residents at this time. Residents must reside in Erie County and have a voting location also based within Erie County in order to participate.

On Tuesday, November 7th polls will be open from 6am-9pm. Residents can find their polling place by calling the Erie County Board of Elections at 716-858-8891, or by using the Voting Information Projects Voting Information Tool at www.votinginfoproject.org.

 



Clean Air’s Response to the University at Buffalo’s Tonawanda Health Study

The following statement was written collaboratively by Tonawanda members, Clean Air board members and Clean Air staff. Members of the Clean Air Board of Directors are elected through an annual membership vote. Members of Clean Air live in neighborhoods in Western New York that are disproportionately impacted by pollution, and pay annual organizational dues, lead campaigns and organize for public health and environmental justice in their communities.

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Clean Air was founded by residents living in the most industrialized neighborhood of New York State who suspected that their health problems were linked to the facilities in their neighborhood. They collected air samples that revealed high levels of carcinogenic chemicals in the ambient air. Through smart, strategic organizing, we were awarded a $1 million air study from New York State in 2007, which confirmed benzene levels were well over federal guideline concentrations, and that Tonawanda Coke Corporation was responsible for these high emissions.

Our members ran a direct action campaign against the company that resulted in a federal investigation. The verdict found Tonawanda Coke Corp. guilty in criminal court of breaking 14 federal laws under the Clean Air Act and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. Mark Kamholz, the environmental control manager, was found guilty on the same counts and an additional count of obstruction of justice. He was sentenced to a year in prison. The facility, which is still in operation, was forced to change its process and comply with federal law. Today, total emissions of benzene, a known human carcinogen, have decreased in the surrounding community by 92%, while New York State’s air monitors continue to operate in the neighborhood.

One outcome of the court process was that the University at Buffalo’s School of Public Health and Health Professions was awarded $11 million from fines levied against the company to perform a health study entitled “The Tonawanda Health Study: An Epidemiologic Study of Health Effects and Coke Oven Emissions from Tonawanda Coke.” The stated aim is to explore the health impacts of benzene in Tonawanda, health impacts of residents’ lifestyle choices, health effects of Tonawanda Coke emissions, and potential health impacts on Tonawanda Coke employees.

The study will be conducted over a ten year time frame by taking blood samples of Tonawanda residents and conducting surveys. Over the last few years Clean Air staff, board and members have been approached by faculty members working on this study requesting participation and endorsement of the University at Buffalo’s study. We have chosen not to participate in or endorse the study for the following reasons:

  • Clean Air is committed to building real power in communities that have been cut out of decisions that impact their lives. Our organizing improves public health, quality of life, and builds equity. In determining our position on participation and endorsement of academic studies the Clean Air Coalition follows an academic research policy. The Clean Air Coalition academic research policy was created to set a standard by which we choose to engage in academic research. Our academic research policy was put in place to prevent us from engaging in academic studies that exploit residents and run contrary to our values. We will only engage in research that will enhance the capacity of residents to participate in the political process, bridge the gap between regulatory frameworks and community issues, impact policies, regulations and budgets, and transform decision makers. This study meets none of our required criteria for our participation.

 

  • The Clean Air Coalition is dedicated to bringing residents to the center of the political process. We operate under the conviction that the persons most entitled to decision making are those who are affected by their outcomes. As already stated, the design and intent of the study relegates residents to subjects for experimentation. Given the role of residents in the study, the study’s intent, design and expected findings will not and cannot enhance their capacity to participate in the broader political process affecting their lives. It simply subjugates them and relegates them to a role of blind subjects for errant experimentation. It is clear to us that this study will be conducted with neither the design or intent to improve the lives of residents in Tonawanda.

 

  • The study design proposes taking blood and urine samples on Tonawanda residents. These samples are to be analyzed for benzene metabolites. This is performed as a means of estimating ambient benzene air levels. The researchers will also collect population survey data. The study then proposes to compare benzene metabolite measurements against the population survey data. Following the comparison, the study then proposes to use these measurements to draw unspecified conclusions about the population.

 

  • The study presents glaring failures of adherence to scientific rigor and ethical practices. To begin, the sampling of blood and urine to assess ambient air benzene exposure in a population is inappropriate. Measurement of blood and urinary benzene metabolites fluctuate as high as a factor of 10 over an 8 hour period. This fluctuation is due to the high rate at which benzene metabolites break down in the human body. As a result, blood and urine samples to assess ambient air benzene exposure is not only inaccurate; The existing body of scientific knowledge casts this method as inappropriate.  We already know the ambient air levels of Benzene. Based on NYSDEC air monitoring data we know that Tonawanda has had elevated levels of benzene and other volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the ambient air. We know not only the type of VOC, but also their concentration.

