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

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

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

PB Buffalo Logo
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!

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.


Liberty Cab Provides Free Rides to Polls on Election Day

Hometown Cab Company Partners with Clean Air Coalition to Get Voters to Polls

Buffalo, New York: Need help getting to the polls? A partnership between Liberty Cab and local community organizations can help you.  On November 8th Liberty Cab Company will provide any resident in the City of Buffalo and the Town of Tonawanda a ride to and from their polling place free of charge.

“I think it’s important that everyone gets out to vote,” said Bill Yuhnke,  of Liberty Cab, “don’t let the lack of transportation stop you.”

“We are thrilled that Liberty Cab is giving such a tremendous service to the community and supporting residents in their right to vote.”“Rebecca Newberry, Director of Clean Air, “For people who are under immense family, work or financial pressure, having a convenient ride to the polls can mean the difference between voting and staying at home. Liberty Cab is providing a great community service on election day.”

This partnership formed with the help of the Canisius College Communication and Leadership Graduate program. This program is designed to provide students the resources to refine their communication and leadership skills in the workplace. Jennifer Kilo, Carrie Patterson, and Valerie Petty collaborated with Clean Air Coalition and Liberty Cab as part of a class project to help get out the vote this election year.

Residents can take advantage of this service by calling Liberty Cab at 716-877-7111 and using the code LibertyRide2Vote.  This service is not affiliated with any political party or campaign. 

On Tuesday, November 8th polls will be open from 6am-9pm. Residents can find their polling place, call the Erie County Board of Elections at 716-858-8891.

Tonawanda Tomorrow Kicks Off!

We are very excited to announce the long anticipated kick off of Tonawanda Tomorrow! A partnership between Tonawanda residents, community groups, organized labor, local businesses, and government – all working together to grow the Town’s economy for the future.

This effort spun out of the recent closure of the Huntley Coal Plant in Tonawanda. As I’m sure you know, Huntley began the decommissioning process earlier this year, due the fact   NRG couldn’t make a profit off selling Huntley power into the market. Our organization has been diligently working to ensure that workers, the town and school district did not bear the burden of the company’s decision to retire.

One of our proudest moments was our work with the Western New York Area Labor Federation, AFL-CIO and the Kenmore Teachers Association to secure $30 million in the 2016 New York State budget to help support the Town of Tonawanda, the Kenmore Tonawanda School District, and communities across New York State facing power plant closures. The funding will protect the quality of public education locally by replacing revenues lost in the Huntley power plant retirement.  It is one of the first appropriations of its kind in the country. This financial support could not have been possible without hundreds of community members who invested time and energy to make sure Tonawanda was not left behind.

We now have an opportunity to rebuild our economy through the help of the US Economic Development Administration through its POWER Initiative. Numerous local organizations are matching this federal investment with their time, energy and commitment of resources, but we need your help to create a vision for our future.

Join us at the kick-off of  on November 10th 2016 from 6:30-8:30 at the Phillip Sheridan Building (3200 Elmwood Ave. Buffalo, 14217).

You can also help shape this process by taking our community survey. It takes 5 minutes HERE. 

For more information call our office at 716-852-3813 or visit


Money for Our Movements Recap!

It was a busy summer for Clean Air! Between the many meetings and campaign victories, we also took some time out to learn and build relationships, and make sure we’re building a sustainable movement for public health and environmental justice here in Buffalo. One of the ways we did so is by traveling to the Grassroots Institute for Fundraising Training’s 6th Biennial Money for Our Movements Conference in Denver, CO. Sydney Brown, Clean Air member; Emily Terrana, Clean Air member and board member; and two of our staff, Natasha Soto and Rachel Todd attended. We were also proud that Rachel, our development coordinator, was invited to present our signature “Making the Ask 101” workshop at the conference!


Some of the fundraising data from Rachel’s session!

Rachel’s session was focused on providing an introduction to asking individuals for money for folks who are new to fundraising or wanted to demystify the process. The packed room discussed why making the ask is critical to social justice fundraising, learned about common and best practices in 1-on-1 fundraising, and practiced together telling personal stories to make connections with individuals and making the ask to give money for our movements.

Of the conference, our member Sydney said, “I truly enjoyed attending the 6th Biennial GIFT conference in Denver, CO. It was a wonderful experience and there were numerous things that stood out that I anticipate implementing. For starters, fundraising is not a task assigned to a select few or a committee within an organization. It is important for everyone in a nonprofit – all board members and the membership as a whole – to have a fundraising mindset in order to fulfill our mission and to be sustainable and effective in our endeavors. Another key takeaway was to ask for contributions from everyone. It is a disservice to assume that a person cannot afford to give or that a particular group you are advocating for is not in a position to aid in the cause financially. One other thing that stood out was that good “old-fashioned” relationship building through traditional means of a phone call, card or letter in the mail on a consistent basis can sometimes far outweigh modern social media vehicles (which still have a role in the overall fundraising goals of an organization). A personal touch has lasting benefits for the life of a non-profit.

