Saturday, April 18, 2020

A Reference Guide for New Zoomers

In order to continue our long tradition of community gatherings while practicing social distancing to help protect our community from the worst effects of the novel coronavirus, Sustainability Salons are being held via teleconference using the Zoom platform.  One silver lining to this pandemic situation is that we’re having participants who usually can’t attend in person because of distance or physical limitations (e.g., allergies).  Here are some tips that may help you navigate the process.

You’ll be able to connect from your computer, tablet, or smartphone (of course the larger the screen, the better your experience!).  If you have a problem getting connected, read the tips below and try again, or look on the  Zoom web site for answers — there’s a pretty comprehensive Help section (click on Support in the upper right).  

Some of you have used Zoom before, others have not.  If you haven’t, you’ll need to install Zoom on your computer, but it should be pretty easy (you may need your own password, for your system to allow the software installation; this doesn’t go anywhere else) — you’ll click on the link I give you in this email, and it’ll bring up a registration form, and then Zoom will send you another email with a signon link.  Click that a little while before the meeting is scheduled to start, and it’ll prompt you for each step (the link opens a web page, and from there it asks to download and run the application, or just open it if you already have it).  The whole process is pretty simple and automated, so you should find yourself with a Zoom window in the middle of your screen.  As with most windows, you can click on the boxy symbol to expand it to full-screen, as you prefer.  It may look plain at first, but it will soon have a number of little boxes with names and perhaps images of people.  And if you move the cursor a bit, a row of buttons will appear along the bottom of the window.  

Mute:  With so many participants, it won't be practical to have everyone talking.  You’ll start out muted (shown in the lower left of the Zoom window, as a picture of a microphone with a line through it), and likely remain muted for most of the time.  If you need to say something to everyone, there's a "Raise Hand" option in the Participant window, but please wait for a host to ask you to un-mute, then click that microphone icon — and then be sure to mute again afterward, or things will get pretty noisy.  

Chat:  There is, however, a chat facility — so if you have questions for a speaker or comments in between, you can type it in and we’ll figure out when best to present it.  We'll have one or more co-hosts moderating the chat window, keeping stack, prioritizing questions, and conveying them to the speaker (or whoever).  To see and use the Chat window, click on the Chat icon on the bottom of your Zoom window — it looks like a little word-bubble.  

Video:  I set it up so that everyone can use video, but you don’t need to — you can toggle on and off with a button (a video camera icon) on the bottom left of your Zoom window.  If your video is on, folks may see a little thumbnail of your image.  If it’s off, just a black rectangle with your name. With this many people either the thumbnails will be really tiny, or they won’t all be shown — we’ll probably have multiple screens worth.  It also may affect sound or video quality due to bandwidth limitations — again, I don’t know with this many people, so at some point we may just say “Hey everyone, turn your video off!”  Our priority is to provide a good view of the speakers and their slides, and perhaps occasionally someone else participating in the discussion.  

Sound:  You can listen to everything on your computer/tablet/phone speaker, or with headphones or earbuds, whatever is most comfortable for you.  If you need to speak, those devices probably have microphones as well, but if not, at the time you sign on you’ll have the opportunity to test it and the option to use a phone for sound instead — you’ll be able to see the presenters and their slides on the screen, and hear and speak through a phone call (it’ll give you a number to call.  You’ll need to have your phone on for the whole time, though, so be sure it’s plugged in and you don’t have limited minutes!).  You’ll probably want to put the phone on Speaker mode and set it beside you, or use earphones;  it’d be a long time to hold it to your ear!  

It is also possible to use a smartphone or tablet for the whole thing, if that’s more convenient for you.  The interface will be a little different — there’s less space on the screen, of course, and a somewhat different sign-on procedure.

In theory you could have several people at one location, but note that a laptop microphone might not be adequate for each of you to be heard by others if you're not close together right in front of the computer.  (If so, you can also use a phone for sound instead as just mentioned). 

It is even possible just to dial in on a regular phone, and you’ll be able to hear and be heard — but again, please mute your phone — with eighty people on the line with random background noises, it would get pretty hard to hear!  (we can also mute you, if you’re on a phone without that function).

Sign-on:  You should have a Zoom Invitation in your email.  As noted above, just click on the meeting link therein and it’ll take you to the registration page — provide your name and email, and you’ll receive the meeting link (and phone numbers in case you want to just dial in — but again, you’ll have a richer experience if you can use a computer, tablet, or even smartphone.  There will be multiple phone numbers because many people use Zoom to have meetings distributed around faraway places).   One last note — if something goes wrong, you can just go back to your confirmation email and click the link to start over. 