 

  • Vast research has been done on the negative health impacts of these chemicals, and is publicly available through the Department of Health, Environmental Protection Agency, and many other sources. We know, based on the New York Department of Health Outcomes Review (2009), which reviewed the occurrence of 18 different types of cancer in Tonawanda, that lung cancer, bladder cancer and total cancers were elevated among both males and females; esophageal cancer and oral cavity/pharynx was elevated among males; and uterine cancer and leukemia was elevated among females.

 

  • In the case of benzene, exposure from point sources such as Tonawanda Coke, the research is already clear on the impacts to resident health. There is no shortage of knowledge linking chronic and acute exposures of benzene to harmful impacts on human health. The intent of the University at Buffalo’s study is to use dubious methods to conclude that which is already known to regulators and communities.

 

  • The effects of benzene and the levels of benzene are known and have been known for a decade. Researchers are not needed to reconfirm again what the scientific community and the Tonawanda community already knows. What we need are enforceable policies that are based on equity and health. What we need is democratic decision making in how public money and resources are spent.  What we need are agencies, elected officials and corporations that are accountable to people who are impacted by their decisions. This study does not even begin or attempt to address these issues.

Based upon the documents provided to us, written and verbal conversations with representatives from the University at Buffalo (Dept of Epidemiology and Environmental Health, School of Public Health and Health Professions), we find the study insufficient to allow our participation. The study is not simply insufficient, but also damaging to our vision and values as an organization. After a thorough review of the health study, consultation with members active in the Tonawanda Coke campaign, within Tonawanda, our staff, and based on the values and process of Clean Air’s academic research policy–Clean Air’s Board of Directors has determined our organization will not participate in this study.

– Clean Air Board of Directors –



Town of Tonawanda Unveils Economic Development Plan

Collaborative Plan Creates Pathway for Life After Huntley Coal Plan Closure

On Wednesday, June 21st at 6:30pm elected officials, representatives from community organizations, organized labor, and Town residents will come together for the official release of the Tonawanda Tomorrow economic development plan. This plan provides a pathway for the town to make up revenue loss after last year’s closure of the NRG Huntley coal burning power plant.

The company began decommissioning last year due to the fact the company couldn’t make a profit off selling power into the market.  NRG Huntley was the largest single revenue provider to the Town, providing a 6.2M payment in lieu of taxes at the time of retirement.

Over the past nine months, the Town and its community partners have been working to create this plan for growing Tonawanda’s economy after the impact of the Huntley Power Plant closing. Driven by the community, the draft plan was shaped by the voices of nearly 1,000 Tonawanda residents, business owners, and community stakeholders. Strategies the town is pursuing include encouraging expansion at current key industries in the Town, advancing redevelopment of strategic sites along the waterfront – including the Huntley site, exploring and implementing energy efficiency strategies to reduce costs, and implementing strategies to increase public access to the water. Read the plan here!

Tonawanda Tomorrow is an extension of broad coalition work that began before NRG announced the retirement.  This coalition includes local labor unions; community development and workforce development agencies; and a large base of residents who live near the plant. Recent successes include the establishment of a New York State fund to help power plant reliant communities transition. For the next 7 years, the town and school district will be able to tap into this fund to make up the revenue loss, creating significant opportunities for intentional, community driven economic development planning to take place.

The planning process for Tonawanda Tomorrow is being led by the Town of Tonawanda and coordinated by the University at Buffalo Regional Institute (UBRI), a research enterprise of the University at Buffalo School of Architecture and Planning. Key partners include the Western New York Area Labor Federation, The Kenmore Teachers Association, the Buffalo Center for Arts and Technology, the Clean Air Coalition of Western New York, Erie County, and the Delta Institute, a Chicago-based nonprofit that helps communities transition their economy after a coal plant closes.

The event will kick off at 6:30pm in the Community Room of the Phillip Sheridan Building 3200 Elmwood Ave. Buffalo, 14217.Light snacks and refreshments will be served. Activities will be available for kids coming with their parents. Anyone interested in attending is encouraged to register in advance at www.tonawandatomorrow.org/register.



How Will You Spend $10,000 in the Niagara District?

