Sharing Stories of Local Leaders

The core of the Environmental Justice movement is powered by communities and local organizers. CHEJ exists because of grassroots activism, and our mission is to empower this very same community action across the country. At CHEJ, we feel incredibly lucky to have been able to work with some of the most inspiring people organizing grassroots movements to restore health to their communities. Here, we want to highlight the stories of some amazing local leaders who are raising awareness for environmental issues in their homes.

Justice for Janey: Living Room Leadership with Jerry Ensminger

November 24th, 2020|Comments Off on Justice for Janey: Living Room Leadership with Jerry Ensminger

By: Ruth Rodriguez, Communications Intern Jerry Ensminger, a U.S Marine Corps veteran who led the fight for justice at Camp Lejeune, a military base in North Carolina where severe water contamination went unaddressed and unresolved for over 30 years, shared his experience for CHEJ’s Living Room Leadership series. Raised in [...]

They SHALL DENY: Living Room Leadership with Maria Lopez-Nuñez

November 23rd, 2020|Comments Off on They SHALL DENY: Living Room Leadership with Maria Lopez-Nuñez

By: Ruth Rodriguez, Communications Intern “I’m hoping this bill can pave the way for a tidal wave of bills like this across the country.” Maria Lopez-Nuñez, Deputy Director, Organizing and Advocacy of Ironbound Community Corporation (ICC) in Newark, Jersey shared her experience as one of the leaders that helped pass [...]

Fighting for the People: Living Room Leadership with Roxanne Groff

November 10th, 2020|Comments Off on Fighting for the People: Living Room Leadership with Roxanne Groff

By: Ruth Rodriguez, Communications Intern Roxanne Groff, a formidable activist with 20 years of experience as an elected official in Athens County, Ohio, shared her experience for CHEJ’s Living Room Leadership Series.  Originally from Toledo, Groff made her way to Athens, Ohio for college in 1967 where her activism began. [...]

Warehouse Development Is Trouble for Jurupa Valley: Living Room Leadership with Esther Portillo of the Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice

November 10th, 2020|Comments Off on Warehouse Development Is Trouble for Jurupa Valley: Living Room Leadership with Esther Portillo of the Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice

By: Ruth Rodriguez, Communications Intern Esther Portillo, Interim Executive Director of the Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice (CCAEJ) in Jurupa Valley, CA, shared her experience as an activist for CHEJ’s Living Room Leadership Series. Portillo has organized and empowered communities of color across the nation and now is [...]

Raising Hope: Living Room Leadership with Rebecca Jim of Local Environmental Action Demanded

November 10th, 2020|Comments Off on Raising Hope: Living Room Leadership with Rebecca Jim of Local Environmental Action Demanded

By: Ruth Rodriguez, Communications Intern Rebecca Jim, Founder and Executive Director of Local Environmental Action Demanded (LEAD) Agency, Inc, shared her experience as an activist for CHEJ’s Living Room Leadership Series. Jim shared about her community’s fight for environmental justice of the Tar Creek area, one of the largest and [...]

In a Tea-Party Texas Town, She Wins Against Fossil Fuels: Living Room Leadership with Ranjana Bhandari of Livable Arlington

October 28th, 2020|Comments Off on In a Tea-Party Texas Town, She Wins Against Fossil Fuels: Living Room Leadership with Ranjana Bhandari of Livable Arlington

By: Leija Helling, Communications Intern When landmen first arrived in Arlington, Texas, offering royalties and signing bonuses, everyone was talking about the money. But Ranjana Bhandari saw through the propaganda and refused to sign her mineral rights away. Since this first act of resistance, Ranjana’s fight against fracking has grown [...]

I Will Fight Until I Melt: Living Room Leadership with Pamela Miller and Vi Waghiyi of ACAT

October 21st, 2020|Comments Off on I Will Fight Until I Melt: Living Room Leadership with Pamela Miller and Vi Waghiyi of ACAT

By: Kayleigh Coughlin, Communications Intern In an interview on Wednesday, September 30, 2020 for CHEJ’s Living Room Leadership Series, Pamela Miller and Vi Waghiyi of Alaska Community Actions on Toxins (ACAT) shared their experience tackling toxics, protecting health and achieving justice for Alaska’s wildlife and people.  The U.S. Air Force [...]

