Advocacy Institute is Back in Town!

The Advocacy Institute, in partnership with the Clean Air Coalition, is returning to Western New York on June 10th! 

Join us for a powerful day of training, sharing updates on the political landscape in Albany, and connecting with other groups from the region working on legislative campaigns at the state level.  

We’re offering two sessions — one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Find out more about each below and join us for either or both.

  • June 10, 2019
  • Morning refresher: 9:30am – 12:45pm
  • Afternoon political landscape deep-dive: 1:30pm – 5:30pm
  • Location: 2421 Main St #100, Buffalo, NY, 14214
  • RSVP here (deadline May 20)

Morning refresher session. Join us from 9:30am – 12:45pm to learn about state power and authority, why we need to go to Albany as much as we do, how to maximize our impact while in Albany, and legislative and budget timelines. This session is great for folks who are newer to work in Albany and / or newer to the Advocacy Institute.

Afternoon political landscape deep-dive. Join us from 1:30pm – 5:30pm for updates on the key players in Albany, what is the impact of last November’s election, and how the session is progressing thus far. We’ll also hear updates and dig into specific campaign questions.

Please note that these are two separate sessions and are for people working on active legislative campaigns at the state level. We anticipate more demand than we can meet for this training and will be accepting participants by application on a rolling basis.

  • Please answer every question on the application by May 20.
  • Incomplete applications will not be considered.
  • Please also make sure to let us know on the application of any dietary restrictions and need for assistance with childcare.
  • If accepted, in-person trainings are free for members and cost $25 per person for prospective members.We invite each organization to send 2 participants to attend.

Want more information? Call Clean Air and ask for Linnea or Rebecca at 716-852-3813. Or email info@cacwny.org

 



SAVE THE DATE! 10TH ANNUAL DINNER MAY 30TH!

NOMINATIONS OPEN FOR THE 2019 ANNUAL AWARDS!

Each year our organization recognizes the work of our members and supporters at our Annual Dinner. Our work is based on the principle that no one can accomplish anything alone. We work with many people in many neighborhoods who deserve recognition. Who should we shine the light on this year?  Make your nomination today!



Congratulations Brian!

We would like to announce that Community Organizer, Brian Borncamp will be transferring out of his position at Clean Air to a position in the private sector.
Brian has been a member of Clean Air since 2013, actively involved in the advocacy and implementation of participatory budgeting. In 2016 Brian joined the Clean Air staff supporting member campaign teams fighting the Battaglia corporation in Seneca Babcock and working towards the clean up of PCP’s and other chemicals at the former American Axle site in Delavan Grider.

For those who know Brian, you know that his on-point campaign research, data skills and talented facilitation will be missed. We want to thank Brian for his time with us and wish him all the luck in his next endeavor!


Clean Air Annual Meeting Thursday January 31st!

Join us at our Annual meeting to celebrate and prepare for another year of organizing! Our membership and partners will come together from across the region to learn from each other, share success and challenges, and vision for 2019!

Clean Air Annual Meeting Thursday, January 31st 2019 5-7pm. 

Refreshments served at 5pm. Meeting starts at 5:30pm.

United Way of Erie County Conference Room 102

742 Delaware Ave. Buffalo, NY

 

Our meeting is open to anyone who wishes to attend, however, only Clean Air members are able to vote on this year’s board of directors (See the slate below). If you are a member and have not received your ballot in the mail, please contact Rebecca at Rebecca@cacwny.org. If you wish to become a member today, you can do so online here.

 

2019 Board Slate

Board members are elected annually. 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 fundraise and build organizational capacity
  • To evaluate the Executive Director
  • To be active on at least one board and attend organizational events and membership meetings as able

New Board Candidates (the following board candidates are up for their first three year term)

George Boger is the Field Coordinator for the Western New York Area Labor Federation, ALF-CIO. George works to improve the lives of and increase the power for working families, bring fairness and dignity to the workplace and secure social equity. Economic justice and organizing is central to George’s purpose in life. His analysis is that in order to win any real long lasting change, it will take Labor’s commitment to the community, and community’s commitment to Labor.

Returning Board Candidates (the following board candidates are up for a second three year term)

Emily Terrana is a proud Buffalonian, mother of two and longtime community organizer and educator. She currently works as PUSH Buffalo’s Movement Education Specialist and has trained on how to build a movement for a Just Transition around the country and internationally.  She has served on the board of Clean Air Coalition of WNY since 2016 and is eager to continue the work with all of you!   Emily holds a degree in Women and Gender Studies from Buffalo State College and has had some of her writing published in Selves, Symbols, and Sexualities: An Interactionist Anthology. Emily has a deep rooted passion for gender, climate and economic justice and believes that there cannot be liberation for any of us without liberation for all of us.

