Photo © Ken Schles
by Mia DiFelice
With each passing year, the stakes rise higher for clean water, safe food, and a livable climate. But with each passing year, Food & Water Watch gets stronger and our impact grows.
That strength is only possible with our team of organizers, researchers, lawyers, policy analysts, and, of course, our members and volunteers. For the past seventeen years, Food & Water Watch has shown what’s possible with people power.
Our work has moved the needle on key issues, from national climate legislation to local fights against polluting corporations. We’re proud of all we’ve accomplished this year — especially these four victories in the fight to secure a livable future for all.
1. We Stopped Manchin’s Dirty Deal
Many Democrats were thrilled when Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) finally promised to support the Inflation Reduction Act, one of the landmark laws of the Biden Administration. But we soon learned that in return for his tie-breaking vote on the IRA, Manchin struck a dirty deal with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY).
That dirty deal would have fast-tracked fossil fuel projects across the country and gut a watershed environmental protection law. It also threatened to silence frontline communities and push through the Mountain Valley Pipeline, which had already been beaten down by community opposition and organizing.
Manchin’s deal was bad news for both climate and communities, so Food & Water Watch and our allies acted fast. We
- held rallies and sit-ins across the country,
- helped more than 20 volunteers meet with or deliver letters to their lawmakers, to make their opposition clear
- gathered signatures from over 400 scientists denouncing the deal because of its public health and environmental consequences, and
- mobilized opposition against the deal in the House and Senate, especially amongst the representatives of Schumer’s home state of New York.
And it all paid off. By the end of the month, Sen. Manchin had pulled the deal.
2. We Banned Fracking in the Parks of This PA County
Millions across Allegheny County, PA look to their parks as treasured sites of family, fun, and natural beauty. So when we saw how fracking devastated one County park, our PA organizers began mobilizing to ban future fracking in the rest of Allegheny parks.
We knew it wouldn’t be easy. Years ago, the current County Executive had vetoed a similar ban. But this time, we knew we had the people power and the support of other County Council members to make it happen.
With our allies, we spent a year organizing, building on the work of those who came before us. In those efforts, we
- arranged meetings between residents and their council members and helped deliver letters to members,
- organized calls, coordinated door-to-door canvassers, lead rallies, and
- collected petition signatures and helped dozens of residents make public comments.
As expected, the County Executive vetoed the parks ban once it reached his desk, in the most underhanded way possible. But our allies on the Council rushed a special session and overrode the veto, picking up an extra vote of support along the way. Now, the landmark parks ban protects over 12,000 acres of beloved green spaces.
3. We Shut Down Climate-Wrecking Crypto in New York
In recent years, millions of investors began jumping into the lucrative cryptocurrency market. But lurking behind new fortunes is a climate-wrecking technology we knew we had to stop.
Cryptomining (producing and verifying cryptocurrency) is extremely energy-intensive. It requires warehouses-worth of large computers running at full steam daily. As a result, the industry has resuscitated dying coal- and gas-fired power plants. It has also revved up production at plants once used only in emergencies or during peak demand.
While the crypto market has doled out heaps of cash to a lucky few, it threatens frontline communities with even more pollution and the planet with dangerous emissions.
By 2022, New York hosted at least one-fifth of all Bitcoin (the most popular type of cryptocurrency) mining in the country. More companies looked poised to pounce on the state’s dozens of retired power plants. So New York became the center of a campaign for a cryptomining moratorium.
With our allies, we loudly supported the statewide moratorium (the first of its kind) every step of the way. By June, the needed bill passed the state legislature, only to languish on the desk of Governor Kathy Hochul.
4. We’re Blocking Gas Infrastructure All Over the East Coast
Fracked gas harms people and the planet throughout its life cycle, and those harms are most devastating for the communities near polluting infrastructure. That’s why Food & Water Watch works with local organizations, leaders, and residents to stop new projects nationwide.
Among other proposed projects, this year, we faced an expansion to a gas-fired power plant in Woodbridge, New Jersey. Our research found that if expanded as proposed, the Woodbridge site would become the largest source of climate emissions in the state. It would also spew toxic carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, lead, and more into the air.
Frontline communities, also disproportionately underserved, always bear the brunt of pollution like this. Around the Woodbridge site, every town within 5 miles is already overburdened with pollution, according to state criteria.
The expansion’s fate is still dependent on an air permit from the state Department of Environmental Protection. But by organizing local governments and residents to speak out against the project, we’re building the diverse coalition and public pressure needed to get Governor Murphy to reject this polluting proposal.
We Have Plenty of Victories Ahead of Us
With every victory, Food & Water Watch continues learning and evolving. Other towns, other counties, and other states learn from our successes. Meanwhile, bigger and louder people power holds elected officials accountable to actually listen to their constituents.
The road to securing a livable future is long and complicated, but we’re growing and gathering more support every day. Amid changing tides, polluting industries and corporate shills in office will continue clawing onto power. But we’re joining partners and frontline communities to go toe-to-toe with them, every step of the way.
In the new year, we will be working with our allies in offices across the country, at every level of government, to carry out our vision of a livable future for all. But we can’t do it without supporters like you. Because of your generosity, we have the resources to take on these crucial fights — and win them.
All Giving Tuesday gifts are now matched $4-to-$1. That’s five times the power to protect our planet in 2023 and beyond!