If you are using a phone, my test this morning showed that there are a couple of possible hitches, easy to circumvent once you know about them (so I’m telling you now to save you the frustration I had a couple of hours ago!):  If you have autocorrect, predictive text and/or automatic capitalization on your smartphone, it’s very hard to get past the CAPTCHA step (obscured text you have to type in manually to prove you’re a human being).  In my test, I kept failing because the phone tried to re-spell the nonsense word as a real word!  On my iPhone, I went into Settings, then to General, then to Keyboard, and scrolled down to un-set those options.  Then it worked fine!  I don’t know the Android equivalent, but it’s probably similar. 

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Alarming plan to gut the DEP: sign-on letter

Below is the text of a letter by attorneys at the Environmental Integrity Project, protesting a proposal to gut the regulatory powers of the PA DEP.  You can sign onto this letter here.  Please do!  DEADLINE TO ADD YOUR NAME:  Sept 22 at noon!

September 23, 2019 

Subject: Citizen Opposition to House Bills 1106 and 1107 
To the Honorable Thomas W. Wolf, Governor of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Honorable Members of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, and Honorable Members of the Pennsylvania Senate: 

How much faster does the petro-chemical buildout in Pennsylvania need to be? 
The General Assembly of Pennsylvania is poised to vote on a package of bills known as Energize PA. These bills are intended to pour fuel on the already growing wildfire of oil and gas expansion in the state. Two of these bills – HB 1106 and HB 1107, will be voted on this week. If passed, the General Assembly will be doing just what industry wants . . . turning the Commonwealth into a Welcome Wagon for all things oil and gas, at the reckless expense of public health, the environment, and quality of life. 

Hidden in these sweeping proposals, under the guise of economic growth and expansion, are measures that will do more than just line the pockets of oil and gas executives. HB 1106 and HB 1107 also seek to gut the permitting authority of the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and transfer it to a newly created and politically appointed 5-person Permitting Commission whose sole task will be to rubber stamp all environmental permit applications. Strong and enforceable permits, with robust provisions for public participation, are what protect people against the health and environmental impacts of all kinds of industrial activities that threaten air and water quality, not just oil and gas. These bills take all of those protections away. 

This cannot be allowed to proceed, but if it does, Pennsylvania will forfeit its authority to implement any federal environmental program until the state seeks approval from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of these substantial changes. These bills gut a significant portion of DEP’s authority and such a move would require EPA approval. This is because federal laws such as the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act are administered in states through a process where EPA approves (“authorizes”) a state to implement the federal program. If Pennsylvania does submit requests for revisions to its federal authorizations, this process provides for public comment and judicial review of EPA’s final decision-making. And until necessary revision requests are submitted and approved, a process that could prove lengthy, EPA will likely take over permitting, enforcement, and all other responsibilities in

Pennsylvania regarding the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, and more. 
This is reckless lawmaking, but not surprising. Together, these bills represent the culmination of a long-game playbook written by the oil and gas industry that has now been plopped into the lap of malleable state legislators. And here’s how it goes. 

Step 1: Starve DEP by slashing funding by 24 percent between fiscal year 2007 and fiscal year 2019 despite the exponential growth of shale gas production – from less than half a billion cubic feet per day in 2008 to more than 18.7 billion cubic feet per day as of June 2019. 
Staffing levels have decreased 23 percent since 2006. The Oil and Gas Program suffered some of the deepest cuts. As of early 2018, this program ran a $600,000 a month deficit, and staff was reduced from 226 to 190 employees compared to 2006, with a 43 percent staff reduction in the Southwest District Office, and 15 percent in the Northwest District Office, both of which assume a sizable portion of the Department’s oil and gas permitting. In 2018, despite these paralyzing cutbacks, DEP managed to issue 2,149 oil and gas permits even though only 917 wells were drilled. So is a faster permit track really needed? 

Step 2: After decimating the agency, complain about the permit “backlog” as the budget-starved DEP struggles to keep up with the avalanche of permit applications from companies who run over local communities in their rush to sink even more gas wells, install tank farms and compressors, build gas processors and petrochemical plants, and pummel the roads and highways with continuous, polluting truck traffic. 

Step 3: Purport to solve the “problem” created by the budget and staff cuts by taking permitting authority away from DEP and give it to a new political commission charged with ensuring that all shale gas projects (and any other activity that requires an environmental permit) never again have to sit down with regulators and work through real environmental problems. Permits will be approved in 30 days or they will be deemed approved – no matter how complex, no matter how technologically complicated the pollution control equipment, no matter how much threat the activity poses to the health of nearby communities. This is all so the shale gas industry, an industry that’s expanded by a factor of 37 since 2008, can overrun the state (in the name of progress) even faster than it has in oil patch states like Texas and Louisiana. 