Jennifer Yuhnke Carman is a Buffalo native that became a Clean Air Coalition member in 2012 during the West Side Campaign and was actively involved in the Participatory Budgeting Buffalo campaign. She has served on the Board of Directors for the past three years, serving as the Secretary in 2017 and Co-President in 2018. Jennifer has worked at the affordable housing agency Heart of the City Neighborhoods, Inc. for the past eight years. It became apparent that Heart of the City’s mission to create healthy, quality, affordable housing would go to waste if the fight for social justice, equity, and public health was not also given priority in the Buffalo communities she lives and works in. Jennifer is excited for the opportunity to continue working with the members, staff, and Board of Clean Air as we continue to fight and win.



We Support Tesla Workers!

Buffalo, NY – Organizations from West Virginia to Montana, Pennsylvania to Kentucky, comprising of thousands of members, joined with The Clean Air Coalition today to show their support for workers organizing a union drive at Tesla Gigafactory 2.

Shortly after local Channel 4 WIBV broke the news of an organizing drive today, a joint letter was released by over a dozen community organizations located in coal mining communities across the country in support of the drive. (Read the Full Letter Here).

The letter states, “We support workers who are organizing a union at the Tesla Gigafactory in Buffalo, New York. We see the unionization of Tesla, and of the renewable sector, as a strategy to build a just and equitable renewable energy economy, an economy that provides generational sustaining careers as our energy system transitions.”

Located in the heart of the Rust Belt, the Tesla Gigafactory 2 is a photovoltaic (PV) cell factory that produces solar roofing tiles, which look like conventional black roof shingles but contain solar cells. The facility is located in Buffalo, New York, and built on land formerly occupied by the shuttered Republic Steel and Donner Hanna Coke sites.

“The Clean Air Coalition supports workers organizing at Tesla. This is an incredible opportunity to show the country what a sustainable green economy can look like for poor, working class people and people of color. We are motivated and excited by this chance to build something new that works for all of us, not just billionaires and developers,” says Linnea Brett, Community Organizer at Clean Air Coalition.

Tesla Was More Than a New Business Coming to Buffalo –

Tesla Was a Promise

The Tesla facility wasn’t just a state-funded renovation project: Buffalo Tesla was a promise of the new economy – jobs that not only sustain our families but also the environment, jobs that can literally power our homes and businesses.

The project was given $750 million in taxpayer funding to build a state-of-the-art solar production facility located at 1339 South Park Ave., Buffalo, NY 14220. The $750 million giveaway, part of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s highly criticized Buffalo Billion program, is 1.5 times the entire budget for the City of Buffalo.

The project promised to provide thousands of jobs throughout the state. At the time of the deal, Gov. Cuomo guaranteed 1,460 “direct manufacturing jobs at the new facility,” according to a press release issued by his office. Western New Yorkers were promised job training programs and “high road” jobs with family-supporting wages, as much as $65,000 per year. After Tesla acquired the Solar City facility, the company advertised job listings for primarily entry-level positions with wages as low as $14 an hour and limited benefits.

“This is about the deal that was promised to Western New York,” said worker and organizing committee member Curtis Johnson, who has worked for over 30 years in the manufacturing industry, “The deal was high road jobs. That was the promise.”

“The state invested $750 million in Tesla and it is imperative that the residents of Western New York have the opportunity for careers that sustain families. Unionization at this facility is crucial to providing jobs with good pay and benefits. Our community invested in Tesla. It’s time Tesla invested in our community,” said Rev. Kirk Laubenstein, Executive Director of the Coalition for Economic Justice.

The promise began to crumble in the fall of 2017, when news broke that U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara had opened an investigation into the Buffalo Billion bid selection process.

In July 2018, Alain Kaloyeros, who oversaw some of Gov. Cuomo’s top economic development projects as president of the SUNY Polytechnic Institute, the governmental organization tied to the Tesla building, was convicted of illegally steering hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of state-funded contracts to the governor’s friends and allies. A federal jury found Kaloyeros guilty of two counts of wire fraud and one count of wire fraud conspiracy after two days of deliberation. Yesterday he was sentenced to three and a half years in prison.

Louis Ciminelli, former president of Buffalo-based contractor LPCiminelli, was also found guilty of wire fraud conspiracy and wire fraud. LPCiminelli received the multi-million dollar contract to build the Tesla plant.

The Governor was not charged with any wrongdoing.

Tesla Reports Best Quarter for Solar

In a recent article in Bloomberg Businessweek, Tesla says it’s now exceeding its hiring commitments to the state. Bloomberg Business went on to report that “Musk assumed an optimistic note in a recent earnings call, boasting of his ‘best quarter ever for solar’ in terms of profitability, while assuring shareholders that Tesla would accelerate Solar Roof production in 2019.U.S. News notes that if Musk meets the goals and Tesla’s stock value rises during that time period, it “could net him more than $50 billion.”