“I am grateful for the opportunity to have participated in the conference. It gave me a fresh lens on how to approach fundraising to advance the growth of Clean Air and generated new ideas to aid our community. It was also a good networking platform to expand collaboration with individuals from across the United States. I hope to attend the GIFT conference in 2018 with reports of success from the next two years.”


Rachel guides social justice fundraisers & organizers from across the country through Making the Ask 101

Emily, who joined Clean Air’s board of directors in January, said, “When I was asked to join the board, my immediate response was ‘Well, you know I don’t have much money or many rich friends, right?’ My understanding was always that boards exist mainly as a fundraising body for the organization and that they were stacked with wealthy folks. How in the world was I, a single mother of two young children working for a non-profit myself, going to raise money and be taken seriously on such an impressive organization’s board of directors?

“To say that asking for money for CAC has been nerve wracking is a major understatement. The idea of selling tickets for events seems like a breeze compared to asking people in my personal and professional networks to donate directly to the organization. As much as I love this organization and believe in its mission, I just couldn’t get over my negative, taboo feelings about money.

“The more time that I have spent with Clean Air, its staff, and other members, the more I have learned that fundraising is not a necessary evil; it’s a tool that can (and should) be used as an organizing opportunity. Clean Air truly puts its money where its mouth is when it comes to fundraising, staying true to its mission to put people over profit and never compromising values for funds.


Our board member, Emily learns how to screenprint at the GIFT Conference!

“When the opportunity to learn more about this unique approach to fundraising at the GIFT Conference came up, I pounced. It was incredible to be in a space with grassroots development folks, organizers, and members of powerful social justice organizations throughout the country who were all dedicated to raising money for our movement in a way that centers our work and centers our desire for justice. I learned that fundraising is more than just writing grants or building relationships with major donors; it’s chicken dinners, house parties, smaller asks to directly affected folks, and even art projects. The GIFT presenters, including Clean Air’s own development coordinator, Rachel Todd, all believed that by raising money from and with the people that we work with that we are respecting their own autonomy and building power with people, not power over them and that to involve members in fundraising drives in an intentional way strengthens not only our organizations, but our movement as a whole. What a powerful thing!

“I am so grateful to have been able to attend the GIFT conference. I am, for once, very excited to host my own screen-printing house parties and start raising more money for our movement!”

In the coming months, staff, board, and members of Clean Air will be working collaboratively to integrate the new fundraising tools gained from the GIFT conference into planning for our future development activities. Stay tuned for news on these cutting-edge fundraising techniques!

A sincere and large thank you is due to all of our folks who contributed financially to making this critical, movement-building trip happen:

  • Anonymous
  • Anne Gareis
  • Barbara Bono
  • Bridget Williams
  • Carmen Kelly
  • Catherine Gresham
  • Charlene Homes
  • Charles and Janice Ferguson
  • Charlotte MacVittie
  • Christine Lewis
  • Colleen Stiffler
  • Darnyl Parker
  • Jennifer Yuhnke
  • KaeLyn Rich
  • Kristi White
  • Lisa Moran
  • Maria Hadden
  • Meghan McCormick
  • Nita Soma
  • Nora Masters
  • Rebecca Newberry
  • Rich Cummings
  • Richard Cummings
  • Sally Heron
  • Sherrie Peterson
  • Sherry & Harry Moran
  • Thomasina R. Stenhouse
  • Tracy Todd

To support the pivotal work of Rachel, Natasha, Emily, Sydney, and the rest of our board, staff, and members, please consider making a monthly pledge today to help Clean Air continue to organize for health and justice in Western New York by clicking on the “Donate” tab at the top of the page!


The GIFT crew enjoys some downtime in Denver!

Voter Registration Efforts Underway! Get Involved! 

Clean Air is partnering with dozens of neighborhood organizations, churches and labor unions to register 800 people to vote in Western New York. Our canvassers have been out knocking on doors and registering new voters for the past few weeks, but we need your help  to accomplish this important work!  Here is a few things you can do over the next month to advance democracy in our communities:
Volunteer at a registration site: 
Throughout the months of September and October, we will be running voter registration sites throughout the City of Buffalo and the Town of Tonawanda. We are looking for volunteers to fill tabling sites between the hours of 11am to 3:30pm during the week. To volunteer call our office at 852-3813. For a schedule of where we will be and when – visit our website. 
Join a volunteer walk day: 
On Saturday, September 24th from 10am to 2pm we will be registering folks to vote door to door. Come walk with us! No previous canvass experience necessary. Meet up is at 10am at the River Road Fire Hall (39 Kaufman Ave in Tonawanda).
We want a region where everyone’s voice is part of our democracy. Our voter registration efforts are a non-partition, and not affiliated with any political party. We hope we can work together to help build power in communities usually left out of decision making. Join us!