Join us in the Participatory Budgeting (PB) Niagara District process!

PB is a different way to manage public money and to engage people in government. It is a democratic process in which community members directly decide how to spend part of a public budget. It enables taxpayers to work with government to make budget decisions that affect their lives. Interested? Watch these videos to learn how the process works. 

Last year, we ran a pilot program in Buffalo’s Masten District. Over 300 residents came out to 8 different voting locations over the span of 6 days in various locations throughout the district to decide on how to spend a portion of the city’s budget directly on projects in their community. The winning projects included a farmer’s market, community kitchen upgrades and a healthy cooking campaign, new smart board and computer classes for seniors, lighting on local streets near MLK Park, a bus shelter, garbage cages, and a new bus shelter.

This year, our organization is partnering with Common Councilman David Rivera’s office to run a similar pilot project in the Niagara District. Last month, nearly a dozen community projects were generated by residents in the district. These projects will go up for a community wide vote the week of June 25th through July 1st. To learn more, go to www.pbbuffalo.org.

All Niagara District residents and Students age 14+ can Vote! Voters must bring proof of district residency (a utility bill, photo id, student id etc) to vote.

Want to help get people to the PB Polls? Join one of our phone banking nights by calling Brian at 852-3813

Phone Banking Nights at 52 Linwood Ave. Buffalo, NY

Wednesday the 14th –  from 4:30-6pm
Monday the 19th from 4:40-6pm
Wednesday the 21st from 4:30-6pm
OR
Download a PB Niagara District Voting Locations Flyer and spread the word!

 



Tonawanda Coke to Begin Processing Hazardous Waste

Residents near Tonawanda Coke are extremely concerned about their health and safety since The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) announced that Tonawanda Coke will begin processing materials from a hazardous waste site. NYS DEC released a fact sheet  announcing the processing to begin in early June. Despite the long history of Tonawanda Coke’s environmental and health and safety violations, NYS DEC has not notified residents living near the plant, or held a public meeting or comment process on how changes in emissions at Tonawanda Coke will be monitored.

Tonawanda Coke has a long history of breaking the law, which has impacted the lives of workers and residents living near the plant. In 2013, Tonawanda Coke was found guilty in criminal court of eleven counts of violating the Clean Air Act. In the investigation leading to the conviction, Tonawanda Coke was found to be disposing of hazardous waste without a permit, and additionally charged with three counts of violating the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act due to negligent waste disposal.

In 2016 the US Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (USOSHA) levied fines against the company for being found at fault for the death of Richard Wade, a 60 year old employee after he was pulled into the rotating shaft of a coal elevator. This was not the first time the company faced workplace violations.  In 2014 the company faced fines from USOSHA following an explosion that occurred and exposed employees to asphyxiation from the release of coke oven gas. USOSHA found that the company failed to inspect and maintain proper safety systems.

Tonawanda is home to the highest concentration of major industrial facilities in New York State, with over 50 air-permitted facilities inside a three -mile radius.   In 2013, the New York State Department of Health (DOH) released the Tonawanda Community Health Study. The DOH study found elevated levels of certain cancers, including leukemia, pre-term births and heart defects in newborn children in the neighborhoods near the Tonawanda Coke facility.

NYS DEC is labeling the effort as an Interim Measure to cleanup hazardous waste from the former Allied Chemical site on River Road. NYS DEC states the site is contaminated with material such as cyanide, pyrene, benzene, naphthalene, and various heavy metals. DEC is working with Tonawanda Coke to excavate Coal Tar material from the site, to then process it in the Tonawanda Coke coking ovens. DEC has stated, If processing the material is not compatible with TCC’s coke making process, the measure may be discontinued.

This Thursday, Clean Air  called on NYSDEC Commissioner Seggos to delay the clean up until public comment process is initiated, including a public meeting where residents’ questions and concerns can be addressed. Tonawanda residents need to know that NYS DEC is not “solving” a soil pollution problem by converting it into a dangerous air pollution problem. Read our letter to the DEC.

For coverage of our press conference click here. 

 



Looking to the Future After Huntley’s Closing

Tonawanda Tomorrow Draft Plan Unveiled!!

Over the past nine months, the Town and its community partners have been working to create a plan for growing Tonawanda’s economy. Driven by the community, this draft plan was shaped by the voices of nearly 1,000 Tonawanda residents, business owners, and community stakeholders.

This draft plan is now available online – is still in draft form, and needs your input to be complete.

