By Aileen Curfman
The Eastern Panhandle Green Coalition is a non-profit, 501(c)(4) organization whose mission is to preserve and protect the quality of life for all residents of the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia through community education on environmental and political issues; scientific policy research and advocacy; grassroots organizing and coalition building; leadership development; direct citizen action; and media outreach.
EP Green partners with many local, statewide, and national organizations, including Eastern Panhandle Protectors, Jefferson County Foundation, Potomac Valley Audubon Society, the West Virginia Sierra Club, and Citizen’s Climate Lobby.
The group began when residents learned about plans to build the Rockwool mineral wool factory and the Eastern Panhandle Pipeline, an 8” pipeline that would bring fracked gas to the factory.
These unpopular projects were brought to the Panhandle without adequate notice or sufficient opportunity for public input. With an economy based on a mix of farming, tourism, light industry, and residential development, Jefferson County’s residents have much to lose if polluting industries become the economic mainstay of the region.
Residents formed several organizations, each focusing on different aspects of the fight to keep the Eastern Panhandle’s clean air, clean water, and beautiful scenery. EP Green quickly organized itself into committees. Some reached out to educate neighbors, some recruited folks to sit in on meetings of local governments, and others communicated with state officials. Scientists who live in the affected area have begun research projects to measure the ongoing effects to air and groundwater. The group has held educational workshops for residents in the region. Every Friday, members and allied groups conduct a rally along a busy road near the factory, wearing masks and sometimes colorful costumes.
Environmental justice is a major focus. The Rockwool factory sits directly across the road from an elementary school that serves a low-income neighborhood. During construction of the pipeline that provides the fracked gas to Rockwool, a trench was dug immediately outside the boundary of a historic African American cemetery. Although no graves are reported to have been dug up, descendants of those buried have noted the disrespect to their ancestors.
Check out EP Green’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/groups/EPGreenCo. This page serves as a clearinghouse for information on projects and legislation that would affect quality of life in the Eastern Panhandle. There’s also news on other groups such as those fighting to stop the Mountain Valley Pipeline and the Appalachian Storage Hub.
You’ll also want to visit EP Green’s at https://www.epgreenwv.org/, where an online store sells swag with the maple-seed logo and “No Toxic Rockwool” slogans. Donations may also be made via the website.
And please, honk your horn if you are driving Route 9 near Ranson and see a gathering that includes a huge monarch butterfly, a polar bear, or the dinosaur that roamed the West Virginia Capital on E-Lobby Day in 2020.