The Clean Air Ambassador: Living Room Leadership with Hilton Kelley, Founder and Director of CIDA

September 30th, 2020|Comments Off on The Clean Air Ambassador: Living Room Leadership with Hilton Kelley, Founder and Director of CIDA

By: Kayleigh Coughlin, Communications Intern In an interview on Wednesday, August 12, 2020 for CHEJ’s Living Room Leadership Series, Hilton Kelley, Founder and Director of Community In-Power & Development Association (CIDA), shared his experience taking action against the neighboring chemical manufacturers, refineries and incinerator facilities in his hometown of Port [...]

Doing Democracy Right: Living Room Leadership with Kaniela Ing, Community Organizer and Former Hawaii State Rep.

September 29th, 2020|Comments Off on Doing Democracy Right: Living Room Leadership with Kaniela Ing, Community Organizer and Former Hawaii State Rep.

By: Leija Helling, Communications Intern CHEJ had the pleasure of hosting Kaniela Ing, an activist, community organizer and former State Representative in Hawaii, at a Living Room Leadership webinar on August 5, 2020. A Native Hawaiian, Kaniela was first elected to represent South Maui in the Hawaii State House 2012 [...]

Tackling TCE Pollution in Tucson: Living Room Leadership with Linda Robles of the Environmental Justice Task Force

September 23rd, 2020|Comments Off on Tackling TCE Pollution in Tucson: Living Room Leadership with Linda Robles of the Environmental Justice Task Force

By: Kayleigh Coughlin, Communications Intern In an interview on Wednesday, July 15, 2020 for CHEJ’s Living Room Leadership Series, Linda Robles, founder of the Tucson Environmental Justice Task Force, shared her experience battling TCE contamination in her neighborhood. Since the 1940s, military installations in Tucson, AZ have been using and [...]

Celebrating Success and Urging on Young Activists: Living Room Leadership with Jackie Young Medcalf

September 21st, 2020|Comments Off on Celebrating Success and Urging on Young Activists: Living Room Leadership with Jackie Young Medcalf

By: Leija Helling, Communications Intern In August of 2017, shortly after Hurricane Harvey hit, Jackie Young Medcalf parked her car outside of the San Jacinto River Waste Pits in Houston, Texas, waiting for EPA administrator Scott Pruitt to finish a damage survey. The security guard wouldn’t let the young activist [...]

Pushing Back Against Polluters: Living Room Leadership with Tom Kilian of Citizens for a Clean Wausau

September 21st, 2020|Comments Off on Pushing Back Against Polluters: Living Room Leadership with Tom Kilian of Citizens for a Clean Wausau

By: Kayleigh Coughlin, Communications Intern In an interview on Wednesday, July 29, 2020 for CHEJ’s Living Room Leadership Series, Tom Kilian of Citizens for a Clean Wausau shared his experience monitoring local polluters in Wausau, Wisconsin and bringing environmental justice to his community. Citizens for a Clean Wausau is an [...]

Advocates at Right to Breathe Caravan Call for Environmental and Racial Justice in North Birmingham

September 14th, 2020|Comments Off on Advocates at Right to Breathe Caravan Call for Environmental and Racial Justice in North Birmingham

By: Leija Helling, Communications Intern This summer, community organizers in Birmingham, Alabama, coordinated a series of caravan protests calling for racial and environmental justice at the 35th Avenue Superfund site in North Birmingham.  Communities living in and around the 35th Avenue site are facing decades of unabated industrial pollution, and [...]

Victory for Just Moms STL | EPA Commences Clean-Up of West Lake Landfill

September 9th, 2020|Comments Off on Victory for Just Moms STL | EPA Commences Clean-Up of West Lake Landfill

By: Kayleigh Coughlin, Communications Intern St. Louis, Missouri families are feeling hopeful following the commencement of the EPA’s long-awaited clean-up at the West Lake Landfill Superfund Site at Bridgeton. Dawn Chapman and Karen Nickel, community activists and co-founders of Just Moms STL, a non-profit organization aiming to educate the St. [...]

Lou Zeller and the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League: Six Years of Hard Work and A Massive Victory over the Atlantic Coast Pipeline

July 23rd, 2020|Comments Off on Lou Zeller and the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League: Six Years of Hard Work and A Massive Victory over the Atlantic Coast Pipeline

By: Julie Silverman, Communications Intern Since 2014, the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League (BREDL) began campaigning to counteract the planning and construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. After six long years of dedicated work, BREDL and its partner organizations succeeded on July 5th, 2020 in cancelling the construction of the [...]

