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Year In Review: Protect PT Finds New Ways to Connect, Collaborate and Inspire

Updated: Aug 11, 2021

Every person, company, and industry has been impacted one way or another this year.

We’ve all had to rethink and reevaluate what’s important to us - and what matters most - in the midst of a global pandemic.

Protect PT team members stand on bridge
The Protect PT team. Photo by Mark Dixon.

Protect PT has followed a similar 2020 experience.

As an organization, we’ve had to change how we educate, engage, and empower those in our community. Adapting to a “new normal” has been a challenge, but has further reassured us that those involved in the fight won’t let anything stop them from having their voices heard.

Now that we’re officially in the Zoom era, we figured we would use the virtual world to catch up and connect with friends, colleagues, and local industry experts.

Protect PT started our “virtual lunch hours” back in April initially as a lunch break for staff and members to converse casually and provide socially-distanced support. Our little talks soon morphed into something bigger, becoming online webinars that were both educational and entertaining, covering familiar and topics.

For instance, residents near Mariner East learned the best tips and practices to keep their community safe when George Alexander, author of the blog “DragonPipe Diary”, came on to detail the pipeline’s safety issues.

We learned how to take political and social justice action from our living rooms with help from Karen Feridun of Better Path Coalition and her virtual methods and tips.

We even got crafty when Nina Barbuto (Assemble PGH) delved into an introverted and arty type of activism dubbed “craftivism.”

These talks (ongoing and available on Youtube) have been educational sessions of self-discovery, and shifted our methods of communication of Protect PT.

We’ve also lasered in on our areas of engagement.

The issue of fracking waste, in particular leachate, has been a major problem focus of ours this year.

The Westmoreland Sanitary Landfill has been accepting fracking waste for at least a decade. This radioactive material contaminates the surrounding garbage and creates exposure risks for community members.

We’re continuing the fight against proposed permits that would allow the landfill to set up a new facility that would evaporate radioactive materials, spreading them to nearby communities. We received overwhelming support from impacted residents in the form of returned mail-in surveys who want answers AND a safe resolution.

Setting up air and noise monitors in local communities has yielded important results and is something we’re looking to expand in 2021 to monitor pollution around the landfill and other sites.

In addition to these projects, we’ve also collaborated with partner groups and individuals to work on other projects this year.

We helped with the launch of the ReImagine TCWAC project (Turtle Creek Watershed and Airshed Communities Plus) to help community leaders envision and implement sustainable economic development for the TCWAC region and surrounding areas.

The project has only grown this year thanks to dedicated working groups.

They’ve spearheaded projects like planting locally sourced backyard gardens for residents, and recently started a podcast - "Journey Through Health & Wellness" - that will narrow down broad health topics and feature industry experts as guests.

Spotlighting individual’s stories is at the core of our organization, and we were honored to assemble testimonies from residents who have been impacted by the Mariner East Pipeline for the People’s Hearing: Stories of Mariner East event.

Government officials like Gov. Wolf, PA Public Utility Chairman Gladys Dutrielle, and PA DEP (Department of Environmental Protection) Secretary Patrick McDonnel were invited to attend the event and hear the stories from impacted residents. Since none of them attended the event, we are writing follow-up letters, asking them to listen to the recorded testimony and address the issues of the pipeline before it's too late.

The connections we made and maintained throughout this year lifted have become a great source of not only wisdom, but comfort, as well.

We would like to thank all of our members and supporters who have made it possible for us to continue working on these and other projects in the community.

We look forward to sharing more stories with you in 2021.

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