Thanks to budget cuts, industry lobbyists, and their amen corner in the state legislature, the oil and gas industry in Pennsylvania is already driving a hundred miles an hour, exposing communities to more air and water pollution and increasing the risk of deadly accidents. Now the legislature wants to double a speed limit that is already too dangerous. 
“Expediting” permitting in Pennsylvania is a solution in search of a problem in a state where gas production has increased by a factor of 37 since 2008, much faster than any other state. And the permit “backlog” is a “problem” the state legislature created by hacking away at the budget for environmental protection year after year. And again, because it does bear repeating, permits already are being approved by DEP permit staff at a rate more than three times faster than shale gas projects can be built. 
DEP needs to be supported, not dismantled. In addition to the 2,149 oil and gas permits issued in 2018, DEP also discovered 4,060 oil and gas violations, and collected $4,140,382 in fines and penalties. The Department is not perfect, but there are good people within DEP trying to do the right thing with one hand tied behind their backs due to impediments created by the same legislature that is proposing these reckless bills. 
These bills must be defeated and funding and appropriate staffing levels must be restored to DEP. If these bills are passed, Governor Wolf must veto them. 

Respectfully submitted, 
Lisa Hallowell, Senior Attorney 
The Environmental Integrity Project 
Philadelphia, PA 19106 
Lisa Graves Marcucci, 
Coordinator Community Outreach 
The Environmental Integrity Project 
Pittsburgh, PA 15236 

Additional signatories..

Friday, June 14, 2019

Jobs: Grow OV/Americorps

Grow Ohio Valley, the great food-policy organization just over in Wheeling, WV we heard from at the last Sustainability Salon, is doing some hiring (with the Americorps program)! Several positions are open:  

Communications & Marketing AmeriCorps VISTA - 1 Year - Manage social media, digital marketing, advertising, and other communications activities relating to all aspects of the organization. 
Education Programs Coordinator - 1 Year (Jan/Feb start) | 6 Month (Rolling start) - Plan and facilitate educational opportunities for the community. Currently seeking coordinators for Project Worm, School Gardens, and Sprout programming.
Key Organic Farm Hand - 6 Month | 3 Month (May/June start) - Be involved in all aspects of the annual agricultural cycle, from enhancing farming sites over the winter, to field preparation, as well as improving and documenting production processes and data collection 
Food Hub Coordinator - 6 Month | 4.5 Month (May/June start) - Play a key role in aggregating food and getting it into the hands of the people. Positions include Hub/warehouse lead, CSA lead, FARMacy lead, mobile market lead, and access coordinator.
Click here for detailed position descriptions.  More info and links are here:
Contact with questions or for more information.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Job: Pittsburgh Food Policy Council

