2005 Year in Review
||Members of the boards of directors of Ohio Citizen
Action and Ohio Citizen Action Education Fund
||Sandy Buchanan, Executive Director
Ohio Citizen Action
||February 11, 2006
Ohio Citizen Action and Ohio Citizen Action Education Fund celebrated
their 30th anniversaries this year in a big way, with the following major
Below is a more detailed description of our work on
all of our good neighbor campaigns, campaign finance issues, and organizational
- Sunoco committed to investing over $100 million to
prevent pollution at its Toledo refinery, aiming to reduce its emissions
of sulfur dioxide by at least 75 percent, and implementing a new leak
detection program for toxic chemicals. Sunoco also withdrew its legal
claims demanding neighbors turn over their personal medical data to
- Lanxess Corporation in Addyston overhauled
its plant management, invested over $2 million in new systems to reduce
flaring and accidents, and purchased real-time air monitors to use to
track and reduce emissions. The school board closed the elementary
school across the street, to avoid exposure to toxic chemicals.
- DuPont agreed in January 2006 to phase out the use
of the Teflon chemical C8 in food packaging, and major food companies
agreed to switch to safer alternatives. We are now urging major
retailers, particularly Kroger and Wal-Mart, to make sure that these
chemicals are removed from food packaging, like microwave popcorn, immediately.
- International Steel Group in Cleveland rerouted trucks
carrying hot coke so they would no longer go down residential streets.
Neighbors of the giant steel mill also began a community-based air pollution
testing program to document dangerous emissions from the plant, including
sulfur and fine particles which contribute to asthma and lung disease.
I. Good neighbor campaigns
Sunoco refinery, which has been operating in Toledo since 1945, is in the
middle of a low-income residential area and is a neighbor to 72,000 residents
within a three-mile radius. This community has over 40 schools and daycare
facilities for children, including an elementary school directly across
the street from the tank farm.
We began a good neighbor campaign focused on pollution
prevention at the Sunoco Oil Refinery in East Toledo in January 2003. Some
of the important campaign achievements which led to Sunoco's willingness
to make major steps to reduce its emissions included the following:
- We helped neighbors form the East Side-Oregon Environmental
Group, which has been holding community meetings and collecting "pollution
logs" from residents who chronicle their experiences with foul
odors, flaring, smoke, oily residues and soot that engulfs their property.
- Over 18,000 Ohio Citizen Action members wrote personal letters and
petitions to Sunoco management urging them to modernize their operations
and prevent pollution at the refinery.
- When Sunoco subpoenaed Ohio Citizen Action and attempted
to force us to turn over private medical information of the refinery
neighbors, we mobilized opposition to their demand from environmental,
medical, and civic organizations from throughout the region and throughout
the country. Ohio Citizen Action Education Fund board president Bruce
French did a superb legal job on the case while the pressure on Sunoco
mounted, and Sunoco withdrew its demand for the information in March
- We produced a DVD featuring interviews with neighbors
who have suffered health problems and property damage from the refinery,
and distributed it to company leaders, public officials, and members
of an international corporate accountability organization called CERES,
of which Sunoco is a member.
The Lanxess Plastics plant, formerly owned
by Bayer and Monsanto, sits on the Ohio River, directly across the street
from Meredith Hitchens Elementary School, and has been an ongoing source
of toxic chemical pollution in the community. The plant reported 107 accidents
in 2004, and had major accidental releases of toxic chemicals in October
2004, December 2004, and February 2005.
Action and neighbors of the Lanxess Plastics plant in Addyston, Ohio launched
a "good neighbor campaign" in July 2004 to get the plant to reduce
its pollution. Major accomplishments included the following:
DuPont Teflon products
- With our help, neighbors of the plant from the communities
of Addyston, Cleves, North Bend, Sayler Park and Green Township formed
the Westside Action Group and held several meetings with the company
management. The neighbors developed "community standards"
for safety and protection of public health which they presented to the
- Neighbors took their own air pollution samples, and
proved the connection between releases of dangerous chemicals (including
styrene and butadiene) and the sickening odors which blanket the community.