Between now and May 31st, the Tonawanda community is encouraged to read the plan and offer comments.

The Tonawanda Tomorrow project launched out of our just transition campaign to grow the town’s economy after the impact of the Huntley Power Plant closing. The NRG Energy’s Huntley plant in Tonawanda, N.Y., closed last summer because the company couldn’t make a profit off selling power into the market.

Between now and May 31st, the Tonawanda community is encouraged to read the plan and offer comments about what you liked, what you don’t like, and how you would like to see it improved.

There are 3 ways to comment on this plan before the May 31st deadline:

1. Come to the public meeting tomorrow night (5.17) at 6:30pm at the  Phillip Sheridan Building, 3200 Elmwood Avenue, Buffalo, NY 14217.Light snacks and refreshments will be served. Activities will be available for kids coming with their parents.RSVP HERE. 

2. Comment online by clicking hereYou can also email your feedback to info@tonawandatomorrow.org

3. Write down your comments and mail them to UB Downtown Gateway 77 Goodell Street, Suite 302 Buffalo, NY 14203

 

For more information on the planning process- visit  www.tonawandatomorrow.org

To request hard copies of the plan call Rebecca at 716-852-3813.

 



Community Organizing Under A New EPA

Everything we've worked for is at risk.

Clean Air has been running and winning campaigns for health and equity in Western New York for 10 years. We have pushed decision makers in our region to prioritize the health of neighborhoods. We have fought to be the ones making decisions about policies that directly impact us.

Today, data shows that the level of pollutants in Erie County are the lowest on record in the last seven years. In Tonawanda alone, benzene – a known carcinogen – has been reduced by 92%. We did this together because we organized with bravery and strategy, and we are winning. Buffalo News – Benzene Reduced 92%

Today, our work is at risk of being dismantled. Last week the Trump administration froze new scientific grants at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). These grants fund state air monitors, restore watersheds, clean up and develop brownfields, reduce industrial emissions through pollution prevention upgrades, and support environmental justice communities. You can read about our previous work with the EPA here, EPA Supports Tonawanda Air Monitoring

In addition, the nomination of Scott Pruitt as Administrator of the EPA poses a direct threat to the health and quality of life of our members. Pruitt’s nomination signals the elimination of critical environmental, climate, and public health regulations.

If confirmed, we expect policies protecting environmental justice in communities like WNY and enforcement of those policies to be targeted, weakened, and altogether eliminated. We need to act now. Resourcing our continued fight together is of the utmost importance.

Here’s what you can do:

Give $19.63 in honor of the year the Clean Air Act was passed

Give $45 in honor of the 45th President of the United States

Give $100 and up in honor of Scott Pruitt, who is Trump’s pick to head EPA, and we’ll send him an acknowledgement of your donation to protect our climate and our neighborhoods.

Call Senator Schumer(716 – 846-4111) & Senator Gillibrand(716- 854-9725) office – thanking them for voicing oppositions to Jeff Sessions and Scott Pruitt, and asking them  to continue to urge others to vote “no” on both appointments.

 

 



Participatory Budgeting Buffalo in the Niagara District

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Last Spring, Councilmember David Rivera made a commitment to have a Participatory Budgeting (PB) process in his district, the Niagara District, and we are excited to finally be underway! General Assemblies are where residents come together to brainstorm ideas for their communities, are being scheduled throughout the district for December and January 2017.

UPDATE (1/17): Here’s a list of upcoming PB Assemblies!

Tues. Jan 17 – 6PM: The Belle Center, 104 Maryland St, Buffalo, NY 14201
Sat. Jan 21 – 10AM: Lafayette High School, 370 Lafayette Ave, Buffalo, NY 14213
Mon. Jan 23 – 5:30PM: Grant Street Neighborhood Center, 271 Grant St. Buffalo, NY 14213
 
For more information, or if you have questions, give Natasha a call at 852.3813. 
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Concejal David Rivera ha cometido para tener la procesa Presupuesto Participativo (PP) en su distrito- ¡estamos excitado para estar empezando!
Los Asambleas Generales, en donde residentes tienen lluvias de ideas para la comunidad, se están fijando los días y las horas para enero.

El presupuesto participativo en una nueva manera de tomar decisiones sobre los proyectos financiados con fondos públicos en nuestro barrio. El presupuesto participativo le da un poder real a los residentes locales sobre las decisiones en cómo se gasta el dinero publico.