Do you have what it takes to be the Operations and Communications Manager for the Pittsburgh Food Policy Council? View the job description below and send your resume and accompanying information to!
Reports to: Executive Director
Job Title: Operations & Communications Manager
Status: Full-time, exempt
Organizational Description
The Pittsburgh Food Policy Council (PFPC) convenes over 80 member entities and 130 individuals in a growing ‘ecosystem’ of expertise, information, relationships, and resources Our members include governmental, non-profit, business, educational, cooperative, and agricultural stakeholders within the food system. The Pittsburgh Food Policy Council (PFPC) works to build a food system that benefits our communities, our economy and our environment in ways that are just, equitable and sustainable for all. We coordinate programs and projects and catalyze change through holistic, systems-level transformation. Guided by the collective impact model, we research and promote food, agricultural, land use and public health policies that expand local sustainable agriculture, equitable development, and access to healthy food, particularly in low-income communities. Since 2019, the PFPC is fiscally sponsored by The Community Foundation of the Alleghenies and has a small staff that works out of our new office located in Pittsburgh’s Garfield neighborhood.
Job Summary
The Pittsburgh Food Policy Council is pleased to announce our first full-time Operations & Communications Manager to join our team. This key position will be responsible for managing communications, outreach and day-to-day operations. Operations & Communications Manager will be a critical role for the Council as we publicly launch our countywide Greater Pittsburgh Food Action Plan this spring in coordination with our many partners.  
This role is both strategic and tactical, requiring the ability to think big while managing details, working collaboratively with the Council staff and network. The Operations & Communications Manager is a creative and energetic self-starter who is organized and proactively engages PFPC staff, leadership, and our network in communications, events, and community partnerships. The Operations & Communications Manager is someone who enjoys working independently and collaboratively as part of the team. This person will continuously explore ways to build the Council and share stories. A passion for food systems and food justice are important to the success of this role, though food systems experience is not required. This position will be responsible for managing members, interns, contractors, and vendors to support activities.
Reporting to the Executive Director, this position will include:
Outreach & Communications (60%)
  • Contribute to the development and implementation of a communications strategy and implementation plan in concert with PFPC team;
  • Manage all communications channels including staff and member contributions to the Council including our website and social media, proactively seeking content to share the work of the Council and its members and the food systems field in our region;
  • Write and develop engaging materials about the PFPC for a variety of audiences (elected officials, nonprofits, businesses, etc) through both social and traditional media in coordination with PFPC team; Manage all aspects of communications including copywriting, graphic design/layout, photography and relationships with vendors. Specific tasks include but are not limited to our e-newsletters, website content including news, blog, and events calendar; online photo collections, etc.
  • Assist Executive Director with development,  fundraising communications and events including writing of annual reports, funder updates and impact reporting, fundraising case for support boilerplates for grant-writing team, grant research and reports, pitch decks, and appeal letters and donor thank you letters;
  • Work with the PFPC team to help shape external materials (presentations, reports, case studies),  and visual elements for events leading the design of materials and supporting to illustrate concepts working with a graphic designer or in-house;
  • Work with the PFPC team and network to collect and share stories of the Council’s collective impact, projects, and events in a way that engages our varied stakeholders. Continually identify ways to enhance benefits for our membership and network and the PFPC through communications;
  • Work closely with the PFPC team to support the execution of public-facing training and education campaigns and events, public-facing fundraising campaigns and appeals;
  • Maintain and enhance branding standards to create a consistent and effective look in marketing materials; Make sure event concept and print materials are on message;
  • Develop and nurture relationships with local media. Strive to gain the PFPC coverage in the local media, maintain records of media contacts and community coverage, and regularly update the Council’s media list;
  • Improve and regularly update the PFPC and Food Action Plan websites, ensuring consistency with brand and messaging. Monitor and manage Council’s online presence and messaging;
  • Represent and present the work of the PFPC at meetings, events, and conferences, as well as ensure the Council has a presence in the community through tabling at events and other opportunities, coordinating with staff, interns, and volunteers as needed;
  • Keep up-to-date on emerging communications technologies that could help the Council promote its mission.
Operations (40%)
  • Manage day-to-day operations of the PFPC office, including maintaining meeting schedules and calendars, supplies, and general inquiries;
  • Improve processes and policies in support of organizational goals; Implement and manage operational plans; Coordinate, supervise and train event volunteers;
  • Work with PFPC team to develop regular internship opportunities and procedures; receive and manage queries from students, collaborators and community partners;
  • Manage planning of bimonthly full Council meetings and educational events; provide administrative support for the Steering Committee and Working Group meetings;
  • Assist the Executive Director with Human Resource management; manage/support volunteers, interns, and new staff onboarding;
  • Assist with financial management including expenses processing and serving as a liaison with our fiscal host and commercial landlord; Identify and manage event sponsors;
  • Oversee event management and planning from concept to execution including facilitating the creation of event concept to developing a project/ event plan all while ensuring the plan is implemented on time and within budget;
Education, Experience and Skills
Relevant skills and experience include creative and strategic thinking, research, website and social media management,  persuasive writing and speaking, event logistics and project management skills. A strong candidate will have familiarity with food justice, policy, collective impact, and the Pittsburgh area nonprofit landscape. Lived experience highly valued.
  • Bachelor’s degree or equivalent experience in marketing, communications, community relations/engagement, business administration, public policy or related field
  • Demonstrated success in communications and community engagements/organizing; experience with multi-stakeholder communications and working within a team; high level of comfort with social media and online community building; Experience managing public education campaigns, social media or marketing campaigns
  • Experience planning and implementing special events and working with volunteers is preferred
  • Excellent verbal and written communicator and presenter, creative thinker and team player; positive, enthusiastic presence with good public relations skills;
  • Passionate about storytelling and developing simple but compelling messaging
  • Demonstrated ability to provide strategic direction in organizational outreach and communications planning and implementation;
  • Excellent project and operational management and organizational skills;
  • Experience or knowledge of food systems a plus but not required; commitment to food justice a must;
  • The ideal candidate will have excellent interpersonal skills and a collaborative management style and be ready to jump in to assist with any task at hand and will be comfortable in a self-directed, dynamic work environment- the ability to multitask; Delegate responsibilities effectively;
  • High comfort level working in a diverse environment and strong community relationships a plus
  • Proficiency in one or more of the following social media platforms: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube, etc as well as proficiency in Microsoft Office, Google Suite, and/or other web-based software; knowledge of task management web-based programs like Asana and graphic design software like Adobe Illustrator or InDesign a plus; qualified person will exhibit a willingness to learn
Defining Success in the First Year:
Working closely with the staff and network, successfully improve brand awareness and reach for the Council, organize professional, engaging, inclusive and vibrant community events, and build on existing partnerships. Contribute to deepen sense of unity, solidarity and collective impact through communication of demonstrated outcomes and rigorous engagement. Expand on the recognition of the PFPC for food system actions and thought leadership in our state and region.
Statement of Values / Equal Opportunity Employer
The PFPC believes that our current food system disproportionately hurts the most marginalized people in society — including people of color, people from low wealth and working-class backgrounds, women and LGBTQ people. We believe that these communities must be centered in the work we do and therefore strongly encourage applications from people with these lived experiences or who are members of these and other marginalized communities to apply.”
The Pittsburgh Food Policy Council is an equal opportunity employer and does not discriminate based on race, color, religion, sex, gender identity/expression, sexual orientation, national origin, age, disability or belief.
Compensation & Work Environment
Pittsburgh Food Policy Council’s office is located in Pittsburgh’s Garfield neighborhood. Staff are employees of The Community Foundation of the Alleghenies, our fiscal host. We have a comfortable office space with frequent member activity and lots of sunlight.
Target full-time annual salary is between $40,000 and $46,000 commensurate with experience. Eligible benefits include health, vision and dental insurance, paid vacation and sick leave. Retirement benefits available after 6-month work-aversary. Support of staff development through training opportunities and professional development.  This position is grant funded.
Salary and benefits to be negotiated based on qualifications and experience. Primarily daytime work hours with occasional evening and weekend events.
How to Apply
Please submit a resume, cover letter, professional references, samples of past work (writing, collateral design, press coverage or any relevant work that demonstrates your qualifications) to with the email subject “Operations & Communications Manager.”
In your cover letter, please describe your past experiences and/or efforts to advance social justice, diversity, and inclusion. Applications lacking any of the aforementioned documents will not be considered. If your qualifications and experience are a good fit for the position, you will be contacted to participate in the review and interview process.
For more information on Pittsburgh Food Policy Council, visit