Ohio Citizen Action sponsored a demonstration of cutting-edge "real-time
air monitoring" equipment outside the plant, and captured strong
emissions of butadiene outside the facility. Neighbors filled in odor
calendars, documented health problems, filed complaints with county
agencies, and were featured in newspaper stories and on WCPO - TV's
- Over 25,900 Ohio Citizen Action members sent personal
letters and petitions to Lanxess urging the plant to become a good neighbor.
Fed up with the frequent accidents and toxic chemical releases, a majority
of residents of Addyston sent a petition to the Lanxess CEO in Germany
this June, urging him to replace the local management and provide a
new manager with the necessary resources to solve problems at the plant.
On July 14, 2005, Lanxess responded to the community by announcing
an overhaul of its plant management and promising to make changes in
- On September 25, 2005, the new Lanxess plant manager
announced the company would invest $1 million to reduce butadiene emissions
that go into the air. The plant will also make a series of changes
designed to reduce the number of accidents, pledged to call on external
experts to evaluate its performance, and purchased Cerex real-time air
monitors to detect leaks and emissions.
- Finally, the school board announced in early December
that it is closing the Meredith Hitchens elementary school for the rest
of the school year due to the risk of cancer from Lanxess' air emissions.
In January 2006, they closed the school permanently.
Although DuPont has known since as early as
the 1960s that the chemicals used to make Teflon and non-stick coatings
can cause serious health hazards to workers and consumers, they hid the
information from the public. The chemicals used to make Teflon, which can
cause cancer and birth defects, have been found in the blood
of 95% of Americans. The actions of courageous whistleblowers and strong
research and legal action by Southeast Ohio water suppliers enabled the
Environmental Working Group, a national research organization with whom
we are affiliated, to bring the information to light.
Last summer, we launched our campaign aimed at protecting
public health by getting the Teflon chemicals out of food packaging. Before
we began our campaign, most members of the public and retailers were unaware
that these chemicals are used in everything from microwave popcorn bags
to french fry boxes. Here are the steps we took:
- Direct contact with thousands of Ohioans about the
dangers of the Teflon chemicals, particularly C8: The first step
in the campaign was to put direct pressure on DuPont from consumers.
Approximately 12,950 Ohio Citizen Action members wrote letters to DuPont
CEO Charles Holliday urging him to discontinue the use of Teflon chemicals
in food packaging products.
- Identifying major products which use C8 in their
packaging: Because food packagers are not required to label their
products with information about C8, we had to figure out which products
are the culprits. We took a direct approach, compiling lists of major
food packing companies and fast food restaurants, sending letters to
their decision-makers, and following up with phone calls. We asked these
companies to tell us whether or not their packaging uses the Teflon
chemicals, and gave them a deadline for reply. We posted a chart of
the companies, along with their replies and deadlines, on the DuPont
page of our website, www.ohiocitizen.org.
- Getting consumers involved: From our research,
we learned that food giant ConAgra, manufacturer of popular microwave
popcorn brands like Orville Redenbacher, defended the use of C8 in their
packaging. We launched a campaign in November aimed at telling supermarkets
that consumers don't want C8 in their popcorn, focusing on the Orville
Redenbacher brand. As of February 5, 2006, 13,437 neighbors have sent
handwritten letters and petitions to local grocery stores urging them
not to carry products with Teflon chemicals in the packaging. Our campaign
started just as the Environmental Working Group organized major media
appearances featuring DuPont whistleblower Glen Evers, a former top
DuPont scientist, who revealed important information about the dangers
of C8 in food packaging.
- Developing relationships with the PACE/United Steelworkers
Union: This union, which represents many DuPont workers, was a key
ally in the campaign, and played an important role in educating their
own members, contacting manufacturers, and partnering with us.
- Working with the media: We worked closely with
reporters for Ohio newspapers, radio, and TV to bring the Teflon issues
to the forefront, and we worked with Columbus' biggest TV station on
a major C8 story for "sweeps week" in November. That story
featured the irresponsible behavior of Ohio's top regulatory agencies
that are supposed to serve and protect the public, particularly in regard
to the drinking water contamination in SE Ohio.
- Making our website a "source of record"
for information on DuPont and C8: We have compiled many resources
on the health effects of Teflon chemicals, including our chart of food
products, background information, research, and news stories, on received
visitors from 41 countries, and was the top response to the words "DuPont
C8" in Google's search engine.
