We won! Clean Air Members Celebrate Victory of Community Advisory Group at Neighborhood Hazardous Waste Site


We Won!

Clean Air Members Celebrate Victory of Community Advisory Group at Neighborhood Hazardous Waste Site 

Delavan-Grider community wins oversight and accountability board at former American Axle site 

Clean Air members celebrate the creation of a Community Advisory Group on cleanup of the former American Axle site in the City of Buffalo.  The advisory group will be an important step on the long road of rebuilding trust within the community after generations of environmental racism and neglect at the hands of the State and private businesses in a majority Black residential neighborhood in Buffalo. The announcement was made today by Erie County Legislator and Chairwoman April Baskin and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

“The Community Advisory Group was established because of our work to make the health and wellbeing of our community the DEC’s number one priority. The group is an important step in rebuilding years of broken trust in the DEC by the residents. We look forward to working with Rep. Baskin, the DEC and all other stakeholders to make sure the cleanup is held to the highest standards, and is transparent and accountable to the people in this community. We want our community to be made whole”, Ms. Della Miller, Clean Air American Axle Team Member.

Last summer, the Erie County Legislature unanimously passed two resolutions in support of the establishment of Community Advisory Groups at the former American Axle and Tonawanda Coke sites. In September of 2020, the NYSDEC announced the formation of a Tonawanda Coke Working Group, but then denied the establishment of a similar group at American Axle. The Delavan-Grider community, a primarily working class Black community, named the racism baked into the refusal of their calls for transparency, inclusion and decision making power at a site in their own backyards.


The Community Advisory Group will be a forum for community members, organizations and other stakeholders to provide input, oversight and recommendations to the NYSDEC and American-Axle remediation parties, East Delavan Properties, LLC, owned by Jon Williams, the same owner of the former Tonawanda Coke site. The Community Advisory board is a standard practice inside of the federal Superfund cleanup program, and is an important step towards the full transparency and participation that community members have been calling for on the site for over a decade.

“This advisory group is a step in the right direction to address the real harms of environmental racism in the Delavan-Grider Community. We are thankful for the leadership of Rep. Baskin and are pleased that the NYSDEC will be following the leadership of Black women in their decades-long call for answers and action at these hazardous waste sites. Our team will not rest until all of our concerns are acted upon by the NYSDEC and Jon Williams, including off-site testing to give residents the peace of mind they deserve in their own backyards.”, Emily Terrana, Clean Air Environmental Justice Organizer.

The American Axle site located at 1001 East Delavan Ave. has been known to be significantly contaminated.  Approximately 110 thousand gallons of PCBs are located underneath this site. PCBs, known carcinogens, were found to be leaking into the sewer that flows under community members homes. Due to the significant history of soil contamination on this site, residents are particularly concerned about the potential for groundwater contamination.  Families who live near the site are afraid to drink their water and plant gardens in their backyards.

The majority of the 35.6-acre site is being remediated through New York State’s Brownfield Cleanup Program (BCP) by East Delavan Properties, funded in part by taxpayer dollars. The site also includes a 2.65-acre parcel that is part of the State Superfund Program supervised by the NYSDEC and paid for by a 2012 settlement with General Motors.

We’re Hiring! A message from Clean Air’s Executive Search Committee

Over the past fourteen years, the Clean Air Coalition of WNY has built a strong foundation. We know what it means to build community, care for one another, and work towards a more beautiful and clear vision for the world that we want to see.

At the end of 2020, Clean Air said goodbye to our friend and leader of ten years, Rebecca Newberry, who accepted a job with The BlueGreen Alliance, a national leader in building a clean economy and environmental protections. Without skipping a beat our Members, Staff, and Board of Directors took this opportunity to celebrate the work we’ve accomplished and envision the leadership we need for the next chapter of Clean Air.

Our Board of Directors led a team that oversaw this transition at Clean Air over the past four months. The Executive Search Committee was established and has members of our Board and Membership working alongside Catherine Bombico of Bombico Consulting. Our team worked to create a clear vision for the next leader of Clean Air and ensure the search process aligns with our mission, vision, and values. This intentional process included the valuable feedback of our Members, Board, and Staff who shared their knowledge and vision for our next Executive Director.

Today we’re excited to share with you that Clean Air is now hiring!

We’re seeking a dynamic Executive Director that will build relationships, support our membership, coach and support our staff organizers, and lead Clean Air into our next chapter through strategic and innovative approaches. Our new Executive Director will step into a strong and growing team committed to organizing poor and working-class communities for environmental justice, and a reputation for winning.