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Railroad controversy documents

Pertaining to the 84th Sustainability Salon on Trains, 19 January 2019

 How You Can Help 
Contact your elected officials, personally and through your Community Development Corporation. Glenn Olcerst has been sending them emails on this topic so they should be somewhat familiar with the issue. 
Ask your officials to: 
Use your tax dollars to re-deploy the $28 million project funding to instead secure the hillside adjacent to the Mon Line, and re-direct the double-stacked trains there, where there is no height restriction 
Support the demand for true town hall meetings with City, PennDOT and Norfolk Southern representatives in each of your communities 
Agree to supply all of the information listed on the “Pre-Public Meeting Information Request” handout in advance of any such meeting 
Consider the options and solutions listed in the “Possible Options and Solutions” handout that best fit your community’s needs. 

Contact potential funding sources to help pay for: 
Cameras and monitors 
Community outreach, education and engagement 
Legal advice 

How to find your elected officials: 
Go to 
Displays local, state, and national representatives 

Other ways to help: 
Identify locations where and how long trains are idling in your area 
If you have special skills, like web development, design, etc., volunteer! 
Offer to go door-to-door to alert your neighbors about the railroad’s plans 
Write letters to the editor 

Send follow-up questions to 

 Possible Options and Solutions 
We believe that once armed with the facts about the dangers of the PVCP, using citizen science and organizing, we will be able to inform elected officials so they’re aware of the risks to the community. We will use the critical information and growing community network to hold Norfolk Southern accountable and to require them to modify their project to address the community’s concerns. Desired outcomes and options to achieve them are detailed below. 
To Prevent Derailments 
Replace or reinforce all antiquated sewer/water lines and infrastructure along the route 
• Increase water drainage capacity in the trough running through Allegheny Commons, and at other junctures along the route in order to prevent ground subsidence and movement under the ballast 
• Ensure Positive Train Controls are implemented throughout the route, are always working properly, and have backup systems in place when main controls are taken off line for maintenance 

To Prevent Additional Degradation of Air Quality 
Require black carbon diesel scrubbers on the engines 
• Require the use of Tier 4 or hybrid train engines 
• Electrify the route (done now for passenger trains elsewhere) 
• Re-deploy the $28 million project funding to instead secure the hillside adjacent to the Mon Line, and re-direct the double-stacked trains there, where there is no height restriction 
• Advocate for policy responses to limit the ability for Norfolk Southern to add high amounts of additional air pollution in communities already bearing environmental justice burdens 

To Ensure Public Safety at Intersections 
Keep double-decker trains exclusively on Norfolk Southern’s Mon Line 
• Lower only the two middle tracks, thereby leaving the toe footers for the trough walls in Allegheny Commons unaffected 
• If the Northside Merchant Street Bridge must be lowered, make the underpass pedestrian only 
• Split the height difference by lowering the tracks a little and raising the bridges a little 

To Produce More Robust Community Engagement 
Convene a series of true town hall meetings, conveniently located in each of the affected neighborhoods, to be held where members of the project team are identified, are on a stage where they’re visible, use microphones so the audience can all hear their answers to questions, where project renderings are clearly displayed at the front of the stage, and provide an independent facilitator to conduct the proceedings 
• Contribute documentation to Rail Pollution Protection Pittsburgh’s website - a central repository accessible by the public; containing maps of all relevant underlying infrastructure (including their depth and age); original construction drawings (including cross-sections) of the trough through Allegheny Commons; project drawings and timelines; project team names, faces and contact information; project status, etc. 
• Incorporate social media platforms that encourage the public’s feedback 