While workers and community members celebrate news of a profitable quarter, it stands in stark contrast to the pay workers take home every week.

“Our wage package is much lower compared to other manufacturing jobs in the region,” said worker Rob Walsh. “We are worth more.

According to the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council’s 2018 Progress Report, the average advanced manufacturing career annual salary is $62,579, 114% more than the starting wage at Tesla.

“A union is a benefit for all of us and our families, the community as a whole,” said worker and organizing committee member Pete Farrell. “The people I work with are high quality people, people that take initiative, and that’s why we are organizing.”

Labor, Community and Environmental Justice Partnership Forges New Path

As the devastating impacts of climate change and the decline of the coal industry continue to shape our lives and communities, the transition of our energy economy becomes both increasingly urgent, and economically inevitable. New York State’s Clean Energy Mandate dictates that 50% of electricity consumed will come from renewable energy by 2030. The shifting energy economy in Buffalo is a reflection of national trends, where public and private investments in renewable energy continue to grow.

As our economy transitions and new workplaces emerge, workers still face the same basic set of concerns: a need for wages that can support families, job security, benefits and other basic protections. Buffalo Tesla workers see unionizing as their best chance at providing for themselves and their families while doing work they can be proud of. Local community and environmental organizations have come out in numbers to support Tesla workers and this organizing drive.

“The workers organizing at Tesla are on the front lines of making these promises to us, to our community, come true,” says Clean Air’s Linnea Brett. “As they move toward unionization, we are all stepping forward with them, making the promise of a new, green economy a reality.”

“I wanted to work at Tesla because I wanted a job in green energy, a job that can change the world,” said Rob Walsh, a Tesla worker and member of the union organizing committee.

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An Open Letter from Coal Communities In Support of Buffalo’s Tesla Workers:

An Open Letter from Coal Communities In Support of Buffalo’s Tesla Workers:

We represent organizations from West Virginia to Montana, Pennsylvania to Kentucky, who live, work, and organize in coal communities. For more than a century, our communities have been instrumental in powering the national economy, and have made heavy sacrifices to provide cheap electricity for the nation.

Our country’s energy economy is changing. For decades we have experienced the closing of coal mines in our communities followed by the retirement and decommissioning of power plants. This shift has resulted in massive job loss and the loss of revenue that has left many of our local economies struggling.

We support workers who are organizing a union at the Tesla Gigafactory in Buffalo, New York. We see the unionization of Tesla, and of the renewable sector, as a strategy to build a just and equitable renewable energy economy, an economy that provides generational sustaining careers as our energy system transitions.

When workers join together to unionize they build the power to transform jobs into careers, earn the ability to support their families, and guarantee safer working conditions. We’ve witnessed the opposite in “right to work” states, where wages and working conditions have deteriorated, while income inequality has soared. We see the unionization of Tesla as an opportunity to create quality careers, careers with job security, and where workers have a say in their own working environment.

We know that an energy transition is inevitable, while a just energy transition is not. We call on our fellow environmental, community, and climate organizations to show real solidarity to union and worker justice fights, and support Tesla workers.

In Solidarity,

To Nizhoni Ani, Arizona

Western Colorado Alliance, Colorado

Appalachian Citizens Law Center, Kentucky

Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, Kentucky

Mountain Association for Community Economic Development (MACED), Kentucky

Ohio Citizen Action, Ohio

Center for Coalfield Justice, Pennsylvania

Eastern Pennsylvania Coalition for Abandoned Mine Reclamation, Pennsylvania                   

Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, West Virginia 

West Virginia Working Families Party, West Virginia                                           

Western Organization of Resource Councils, Western Region of the United States

Northern Plains Resource Council, Montana                                                                            

Alliance for a Better Utah, Utah

Appalachian Voices, Virginia 



NRG Huntley Coal Announces Plans to Remediate Site

Once in 100 Year Opportunity to Transform Tonawanda’s Waterfront

Today is the deadline for the New York Department of Environmental Conservation’s public comment on the NRG’s application to remediate a portion of the 100 year old Huntley coal site, located on the Niagara River.

The NRG Huntley Coal facility announced closure in 2015 and stopped producing energy from coal in 2016.  At the time of closure the company was the largest polluter in Erie County. The company was no longer financially viable after the influx of natural gas into the energy markets. In March of 2018 NRG listed the site for sale, and in October applied for a portion of their site to be remiendiated under the New York State brownfields program.

The New York State Brownfield Program encourages private-sector cleanups of land that is contaminated. Companies that are approved are eligible for tax credits and may be relieved of future site liabilities. This application provides an opportunity to remediate and re-develop a portion of this site in a way that improves community health, creates jobs, and regains access to the waterfront for the first time in over 100 years.

The current brownfield application is for remediation of the south parcel portion of their site. Approximately 15 acres of this portion includes former coal piles, 3 acres includes the south settling ponds, 3 acres are occupied by two equalization basins. The remaining acreage, approximate 14 acres, consists of site roads and open space.