You can view our full Executive Director Job Description online at cacwny.org/jobs. The deadline to apply is April 14th. Please help us spread the word far and wide and if this is an opportunity you are interested in, please consider applying.

With hope, justice, and excitement for our next chapter,

The Executive Search Committee
Joel Bernosky, Sydney Brown, Phylicia Brown, and Jennifer Carman

Join us for our Annual Meeting!

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Let’s celebrate our wins and start looking ahead at what we can accomplish in 2021. Join us for our 2021 Annual Meeting!

Thursday, March 18th, 2021 from 5:30pm-7:00pm online and by phone via Zoom. Register at http://bit.ly/ca2021meeting or download this page, print and mail in your ballot!

February 2021 Newsletter

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Clean Air Connection

The Huntley and Tonawanda Tomorrow Team

This email comes to you from Clean Air’s Huntley and Tonawanda Tomorrow team, Diana Strablow, Maria Tisby, Sue Kelley, Gary Schulenberg, James Jones and Emily Terrana

Recently, we were asked the question, “what does Just Transition mean to you?” Our team member, Diana Strablow, answered it perfectly:

“Just Transition is the notion that we should not have to choose between a healthy environment and good paying jobs. We need both of those. We need to be able to transition from dirty fossil fuels and, at the same time, maintain good jobs and a healthy economy.”

When companies close, CEOs get lucrative buyouts, and we are left with the loss: poison in our neighborhoods and bodies, job losses that leave us vulnerable to low wages, unsafe working conditions and other forms of exploitation. We are a community that has seen and held more than its fair share of loss: decades of “economic transition” led by the elite and the outsourcing of our industries to maximize profits, leaving us to struggle for the leftovers.

We knew Huntley would close, and we knew we needed a different kind of transition, one where our people could decide the path forward and where our health, families and environment were prioritized. Over 1,000 residents of Tonawanda agreed. We came together to imagine a new kind of transition, where the loss of a major employer didn’t mean losing teachers or sanitation workers, or increased vulnerability for our community.

This summer, our team took the time to read Adrienne Maree Brown’s book, “Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds.” Through our collective study, we realized that our work is so much more than what we’re fighting against, but what we’re building for the future and how we are practicing those imagined futures now. We began to shift our thinking and pivot towards what is life giving, what sustains us and what has the possibility to be shaped in service of more joy, liberation and healing for ourselves and our more than human allies in this world. We have decided to be more like a flock of starlings or a network of mycelium; to adapt with intention, to be intentional and interconnected, to root in our resilience and work towards new possibilities and see ourselves and our work as a responsibility to something bigger than ourselves while focusing on the small that we can hold and shape.

For our team, the beacon of hope for a fair and just transition lies in the shell of the former Huntley power plant in Tonawanda. We see beyond the chain link fence and red tape, envisioning a community and environmental asset to our futures. We see the possibility for new life, new family sustaining green jobs and the hope of a better future for all of our people. We imagine a world where we all have what we need; we dare to create new possibilities.

We know that our dreams aren’t silly or unreasonable, they are what our people have demanded and fought for for years. In 2021, we are committed to organizing for the future of this Tonawanda site and for all of us who value joy over corporate greed and inaction. We are blessed with the world class Niagara River in our backyard where the power plant worked for our community for 100 years. The land deserves our best work to heal and continue giving and so do our people.

What sets us apart is our unabashed belief that the little people of the world have as much a right to our future as those who hold our society’s purse strings and pocketbooks. In order for us to put our plans into action and hold people accountable, we need your support.

Will you join us to fund our fight?

With hope and justice,

The Huntley and Tonawanda Tomorrow Team

Diana Strablow, Maria Tisby, Sue Kelley, Gary Schulenberg, James Jones and Emily Terrana

American Axle Team

This post comes to you from the American Axle Team: Ms. Sydney Brown, Ms. Mary Blue, Ms. Della Miller, Ms. Shirley Stitt and Ms. Shelda Cunningham

On our team, we believe in making this community whole. Making a community whole means full remediation of the former American Axle site and cleaning up all contamination that may have spread into the property of families living near the site. Making a community whole means the ability to garden, the ability for children to play in the dirt in their backyards and the ability to be confident that where we live doesn’t make us sick. Making our community whole isn’t a luxury or an unreasonable demand; it is what we deserve.

This year, our American Axle Steering Committee met in parks, in members’ backyards and on many conference calls to carry out our work of ensuring this site is cleaned up and that our people have a seat at the table. Over the summer, we organized for and passed a unanimous resolution in support of our call for a Community Advisory Group on the cleanup at the American Axle site, which was co-sponsored by each and every memberb of Erie County Legislature. We put together a robust public comment to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation outlining, in detail, our concerns and recommendations for the Brownfield cleanup and testing plan, and we got many community members and other stakeholders to do the same. We didn’t give up the fight even when we had doors slammed in our faces.