To Compensate Those Most Affected 
Provide an endowment for impacted parks and playgrounds 
• Make adjoining property owners financially whole and, based on a vibration, load, and noise analysis, provide an additional stipend to mitigate the trains’ effects 

 Pre-Public Meeting Information Request 
In order to ensure that a truly meaningful community process occurs, it is necessary that the PVCP team provide the following information to all of the Community Development Corporations along the Fort Wayne and Pittsburgh Lines at least one month in advance of any mutually agreed-upon date for a public meeting. 
PVCP Project Documentation 
All bridge and engineering drawings, including those showing approach elevations and surface and subsurface impact on adjacent properties 
All locations where current plans will result in a “taking” of property by eminent domain 
All road/bridge safety studies performed for the Pittsburgh Vertical Clearance Project (“PVCP”) 
Copies of all environmental, historic, health, welfare, and general safety impact studies conducted by the PVCP team 
All cost analyses of raising bridges versus lowering of tracks 
Engineering studies relating to the infrastructure and drainage systems in Allegheny Commons (including age and depth below tracks) 
Any and all impact to historically protected Allegheny Commons (trees, topography, access etc.) 
Vibration and noise analysis testing and results 

Norfolk Southern Operations 
Documents showing the location and duration of idling trains over the past year 
Documents confirming the current number of trains, including cargo and weight, as well as projected volume and length of single- and double-stacked rail traffic 
A list of all Norfolk Southern accidents and derailments, including types of cargo involved, within the past 5 years, along with the determined cause and the financial cost 
Documents showing both transit time and monetary savings resulting from use of the new route 
Certification that all of the railroad ties along the Fort Wayne and Pittsburgh Lines have been replaced with properly treated ties. (This item relates to current litigation pertaining to Norfolk Southern’s purchase of what was determined to be untreated, or improperly treated, ties that are prone to rot.) 

The timeline for supplying the requested information must be followed strictly to allow those who are most directly impacted the opportunity to hire engineers to analyze the data. The engineer and other experts’ reports will help ensure that the most intelligent and informed questions can be asked during initial, and follow up, public meetings. 

 RP3 Broader Mission Demands 
• Positive Train Control implemented now 
• More advanced brakes exist now, and we want them installed on trains hauling explosive fuels 
• Regular inspections on rail infrastructure including bridges with public reports 
• Lower speed limits imposed in populated areas 
• Emergency response plans funded by Norfolk Southern – including training equipment, communication systems, qualified officials to coordinate first responders and cleanup 
• State-level environmental reviews with public comment periods 
• Required proof of financial responsibility – posting of bonds and adequate insurance 
• Enforce strict permitting and land use at local non-carrier loading/unloading facilities 
• A renewed freeze on public funding 
• Strict liability for all oil spills, all resulting damages, restoration of natural resources, fees on all off-loaded oil, punitive damages 
• Stabilization to remove explosive gasses 
• Help organizing and administering a GoFundMe campaign 
• Leads on where trains are idling 

 Relevant Contact Information 
City Council: 
Darlene Harris, District 1 
• 412-255-2135 
Allegheny Center, Allegheny City Central, Allegheny West, Brighton Heights, Brightwood, East Allegheny, Fineview, Northview Heights, Observatory Hill, Spring Garden, Spring Hill, Summer Hill, Troy Hill & Washington’s Landing 

Theresa Kail-Smith, District 2 
• 412-255-8963 
Banksville, Beechview, Chartiers City, Crafton Heights, Duquesne Heights & Mount Washington, East Carnegie, Elliot, Esplen, Fairywood, Oakwood & Ridgemont, South Shore, Sheraden, West End, Westwood, Windgap 

Bruce Kraus, District 3 
• 412-255-2130 
Allentown, Arlington, Arlington Heights, Beltzhoover, Central Oakland, Knoxville, Mt Oliver, Oakcliffe, South Side Flats, South Side Slopes, South Oakland, St. Clair 

Anthony Coghill, District 4 
• 412-255-2131 
Beechview, Bon Air, Brookline, Carrick, Mt. Washington, Overbrook 

Corey O’Connor, District 5 
• 412-255-8965 
Glen Hazel, Greenfield, Hays, Hazelwood, Lincoln Place, New Homestead, Regent Square, Squirrel Hill South, Swisshelm Park 

R. Daniel Lavelle, District 6 
• 412-255-0820 
Perry Hilltop, The Hill, Northside, Uptown, Downtown, Oakland 

Deb Gross, District 7 
• 412-255-2140 
Bloomfield, Friendship, Highland Park, Lawrenceville, Morningside, Polish Hill, Stanton Heights, Strip District 

Erika Strassburger, District 8 
• 412-255-2133 
Oakland, Point Breeze, Shadyside, Squirrel Hill North 

Ricky Burgess, District 9 
• 412-255-8658 
East Liberty, Homewood, East Hills, Larimer, Point Breeze North, Lincoln-Lemington-Belmar, Friendship, Garfield 

Mayor’s Office: 
Bill Peduto, Mayor 
• 412-255-2626 

Dan Gillman, Chief of Staff 

Department of Mobility and Infrastructure: 
Karina Ricks, Director 

Cheryl Moon Sirianni, Pittsburgh Area District Executive 
• 412-429-5005 

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Frack Free Farm List

As a supplement to my Local Food Resources list, I am pleased to include a compendium of information on the involvement (or lack thereof) of local farms in unconventional gas development (i.e. fracking and ancillary activities).  This information was kindly provided by Stephanie Ulmer, who has taken pains to contact every local farm, and continues to update the list as new information comes in.  Below is the eighth edition of the lists, with explanatory information from Stephanie.

