Community Action Works 2022 Fall Highlights
As we close the 2022 year, we have lots of updates to share. Below are some groups that we wanted to highlight as well as updates from programs we are running to support community action in the Northeast this past year.
Please don’t hesitate to reach out with questions or feedback on our program or if you’d like to get involved. You can reach me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by cell at 617.721.2858. Thank you for all your help in transforming communities for the better.
See you in the New Year,
Acting Executive Director
Organizing efforts by Save Our Bay MA show there is bipartisan support to stop dumping in Cape Cod Bay
Save Our Bay has been working to stop Holtec from dumping radioactive waste into Cape Cod Bay. An exciting development occurred in November during an informal session where the Massachusetts legislature was able to pass an Economic Bill in the House and Senate. It included an amendment that would’ve put a two-year moratorium on Holtec’s plan to dump 1.1 million gallons of radioactive waste into Cape Cod Bay. However, when the bill arrived on Gov. Charlie Baker’s desk, he vetoed the amendment that would’ve protected Cape Cod Bay. Despite this setback, it was truly exciting to see the support coming from both sides of the aisle as the bill passed with broad bipartisan support. Big thanks to Sen. Susan Moran for her persistence and leading the charge on this amendment passing through both chambers, and to all the great organizing work from Save Our Bay, as well as other community members and organizations that helped make all of this possible. Senator Moran is planning to refile the amendment as a stand-alone bill in the next legislative session. In addition, Save Our Bay held a rally before a Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel meeting where Holtec was giving a presentation to the public. At the meeting, Jim Lampert, a retired attorney and part of Pilgrim Watch and Save Our Bay, gave a great legal presentation making the case for why Holtec should not dump in Cape Cod Bay. There were great testimonies from Mary Lampert with Pilgrim Watch, and Diane Turco, Director of Cape Downwinders. Save Our Bay will be continuing their hard work to garner more support to stop Holtec by holding rallies and engaging communities around Cape Cod Bay.
Community Action Works launches Campaign Strategy Virtual Workshop Series for the public
Community Action Works launched a virtual workshop series focused on campaign planning and strategy to give community members the tools they need to win their campaigns. Community members who attended got advice and participated in small group discussions with Community Action Works staff and leaders from state-based groups and local community organizations. In the first workshop, “Mapping your Strategy,” we covered picking the best targets and getting decision-makers to pay attention. In the second workshop, we focused on developing a message for your campaign and creating a plan to distribute your message far and wide. Big thanks to state-based and local group leaders who helped as trainers for the series—such as Janet Domenitz, MASSPIRG Executive Director and Community Action Works Board Member, Mark DeCristoforo, Massachusetts Seafood Collaborative Executive Director, and Deirdre Cummings, MASSPIRG Senior Legislative Director and Community Action Works Board Member—and to all those who were able to attend. We’re excited to continue our organizing training series over the next year to continue providing community leaders and community organizations with the skills they need to make change in their neighborhoods.
Report release on the need to enforce Waste Ban Regulations
Zero Waste Massachusetts, a coalition of Massachusetts environmental groups including Community Action Works, MASSPIRG, Conservation Law Foundation, Clean Water Action and Just Zero. released a new report entitled “The Need to Enforce: Waste Ban Regulations in Massachusetts.” It looks at banned waste being disposed of in the Commonwealth and provides snapshots of other states and cities with waste bans. Two million tons of materials banned from Massachusetts landfills and incinerators end up there regardless of these bans each year. Waste bans are instituted to reduce materials being disposed of in landfills and incinerators, both of which result in varying kinds of pollution, public health problems, and significant costs for cities and towns. But materials such as paper, cardboard, glass, metal, wood and more have been banned from disposal for years via regulations from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). Janet Domenitz, Community Action Works Board Member, MASSPIRG Executive Director and co-author of the report, was quoted in this NBC Boston article below.
“The next governor of Massachusetts needs to make reducing waste a top priority,” said Janet Domenitz of MASSPIRG. “Disposing of waste that could be reused or recycled harms our environment and health, adds to climate change, and is literally throwing away our tax dollars which subsidize disposal. We need enforcement of these bans, and we need a more ambitious plan to make Massachusetts a zero waste state.”
Residents in Acushnet, MA successfully stand up to PJ Keating – We wanted to congratulate the community members in Acushnet, Massachusetts who have been working hard to protect their community from harmful air pollution. On November 4, the approval of an injunction against PJ Keating’s operations was announced to the public after a court hearing earlier in the week. The injunction makes it so that PJ Keating will have to comply with the permit requirements of the town and cease any and all activities that cause nuisance odor immediately. This will also open the site to regular inspections by public health officials in Acushnet to enforce this ruling. The fight still continues, but this is a huge accomplishment for the residents of Acushnet who worked tirelessly to protect their community. Ultimately, this story shows that the power of grassroots organizing and perseverance can overcome the odds against pollution and powerful special interests.
Climate Bill signed in Massachusetts
Climate activists gathered in front of the Massachusetts statehouse to support an important climate bill (H.5060) while it was sitting on Governor Charlie Baker’s desk, after having been passed both by the Massachusetts House and Senate with broad, bipartisan support. The bill was signed into law on August 11. The climate bill will take several important steps to reduce the use of fossil fuels and transition Massachusetts to clean energy such as requiring 100% of the cars sold in Massachusetts to be electric vehicles (EVs) by 2035 and provide incentives for the purchases of EVs, setting reporting standards for building’s fossil fuel and energy usage, and more.
A win in Westminster, MA
With some of the highest levels of PFAS—a class of toxic “forever chemicals”—in Massachusetts, the town of Westminster is at high risk for further contamination. A local developer had planned to build about 10 new buildings and wanted to drill in the middle of PFAS contaminated wells. This is not only a contamination issue but also a waterbed issue, with many local wells already stressed by drought.