- Following DuPont's announcement in February that they
will phase out the use of the chemicals by 2015, we are urging major
retailers, including Wal-Mart and Kroger, to act now and use their considerable
clout to ensure that the first order
of business in the phase-out is to remove these chemicals from food
packaging, such as microwave popcorn, candy wrappers, and frozen foods.
- Working with residents affected by C8 contamination
of their drinking water: Over 100,000 people in SE Ohio and West
Virginia get their drinking water from supplies that were contaminated
with C8 coming from the DuPont Washington Works in Parkersburg, WV.
This year, the USW also uncovered information about C8 leaks at the
DuPont plant in Circleville, 30 minutes south of Columbus. We are working
closely with several key leaders in SE Ohio, who pushed successfully
for DuPont to provide bottled water to the residents and who are keeping
the heat on officials conducting a health study. We are also in close
contact with key scientists and doctors, including hydrogeologists,
who are working to bring the public accurate information about the C8
Steel is the latest in a parade of eight different owners of the Cleveland
Works since the mill was built 90 years ago. Lakshmi Mittal, the third richest
man in the world, bought the company from International Steel Group in April
2005. The mill is the largest single polluter of the air and water in Cuyahoga
County. Pollution from the Cleveland Works that can trigger asthma and cause
cancer (including soot and sulfur dioxide) increased 38% from 2003 to 2004.
The Cleveland mill has more neighbors than any steel mill in the country:
390,000 residents and half of Cleveland's public schools are located within
five miles of the facility.
In addition to convincing International Steel Group to
re-route the trucks carrying hot coke, our accomplishments this year included:
FirstEnergy and AEP
- We worked with neighbors of the steel mill to document
their everyday experiences with the pollution, conducted "walk-and-talks"
in the community, sponsored a public meeting on the relationship between
asthma and pollution from the steel mill, and participated in the Tremont
Arts Fest -- complete with a "table-top steel mill" we built
for the occasion.
- Over 25,000 Ohio Citizen Action members wrote personal
letters and petitions to the management at the steel mill, urging them
to modernize the facility to prevent pollution. As Mittal went through
its corporate transition, we have sent letters to all levels of management.
We also delivered 458 messages attached to drinking straws to Lakshmi
Mittal's office in London, with the message explaining that breathing
through the straw for 60 seconds simulates the feeling of asthma.
- Because neighbors frequently complain about the particles
raining down on their homes from the steel mills, we conducted "swipe"
samples of particles on their houses this May. Our testing found that
the closer people live to the steel mill, the more heavy metals we found
in the particle dust. The metals matched up with those being emitted
from the mill.
- We launched a community-based air testing program in
November, training neighbors in how to take air samples using a homemade
"bucket" device. We also brought a state-of-the-art air monitor to Cleveland,
and exposed the lack of air monitoring being done by the city government.
We used the bucket to take the first air sample at the gates of General
Environmental Management, a neighboring company in the Flats, which
has been blanketing Cleveland with a terrible odor for the past year,
and gave the sample results to the company and the media.
Good neighbor campaigns networking and training
- The sordid story of FirstEnergy's Davis-Besse nuclear
power plant continued to unfold in 2005, with the decisions by the Nuclear
Regulatory Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice to lay the
blame for the near-nuclear disaster on whistleblower Andrew Siemaszko.
Ohio Citizen Action joined with the Union of Concerned Scientists to
intervene on Siemaszko's behalf in the NRC proceedings, which are pending.
Over 1800 Ohio Citizen Action members have signed letters in support
of Siemaszko to the NRC.
- Ohio Citizen Action continued to be involved in litigation
against American Electric Power (AEP), citing its failure to upgrade
pollution prevention equipment at major coal-fired power plants. The
case, which involves a large coalition of environmental organizations
and state agencies, has been in federal court since 1999.
II. Money in politics
- During the course of the year, we worked with Global
Community Monitor, the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, Community In-Power
and Development of Port Arthur, Texas, WildLaw, and other organizations
to share information and strategy on good neighbor campaigns. We hosted
the national Bucket Brigade Conference in Cincinnati in October, after
original plans to hold it in New Orleans were canceled due to Hurricane
Katrina. The conference brought together neighbors of polluting facilities
from around the country.