The Frack Free Farm List is meant as a consumer guide and not as a recommendation in any way.  The intent of the list is to support the farmer who goes the extra mile (or is just lucky enough not to be surrounded by well pads) to keep their land frack free.  


Allegheny City Farm
Blackberry Meadows Farm
Bountiful Earth Farm
Cal-Organics (N)
Champion Chicks
Cherish Creamery
Churchview Farm
Clarion River Organics--"We are a cooperative of 15 farms. None of the farms has a fracking operation on it. No farmer has signed a lease agreement with a fracking operation. Some of the farmers who moved here more recently bought farms that had been leased because there is no land for sale that does not have the mineral rights leased. These farmers will not profit from any fracking that may occur and they will try to prevent it from being done on their land despite pre-existing agreements."
Earthbound Organics (N)
Five Elements Farm
Foxy Organics (N)
Friendship Farms
Goat Rodeo
Goodness Grows -BEDFORD (not Butler)
Gulla Farm
Grapery (N)
Hazelwood Urban Farm
HGOfarms (Homegrown Organic Farms) (N)
Josie Organics (N) 
Jubilee Hilltop
Kalona Supernatural (N)
Kistaco Farm--"Kistaco Farms leased their land over 100 years ago. Therefore the current owners have no control over their mineral rights.  There are several conventional wells on the farm  and Kistaco doesn't plan to have any Marcellus wells."
Koch Turkey
Kretschmann Farm
Lady Moon Organic Farms
Lancaster Farm Fresh Coop
Meadow Creek Dairy
Natural by Nature Dairy
Nature's Way
Oyler's Organic Farms
Paul's Orchard
Providence Acres Farm
Organically Grown Co./Ladybug/Andersen Organics (N)--"To the best of our knowledge the geology of this area is not conducive to fracking. A quick review of fracking maps supports this perspective."
Smith's Organic Farm
Snowville Creamery
Spring Street Farm and Apiary
Starry Sky Farm
Stemilt Artisan Organics (N)
Sunview Grapes (N)
Tait Farm Foods
The Family Cow
The Farm at Doe Run
Tuscarora Farms
Trickling Springs Creamery
Triple B Farms--"The mineral rights were leased in 1912 by previous landowners. This farm has not profited in any way from that sale. Triple B Farms does not and would not voluntarily host any fracking operations on their farm." 
Vital Farms (N)--"After checking with our farms, we are able to say that none of our farms currently participate in any sort of fracking, nor have we leased any of our land for further fracking, and to the best of our knowledge, there is no fracking going on underneath any of our lands." 
Who Cooks For You--"My father's property where we started the farm has 5 shallow wells on it, and no Marcellus.  Those wells were put in the 60's and 90's.  There are two wells on our new property that are also shallow wells from the 60's.  We have no wish to have any future wells on the property."  WCFY goes on to say that since the leases were signed and the wells were drilled before they took possession of the property, WCFY has "no say".  They "intend to keep [fracking] out" to the best of their ability.