One of those doors that slammed on us was from the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, who granted an advisory group for our fellow members in Tonawanda, but denied our team and community the same opportunity. We were appalled at the utter neglect by the State of New York of a Black community that has worked diligently for more than 10 years to clean up the PCBs and other hazardous waste left behind and in our neighborhood. How could they say that “Black lives matter” and then fail to stand for the health and dignity of all Black lives?

Even though they slammed the door on us, we joined together and pushed back, publishing a powerful response in the Buffalo News with our Tonawanda Coke Team comrades. As members of Clean Air, we made our position clear: an injustice done to one of us, is an injustice done to all of us. We will not accept the state’s disregard for Black health and dignity, and we will not be placated by an advisory group in Tonawanda at the expense of our lives and dignity in Delavan-Grider. We keep fighting for our health, dignity, justice and wholeness, because we know that we are on the freedom side.

In the midst of a global pandemic and national uprising for Black lives, the inequality of access to community decision-making and the environmental racism within our region has been put on full display. As members of the American Axle Steering Committee, we will not stop until we are able to breathe easy knowing that the grass our children play on, our neighbors garden in and the water that we all drink is safe and that our voices are heard.

As the government sides with developers, our intelligent and passionate movements grow in response to the systematic injustice. We are boldly stepping into roles to protect ourselves and our neighbors through dreaming, demanding and creating a healthy and just community. The resilience of our community shows. The interconnected strength and power of our community is crystal clear, and we are not seeking to simply redistribute environmental harms, but to abolish them.

But we cannot do this work alone. We need you to join us in supporting our dreams for a world that centers health, dignity, joy and justice. When you join our work, you are joining a team that cares for one another and puts in the hard work to make our visions a reality.

Can you join us by becoming a Member or Supporter of Clean Air today so that we can take flight in our fight?

With love and justice,

The American Axle Steering Committee

Ms. Sydney Brown, Ms. Mary Blue, Ms. Della Miller, Ms. Shirley Stitt, Ms. Shelda Cunningham

Tonawanda Coke Campaign Team

This post comes to you from the Tonawanda Coke campaign team: Maria Tisby, Sue Kelley, Kristen Cascio, Mr. Red, James Jones, Joel Bernosky, Gary Schulenberg and Emily Terrana.

If 2020 has taught us anything, it is the truth in Octavia Butler’s wisdom that “the only lasting truth is change.” This year has brought with it a number of changes and shifts in how and at what speed we do our work, but the one thing that has remained constant is the passion that we have for grassroots community organizing for environmental justice. This year we organized against the impossible to make our demands inevitable, and we won.

In spite of being up against some of the most well funded and politically connected people in WNY, our team carried through. This summer, we successfully organized for and won a community advisory group at Tonawanda Coke that gives the community a real seat at the table with decision makers to demand this toxic site be cleaned up properly. Our team united with a dedicated and brilliant team of geologists, engineers, hydro geologists, chemists, environmental scientists and epidemiologists to shine a bright light on the decades long list of environmental and public health dangers at Tonawanda Coke.

Through our organizing, we were able to mobilize dozens of community members, elected officials and public agencies to submit technical comments to the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation on the proposed testing plan at the tax-payer funded Tonawanda Coke remediation site, we held the Environmental Protection Agency accountable to report back to the larger community on their role in the cleanup and we successfully campaigned for 74 acres of the 160 acre site to be cleaned up by the primary polluter, Honeywell International. We even made three animated videos to break down the ins and outs of the Superfund and Brownfield programs for all of our members to engage with now and for years to come. Our organizing made a difference, and we’re not done yet.

In our work, we are often told “no.” We are told by people with power, over and over again, that our stories aren’t true, that our research isn’t good enough, that our dreams are unreasonable and unrealistic and that we need to stay in our lane. We are told that we do not have enough power to win. This year, during a global pandemic and a chaotic and divisive election cycle, we proved them wrong. Our dedication to our community’s dignity, health, joy and justice has been, and will always be, more powerful than those who are clinging to the death rattle of white supremacy, environmental and economic injustice and an economy that does not care if we live or die.We believe that we borrow our land to live. It gives us trust that we will undo harm when we move on, and we must honor that in all we do.

As we reflect on this year and look into 2021, we know that our work is far from finished. We will continue to organize for a robust cleanup at Tonawanda Coke, and we will not stop until we know that every inch of the site is taken care of. We also know that Tonawanda Coke is not the only hazardous waste site in our communities, and we are committed to ensuring that each and every site that pollutes our backyards is cleaned up and that those responsible are brought to justice.