- We provided technical assistance and training for the
formation of a new grassroots organization in Denver, the Colorado Citizens
Campaign. The new group was formed when Clean Water Action announced
it would close its Denver canvass office and the leaders there decided
to re-open as a new organization that will conduct good neighbor campaigns.
We worked with our canvassing partners at the Hudson Bay Company to
develop the program and structure needed to launch the new organization
in October 2005.
- Where possible, we lent our support to community organizations
throughout the state working on local pollution prevention campaigns,
including at Eramet in Marietta. Within Ohio Citizen Action, our canvass
offices assisted each other in the campaigns, with the Columbus office
joining in the Sunoco campaign for several months, and all the offices
working on the DuPont campaign at the end of the year.
- We trained dozens of canvassers from Ohio and other
states in basic good neighbor campaign techniques at the National Canvassers
Conference in Paducah, Kentucky, in February, and provided support for
a regional canvass gathering in Ohio in October.
III. Organizational developments
- We played a key role in unveiling corruption in Ohio,
helping reporters to investigate the Bureau of Workers' Compensation
and politically connected coin dealer and investor Thomas Noe - an investigation
which led to an indictment in October. We also provided research findings
on the contributions from special counsels to the Ohio Attorney General
- Following Governor Taft's conviction for failing to disclose
golf outings and other events paid for by lobbyists and business leaders
in Ohio, we joined with the Ohio Roundtable to call on the Governor
to resign, and unveiled a website called "moveontaft.org."
- We called on five of the seven Ohio Supreme Court justices
to recuse themselves from a challenge to the FirstEnergy rate hike in
a case filed by the Ohio Consumers Counsel. The justices taken a total
of $135,000 in campaign contributions from FirstEnergy, and at least
two of them attended a fundraiser at the home of CEO Tony Alexander
after it was clear that the case would come before them. The judges
did not recuse themselves; the case is pending.
- We endorsed and campaigned for the four Reform Ohio
Now ballot initiatives, which included proposed changes in election
administration, redistricting or reapportionment reform and changes
to the campaign finance system. The initiatives were soundly defeated
at the polls.
- We opposed the proposed Ohio Patriot Act and changes
to Ohio's election law requiring all voters to produce identification
at the polls, both of which were enacted by the legislature. We also
testified about the need for a voter verified paper audit trail on the
computerized voting systems.
- In April, we hosted a public forum at the Ohio State
University Moritz College of Law about the new campaign finance law
passed in December 2004. The forum laid the foundation for many reporters,
editorial writers, and policy makers as they considered the current
system and the need for reform.
- The 30th anniversary celebrations in Columbus, Cincinnati,
and Cleveland were all wonderful events, bringing together Ohio Citizen
Action alumni, friends, and supporters to celebrate our work. At each
event, awards were presented to local and statewide leaders. The Cleveland
event featured the presentation of our highest annual award, the Howard
M. Metzenbaum Ohio Citizen Action award, to Stuart Greenberg, executive
director of Environmental Health Watch. The following individuals and
organizations also received recognition at the 30th anniversary events:
Westerville Citizens for Clean Air, Pari Sabety, Carrie Garnes, Larry
Hansen (Joyce Foundation), Eula Bingham, Roxanne Qualls, WCPO I-Team,
Cincinnati Hip Hop Youth Center, Jon Jensen (George Gund Foundation);
Brush Wellman, and Citizens Against American Landfill Expansion.
- Ohio Citizen Action's website, www.ohiocitizen.org,
continued to be a lively source of information about our campaigns,
and was visited by over 6,000 people a month. We also launched a new
email alert system to our members, and increased our number of on-line
- In memoriam: Long-time Ohio Citizen Action board
member and East Akron community leader Art Minson died in December 2005
at the age of 91. Art inspired all of us with his grace, wisdom, good
humor, and unwavering life-long commitment to social justice.
- Ohio Citizen Action Education Fund was grateful to receive
support from the following foundations in 2005: Joyce Foundation, George
Gund Foundation, Beldon Fund, Murray and Agnes Seasongood Good Government
Foundation, Ostara Foundation, Lotus Foundation, Ottinger Foundation,
Patagonia, and Environmental Support Center.