Always Summer Herbs--"We are not developed or fracked. BUT, if they offer the money I would [....] take it.  I do not want to be on your [Frack Free Farm]list".
Anthony's Vineyards (N) (NR)--"headquarters" is 3 miles from closest well
Bell & Evans--After checking with their contracted farmers, Bell & Evans replied that none of them had fracking on their property.  However, Bell & Evans did not reply to repeated inquiry as to whether any of their farms had leased their land for fracking--"headquarters" is 50 miles from the closest well.
Bluebird Meadows Farm--about 25 miles from closest well.
Brenckle's Greenhouse--Butler--about 1 mile from closest well.
Brenckle's Organic Farm and Greenhouse--Zelienople--about 0.50 mile from the closest well.
Brunton Dairy (NR)--1.25 miles from closest well.
Calkins Creamery (NR)--about 11 miles from closest well.
Country Acres (NR)--30 miles miles from closest well. 
Draper's Super Bee Apiaries--"There is a well not far from us and they did run just under the corner of the property [which they had leased]."
Freedom Farms (NR)--0.75 miles from closest well.
Giving Nature--Giving Nature firmly believes that if it's is good for the planet, it's good for you.  While none of their farm partners have any sort of fracking operation on their property, some may have leased their land for drilling.  This is not information that Giving Nature collects.
God's Country Creamery--"We do not have fracking going on in our area or on our farm. Our farm has been leased for gas exploration, but none is planned at this time."
Goodness Grows-BUTLER (NR)--0.5 miles from the closest well.  This farm also distributes the products of other small farmers. 
Jamison Farm (NR)--0.25 mile from a "proposed but never materialized well", 1 mile from a compressor station.
Lakewood Organics (N) (NR)
Liberty Farms--12 miles from the closest well.
Maple Valley Honey (NR)--10 miles from the closest well.
McELHINNY Farm--While they have a fracking well on their property it is "not on the farm where they grow their corn."  The well is "approximately a mile away" from the corn growing portion of their farm.
Meadowcreek Dairy (NR)--The fractracker map for Virginia is incomplete.  On the incomplete map Meadowcreek Dairy is about 50 mi. from the closest well.
Minerva Dairy--"This is not information that we have on file pertaining to our family farms."  About 5 miles from closest well.
Mock's Greenhouse (NR)--Its PA greenhouse is about 5 miles from the closest well.  Its WVA greenhouse is about 35 miles away from the closest well.
Nature's Yoke (NR)--100 miles from the closest well.  They source from a variety of farms.  I didn't research the location of these farms.
Niman Ranch (N) (NR)
Organic Valley (N):  "It is the position of our cooperative that hydraulic fracturing petroleum extraction techniques pose an unacceptable risk to the environment and should not be allowed to continue.  That said, each farm within our cooperative is an independent business and make the decisions for the land. I have worked here several years and have never heard of fracking on any Organic Valley farm. However, this not information that we specifically collect from our farms."
Rice Fruit Company-- "Rice Fruit Company is a facility which packs and markets fruit for 30-40 local farm families.  While Rice Fruit Company itself does not host any kind of fracking operation, we do not ask our growers for this type of information.  Therefore, we would not be able to speak on their behalf."
Salemville--"Unfortunately at this time there is no information we can provide you with regarding your inquiry."
Sand Hill Berries Farm--"I believe in fracking.  My son's in the business".  About 0.5 mile from closest well.
Serenity Hill Farm (NR)--a little less than 0.5 mile from the closest well.
Shaffer Venison Farm (NR)--36 miles from closest well.
Swiss Villa Eggs (NR)--the address of the "marketing representative" is 30 miles from the closest well.
Toigo Organic Farm (NR)--50 miles from the closest well.
Turner Dairy--They source from 5 small farms all of which they have had very long term relationships with.  You can see this on their website.  Turner Dairy wrote back to say one of those 5 farms hosts a well pad. 
Wexford Farms (NR)--about 5 miles from closest well.
Whole Foods (N)--They sent a long reply saying how committed they were to environmentally friendly practices but then ended with this comment:  "we do not include in our review any operational or management decisions of the company outside of the direct production of the product in question, including the way that growers and producers choose to use their land."


I write an email or, if need be call, asking if a farm hosts any sort of fracking operation or if they have leased their land for fracking.  If they don't get back to me in a couple of business days I try again.  If they don't get back to me within 2 weeks they go on the list of farms that are not frack free.  Of course, this list is ongoing so a farm has a chance to correct the record.

For the purposes of this list, any farm located in PA, Ohio, or WVA is called a local farm even though some may be quite far away.  I haven't contacted any farms in NY, MD or VT because of their state's ban on fracking.  All the farms on this list are local unless they have an N (for national) after there name.  

In addition, I ask CA farms if they use fracking waste to irrigate their farms.  I ask midwest farmers if they lease their lands for frack sand mining.  

I would love for this list to be crowd sourced so if you have farms to add just send them to me.  To keep it from becoming overly long however, I ask that the farms' products be available in the Pittsburgh region. I'll try to keep the list up to date and send it out periodically.  

About The Fracking, Don't Ask Don't Tell, and Non Responsive Farm List:

Farms whose names appear in all caps are farms that are known to host well pads or have leased their land for the purposes of fracking.

Some farms serve as distributors for the products of others, like Organic Valley or Whole Foods.  Some smaller farms do the same.  If they reply by saying they don't screen their farms for fracking, I include their statements after their names.

Some farms just don't reply.  I'm sure there is a multitude of reasons why they don't.  But if I can't tell whether there is fracking on or under their farm or the farms that they put their label on, they all go on this list.  An NR after a farm's name indicates that I got no response.

I have checked out the Non Responsive Farms on Fractracker (Thank you Kyle for showing me how to use this wonderful resource) and put the approximate distance of their farm's home address from the closest well.  I have, of course, no way of knowing if the well sits on their property, whether drilling extends under their property (drilling laterals can run for up to two miles) or whether they have leased their land for fracking in the future.  If they source from multiple farms I often have no way of knowing the locations of their partner farms.