To fight against this, groups on the ground encouraged residents to send messages to Westminster’s Select Board and Planning Board to stop future well drilling. In addition, Westminster residents turned out at a Planning Board meeting to voice their concerns about the planned project.
Thankfully, the Board of Health and Planning Board declared this a public health issue and put a nine-month pause on well drilling within the contamination scope! We still need to ensure that this issue is resolved, but we thank Westminster’s Board of Health and Planning Board for taking this step to protect the town’s citizens and their health.
President Biden visit to Brayton point highlights climate action
On July 20, President Joe Biden visited the site of the former Brayton Point coal-fired power plant in Somerset, MA, a community whose organizing efforts Community Action Works has long supported, to speak about climate change and the transition to clean energy. Since 2006, support from donors like you made it possible for Community Action Works organizers to work alongside Brayton Point community leaders, the Coalition for Clean Air South Coast and Clean Water Action to develop a vision for the responsible retirement and transition of the power plant. Together, we launched a multi-year campaign to close the largest coal-fired plant in New England. Today, Brayton Point is becoming a critical piece of Massachusetts’ offshore wind infrastructure, once again offering evidence that community action works, and that no matter how big the environmental threat, the power of well-organized community groups is stronger.
NCABC rallies for HB1454 in Concord, New Hampshire
North Country Alliance for Balanced Change (NCABC) and Forest Lake Association in NH (FLA) have been working to pass HB1454, a bill that would protect all of New Hampshire’s waters from foreseeable contamination leaks. The New Hampshire House and Senate passed HB1454 with overwhelming, bipartisan majorities. However, the Governor vetoed the bill. Hundreds of residents, activists and community members showed up to a rally organized by NCABC outside the Concord state house on the day where legislators debated overriding the veto. However, the vote to override the veto failed in the senate. Despite the result, thousands of NH residents showed their support, whether it be signing a petition or showing up to the rally. These groups will certainly work to reintroduce the bill in the legislature next year and get it passed!
Community Action Works creates an emergency relief grant program
Feedback we’ve gotten from community groups makes clear that they need more flexibility and more immediate funds so they can be ready to confront challenges as they arise. Community Action Works has long regranted money to local groups and run a fiscal sponsorship program to allow community groups that are just getting started to raise money from donors and funders. This year,we launched a mini-grant program where groups can apply quickly to advance their sustainability work in their community. One of the groups we’ve granted to is the Durham New Hampshire Waste Management Advisory Committee. They are using the funds to create materials to educate Durham residents about recycling, composting, avoiding contamination in items recycled, using their transfer station to increase the rate of diversion from the waste stream. If you are interested in applying, please contact us.
The Hartford Coalition for Safe Technology
The Hartford Coalition for Safe Technology has been working hard to build up their coalition to combat the installation of potentially harmful 5G small-cell antennas from residential neighborhoods, schools, and hospitals to protect the health of Hartford’s residents. After attending public events and presenting to local Neighborhood Revitalization Zone (NRZ) advisory board meetings, they have collected hundreds of petition signatures for their cause, which they plan to present to local agencies in Hartford soon.
Community Action Works would like to highlight our Community Hotline, which allows people to get immediate advice and assistance from our community organizers. Through this tool, we have helped community members not only across New England, but also nationwide to troubleshoot environmental and public health issues in their communities. Here in Massachusetts, community members from Lake Archer, Wrentham reached out through our hotline for help with combating toxic nutrient overloads in Lake Archer. Similarly, in Westminster we were contacted by community members who were concerned about a local developer’s plan to build on top of PFAS contaminated wells. We have since worked with both of these groups to assist them in their efforts and have had successes in Westminster. Moving forward into the new year, we want to expand on this tool and include a live-chat feature on our website, making it even easier for community members to contact us and receive immediate help. So far this year, Community Action Works fielded 90 calls to our hotline for assistance and advice.
Clean Energy Energy Program highlights
Our Clean Energy Program worked with community leaders across Massachusetts to build support for more renewable energy in their communities. In September, we launched our campaign to remove roadblocks for rooftop, roadside, and parking lot solar installations with a press conference with Cambridge City Councilor Patty Nolan and representatives from Environment Massachusetts, Vote Solar and Massachusetts General Hospital. So far, the coalition has secured endorsements from 150 local officials and health professionals and held over eight educational meetings with decision makers. In this WWLP article, Ben Hellerstein, Environment Massachusetts State Director, was quoted saying, “Solar is clean, it’s local, it’s pollution free, and it’s available practically everywhere in our state. So, we are calling on our state officials to set their sights high when it comes to solar power, to help us achieve a cleaner and healthier future powered by renewable energy…”
Community Leadership Mentor program
Many environmental and public health threats arise whether we are ready or not. That is why we are committed to building a network of experts such as lawyers, community activists, scientists, communication professionals, etc. to help provide expertise, training or advice for any threat that may be affecting your community. Join our Community Leadership Mentor Program, where longtime community leaders who Community Action Works has supported over the years are serving as mentors to support new community groups and leaders to help bolster their organizing skills when other communities are working on similar campaigns.
An example of this mentoring program in action happened when we were able to have Mark E. DeCristoforo, Executive Director for the Massachusetts Seafood Collaborative, provide a small-group training for community members who attended our Campaign Strategy Virtual Workshop. So if you are interested or know someone would be interested in joining this program please contact us.
We are revamping our website to create more tools to allow leaders and community members to get started and react quickly. This includes adding more campaign toolkits, a live chat feature, more video trainings and a list of experts to help communities get immediate help. All of these features are set to go live in the new year.