The presence of coal piles, ash ponds and a fly ash landfill on the site presents the possibility that toxic byproducts of coal waste (including arsenic, cadmium, chromium, mercury and selenium) are leaching into the soil, threatening the groundwater and the Niagara River.  Each one of these contaminants can be hazardous to human health.

In their own application, NRG states that arsenic has been found in the berms next to the River Road bike path.  Assessing the level of contamination is vital to remediation, redevelopment, and to eventually access the waterfront – objectives that are all very clearly stated in the town’s economic development plans.

In order to be accepted into the program, and secure valuable tax credits, a public comment process must be completed.

In our comment to the State of New York, we urged that remediation efforts must meet levels that are safe enough for humans to use this site for recreation and access to the water.

We also requested that the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation require NRG to reassess the contaminants on their over 3,000 ft waterfront site.  The environmental assessment included in NRG’s state application dates back to 1998 –  completed 20 years ago at the time that NRG purchased the facility and site from Niagara Mohawk.

“The 20 year report is outdated,” our comment states, “and the scope is limited in number of samples and contaminants. We encourage an updated, more rigorous investigation of the site as part of the initial phase of the BCP process, and that this assessment be consistent with the potential use of the site to use for commercial and recreational activities. “

The November 9th deadline is the first phase of the remediation process.



Tonawanda Coke Shuts Down

On Friday, in U.S. District Court, it was revealed that Tonawanda Cokeplans to shut down its facilities as early as next Tuesday. Please join us for a press conference today, at 6pm, outside of the DEC Office at 270 Michigan Avenue in Buffalo.

The shutdown follows more than 10 years of community organizing; meetings, complaints, petitions, protests and press conferences. For members of Clean Air this has been a long time in the making.
Clean Air members living in neighborhoods adjacent to the company’s property have experienced the egregious behavior of Tonawanda Coke for over a decade.

Resident organizing resulted in a 2009 raid of the facility by 50 federal and state agents for ongoing environmental health violations. In 2013, a federal jury found the company and Mark Kamholz, environmental manager, guilty of 14 criminal charges, including violations of the federal Clean Air Act, and violations of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, in regard to the improper disposal of benzene, a known human carcinogen. Last month, the company was found guilty of violating their criminal probation.

Tonawanda Coke also has a long history of endangering workers at their plant, in at least one instance resulting in death. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration defines a serious violation as “when death or serious physical harm could result from hazards about which the employer knew or should have known. In 2014,OSHA cited the plant, and Kirchner LLC, which provides Tonawanda Coke temporary workers, with 17 serious violations, including putting employees at risk of falls, amputations and crushing injuries, according to the agency’s press release. Two years after OSHA cited the company with these violations, Richard Wade, a 60-year-old employee, died after he was pulled into the rotating shaft of a coal elevator. In a statement to the Buffalo News, OSHA stated the death could have been prevented if Tonawanda Coke followed federal standards.

Due to the long history of abuse, Clean Air is calling for the following to be ordered as the company shuts down:

The US District Court, the Environmental Protection Agency and the New York Department of Environmental Conservation require the company to include how the company will contain fugitive air emissions in case of further collapse in their emergency shutdown plan.

Clean Air is calling on state and federal agencies to require Tonawanda Coketo fund continued health monitoring of all employees, including temporary workers, to guard against any potential occupational health issues. In addition, we request that a portion of fines are used to help workers build skills for gainful employment elsewhere.

Clean Air is calling on Judge Skrently and the New York State Department of Conservation to require Tonawanda Coke and CEO Paul Saffrin commit and set aside funding for site remediation. Tonawanda Coke sits on river front property, in a neighborhood with families and children. Paul Saffrin should commit the appropriate funds to ensure site remediation to redevelop the site in a way that is consistent with the Tonawanda Tomorrow economic development plan.

While our membership breathes in relief today, it is not lost on us that this has been a long and tremendous fight. Despite over a decade of abuse,Tonawanda Coke has been allowed to continue operating, and Paul Saffrin and his investors have gotten rich off of destroying our bodies and our community.

Tonawanda Coke is not an isolated actor in the exploitation of communities, workers, and our environment, and until we shift the types of businesses we have in our economy, and ensure that people are put first over shareholders and CEO’s wealth, the Tonawanda Cokes of the world will continue to exist, and poor and working class people and people of color will continue to bear the burden, and have to clean up the mess.

What we need is an economy that centers poor and working-class people and people of color through equity and justice. What we need are state and federal agencies that are transparent and place communities at the forefront of decision making. What we need are elected officials that keep these agencies accountable to communities that elect them.

We believe that the world we want to see can only happen if we continue to organize, if we continue to build power, if we continue to shift our culture to one of equity and justice.