Este ano residentes del Distrito Niagara pueden decidir como gastar $10,000 para proyectos para nuestros barrios!
Tienes una gran idea? Asambleas Generales de vecinos son donde residentes pueden identificar necesidades en su barrio y tener unas lluvias de ideas. También es donde residentes pueden aprender mas de el proceso del presupuesto participativo.

Para más informacion o si tienes preguntas llame Natasha a 852.3813.


2017 Annual Meeting – January 31st

It is time to celebrate another year of exciting victories and developments at Clean Air.  Together, we have accomplished major steps towards a more health and equitable Western New York. Without the investment and work by members, and the belief in the power and possibility of organizing our communities – none of our work in 2016 could have been possible.

We invite you to join us at our Annual Meeting to celebrate these successes and prepare for another year of smart, grassroots organizing. Our membership from across the region will come together to learn from each other, and share successes and challenges over the past year.

Our 2017 member meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, January 31 from 5:30pm – 7:00pm at the United Way of Erie County at 742 Delaware in Buffalo.  Refreshments will be served.

Our annual meeting is open to all, however only dues paying members are eligible to vote on this year’s 2017 board of directors. If you are a member and have not yet received your ballot in the mail, please contact Rebecca at 716-852-3813 to check on the status of your membership.

All board members serve 3 year terms. Board members fulfill the following responsibilities:

  • To provide guidance and assistance in implementing the strategic goals and objectives of the organization
  • To evaluate the Executive Director
  • To participate actively on at least one board committee; events, personnel, finance or sustainability
  • To fundraise
  • To attend organizational events and membership meetings as able

Our 2017 Board of Director’s slate is as follows:

Sydney Brown is a humble servant of The Most High God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. She is community driven concentrating her efforts on addressing the economic, social and environmental injustices facing the Western New York area with a special emphasis on the East Side of Buffalo. A board member of the Black Chamber of Commerce of Western New York, Sydney is a team player dedicated to improving the economic well fare of her community with a focus on Black enterprises. She is a devoted board member of the Restore Our Community Coalition (ROCC) advocating for the restoration of the Humboldt Parkway. Sydney is also a loyal member of Clean Air: Organizing for Health and Justice. She enthusiastically aided in bringing Participatory Budgeting (PB) to Buffalo for the first time and with implementing the PB process.

Yvonne T. Stephens is an occupational health social worker and Outreach Coordinator for The Center for Occupational & Environmental Medicine at ECMC. A 2009 graduate of the University at Buffalo’s School of Social Work, Yvonne has used her degree to further her interests in community organizing, organizational development, and community birth work. Yvonne is also a therapist and facilitator for the Perinatal Mental Health Program at the Birthing Center of Buffalo. While earning her MBA in 2016 from Medaille, Yvonne began a community organizing coalition called “The 716 Coalition”, which focuses on engaging the community to take action against police brutality and racial disparity in Buffalo. In her free time, Yvonne enjoys spending time with her partner and her two year old son, EJ.

Jennifer Wrobel grew up in Niagara Falls, NY. She graduated from SUNY Geneseo with degrees in Organization & Interpersonal Communication and English Literature, then went on to receive her MBA from Niagara University. Jennifer currently works as a benefits analyst for Synacor, Inc., a publicly-traded technology company. Jennifer also loves to teach dance and spend time with her nephew.

 



2017 To-Do List: Make WNY a healthier, more equitable place to live, work, and play!

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You make a difference.
Together, we have made some great things happen in 2016 for Western New York. As we look forward to 2017, there are many challenges to face, many of which are still unknown. However, Clean Air will continue to fight for the health and equity of all Western New Yorkers, and we want to count on you to continue to fight with us.
Here’s a few of the things we can accomplish in 2017, together:
  • Bring Participatory Budgeting to Buffalo’s Niagara District, then take it city-wide!
  • Develop a new, sustainable and resident-driven economy in Tonawanda
  • Make more victories like the NYS Attorney General case against Battaglia Demolition and the injunction against the re-opening of Amigone Crematory possible

These victories can only happen with your continued support! Make a contribution of $50, $100, or $150 to Clean Air today.

Your investment is not only put to work right away preventing pollution and growing democracy in Buffalo, but is also completely tax deductible! We hope that making WNY a healthy place to live, work, and play for all of us is on your to-do list for 2017. Investing in Clean Air today will help make that happen. Click here or on the “Donate” tab at the top of the page.

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