But we cannot do this work alone. We need you to join us in supporting our bold dreams for a world that centers health, dignity, joy and justice. When you join our work, you are joining a community that cares for one another and puts in the hard work to make our visions a reality.

Can you join us by becoming a member or supporter of Clean Air today so that we can take flight in our fight?

With love and justice,

The Tonawanda Coke Team

Maria Tisby, Sue Kelley, Kristen Cascio, Mr. Red, James Jones, Joel Bernosky, Gary Schulenberg and Emily Terrana

I do this work for you, though we may have never met.

Beloved Community,

It is my honor to introduce myself to all of you. My name is Emily Terrana and I am the Leadership Development Director and Environmental Justice Organizer here at Clean Air.
If you had told me 10 years ago when I began organizing that I would find myself doing environmental justice work, I would have told you that you were totally off base. I began organizing in college, mostly around the issues of LGBTQ rights, reproductive justice and immigration reform. While I certainly cared about public health and the environment, I didn’t think that it really affected me. Boy, was I wrong.

I am a Buffalo girl through and through; I even have a tattoo of a butter lamb on my forearm and one of my grandmother’s house on Roesch Avenue on my other. My tight knit family and I grew up in Buffalo’s Riverside neighborhood– three blocks and four high speed lanes of the 190 away from the Niagara River, two blocks away from Riverside park and one block away from the start of Tonawanda’s 53-site industrial zone. It was totally normal for us as kids to walk across the pedestrian bridge to the riverwalk and stroll up to the shadow of the Huntley coal-fired power plant or to take a drive down River Road to Old Man River, holding our noses as we passed the very active Tonawanda Coke factory. Sure it stunk in the summer time and none of our little vegetable gardens grew in the backyard, but it was home.

Only recently did I realize how my family was affected by where I lived and the decisions made by our industrial neighbors. Just like it was normal to walk within yards of a coal plant, it was also totally normal to me that so many of my family members, friends, and neighbors had cancer or other devastating illnesses and disabilities. In 2018, when my mother Julie was diagnosed with Stage IV pancreatic cancer at age 54, it hit our family like a ton of bricks. This wasn’t normal, it wasn’t okay, and we had to do something about it. The work I do each and every day with our incredible environmental justice campaign team members to ensure that no one ever has to deal with the pain and heartbreak of pollution and hazardous waste is what I’m doing about it, and I have no plans to stop.

I do this work with the memory of my mom in my heart everyday. I do it to honor my grandmother, my former neighbors and friends, and the countless people I do not know around Buffalo and WNY who are living and dying from the effects of corporate greed, government inaction and environmental racism and classism. I do this work for my three young children, Oliver, Yael and Muna and for my future children and grandchildren. I do this work for you, though we may have never met.

This holiday season, I want to invite you to join us as we continue to fight for one another. Join us as we step into 2021, unabashed and unafraid to put our audacious dreams into action. We have work to do, and we need you to come along with us. Your donations fuel and feed our smart, dynamic and visionary organizing that wins, for all of us.

This week you will hear a lot more from the teams I have the privilege to shepherd: our environmental justice campaign teams at American Axle, Tonawanda Coke and Huntley/NRG. As you read their stories of the work we have accomplished this year and our dreams for years to come, know that they are fighting for you.

With bread and roses,
Emily Terrana

Emily Terrana, Leadership Development Director and Environmental Justice Organizer

Emily Terrana (she/her) has been a member of Clean Air since 2015, serving in a number of leadership roles throughout the organization, including being a member of the Tonawanda Coke campaign team. Emily is a Buffalo girl through and through, growing up in the working-class neighborhood of Riverside with her extended family and community. Before joining the staff of Clean Air in 2020, Emily worked at local and state-wide organizations working towards housing, climate, racial and reproductive justice. She believes deeply in a rigorous, disciplined and care centered organizing practice that builds our communities’ power to live in a just, dignified and joyful world we all deserve. Emily should have been a teacher and brings her passion and skills of popular and political education to her work at Clean Air. Emily is a lover of good Buffalo pizza and Paula’s Doughnuts and is always happy to be a Buffalo tour guide. She lives on the West Side with her three children, Yael, Oliver and Muna, partner Jason, their three cats, Mortimer, Chunky Boy and Polystyrene and old-man dog, Mangia. Emily holds a degree in Women and Gender Studies from Buffalo State College and has been published in Selves, Symbols, and Sexualities: An Interactionist Anthology.