Karen Nickel and Dawn Chapman: Just Moms STL

July 16th, 2020|Comments Off on Karen Nickel and Dawn Chapman: Just Moms STL

By: Jenna Clark, Communications Intern Karen and Dawn will tell you that they are “just moms,” but you shouldn’t believe them. In their community of West Lake, Missouri, these two moms have led the battle against nearby nuclear waste. For 8 years, they have diligently organized community members, educated local officials, spearheaded investigations into toxic waste mere miles from their homes, called EPA administrators day in and day out, and ultimately achieved their [...]

Maria Gunnoe – Bob White, West Virginia

March 4th, 2020|Comments Off on Maria Gunnoe – Bob White, West Virginia

You’re sitting on the front porch of your isolated mountain house. You rock back and forth as you take in the vastness of the open fields in front of you. In the distance you examine the silhouettes of the mountains that hug you on all sides. The only sounds you [...]

Randy Cunningham: Extra! Extra! Making History! Write All About It!

December 16th, 2019|Comments Off on Randy Cunningham: Extra! Extra! Making History! Write All About It!

Ohio is home to some of the nation’s most natural lands, with acres of beautiful forests, countless national parks and glistening water systems. It is a well sought after spot for a natural getaway. On the other hand, it is also a well sought after spot for industry that has [...]

Emma Lockridge, Michigan United, Detroit, MI

November 4th, 2019|Comments Off on Emma Lockridge, Michigan United, Detroit, MI

Emma Lockridge // Photo sourced by OurFuture Emma Lockridge, an environmental justice organizer for Michigan United, began her fight against the Marathon Petroleum Corporation nearly 6 years ago. From the observation of her mother's house, only a few blocks from the facility, Emma noticed a thick blanket of pollution [...]

Ginger Juel, Twin Ports Action Alliance (TPAA), Duluth, MN

tpaaOn April 26th, 2018, a massive plume of black smoke exploded into the sky above Superior, Wisconsin. When Ginger Juel saw the ominous black cloud from her Duluth, Minnesota home across the water, and she immediately knew that something was wrong. However, when she turned on the news to see what was going on, there were no reports of any black smoke. Being a lifetime Twin Ports (Duluth, MN and Superior, WI) resident, she was especially concerned because she knew the smoke was billowing from Husky Refinery, and she knew that all five K-12 schools in Superior were located within 1-2 miles of the refinery. So when the news failed to provide any information on the potential disaster, Juel turned to social media. As she began to comb through tweets about the area, she noticed that there was a Facebook live stream of the plume, warning people it was coming from the refinery.

Read Ginger Juel & TPAA’s Story

Nick Teti, Coshocton Environmental and Community Awareness (CECA), Coshocton, OH

CECA protesting Buckeye Brine's Class 1 permit request

CECA protesting Buckeye Brine’s Class 1 permit request

When Nick Teti and a group of friends founded Coshocton Environmental and Community Awareness (CECA), they did so because they were thinking differently from the people around them. They wanted to bring environmental justice, green thinking and health information to Coshocton County, Ohio since the Iraq war, and in 2013 they decided that forming a nonprofit would be the best way to get their message across. The only dilemma was that in 2013, Coschocton County wasn’t ready to be thinking about environmental reforms. Most people there were too caught up in their daily lives to engage with an environmental movement, like what play they wanted go see at the town recreation center that evening, or whether their friends would be available for a picnic in Coshocton Lake Park the following Sunday.

Read more about CECA’s Story

Charlie Powell, People Against Neighborhood Industrial Contamination (PANIC), Birmingham, AL

ERP Coke facility in Northern Birmingham

ERP Coke facility in Northern Birmingham

If toxic air was causing your friends and family to get sick and die from cancer, what would you do? This is the terrifying reality Charlie Powell and other Birmingham activists have grappled with since 2009, when it became clear that toxic air in Northern Birmingham was making residents sick. The toxicity isn’t equal for the whole city, however: it is concentrated in four neighborhoods in Northern Birmingham: Harriman Park, Fairmont, Collegeville and North Birmingham. All four of these neighborhoods surround the ERP Coke plant, which produces high grade coke for industrial furnaces. Coke production is notoriously dirty, and the emissions produced are dangerous to inhale: it’s created by essentially baking coal. If a facility doesn’t have proper scrubbers and air purification technologies installed, exposure to emissions can result in cancer.

Read Charlie Powell & PANIC’s story

Learn about CHEJ’s history post our beginning as a grassroots activist group with Lois Gibbs and Love Canal.

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Lois Gibbs was once a grassroots activist herself— listen as she describes her journey from mother to environmentalist and the mother of Superfund.