By Stephen Lester.
As CHEJ begins its 42nd year in operation, it’s always good to reflect on the previous year. We found that 2022 concluded with incredible success. Our staff, volunteers and, most importantly, our leaders on the frontlines successfully adapted to new ways of organizing and fighting back during a difficult pandemic period. And they continued to win local efforts to stop polluters and protect their families.
This is all possible because of our donors and supporters. With your support, we were able to provide leadership skills, facilitate strategic action plans, produce scientific analyses and provide the much-needed resources to frontline grassroots communities through our small grants program and community organizing efforts throughout the country.
With the new administration in Washington, we saw significant new legislation passed by the Biden Administration including the Build Back Better and the Inflation Reduction Acts that offer promise for a better tomorrow. Most notably, the reinstatement of several Superfund polluter pays fees that promise to raise $3.5B for Superfund cleanups as part of the Build Back Better infrastructure legislation. Many Superfund communities across the county celebrated this long-awaited victory, which never would have been possible without the persistent call for action from hundreds of grassroots communities across the country.
CHEJ’s Unequal Response, Unequal Protection campaign continued in 2022 to create a clear, community-driven framework for conducting health investigations that prioritizes public health and gives community leaders the decision-making power to decide how government should respond. After meetings with community leaders and scientists who helped brainstorm an alternative response, we finalized an 8-step process that follows a defined timeline – ensuring that communities get answers in a timely manner.
This past year we also continued our work with grassroots groups in communities like Bristol, TN/VA, Wausau, WI, Houston, TX, Greeley, CO, Seattle, WA, Rostraver, PA, Rensselear, NY, and the Ohio River Valley, OH, all of whom had many accomplishments and expressed the strength and passion to fight against polluters and for environmental justice. Many of their stories are truly inspiring and help to keep us going.
We also continued providing our technical assistance to grassroots organizations in support of local organizing; published our biweekly feature Toxic Tuesday, which provides information on the toxicity of individual chemicals as well as features on the challenges of interpreting toxic effects; conducted 14 diverse and informative Zoom training calls that focused on topics designed to educate and develop skills amongst grassroots leaders. Attendance on these calls increased by over 86% from the previous year. Additionally, CHEJ was delighted to support 48 grassroots organizations with the assistance of our donors and supporters, as part of our Small Grants Program, as we continue to build the base of the Environmental Health and Justice Movement. We look forward to more success in this coming year.