Meet a CCANer: Elle de la Cancela

Tell me a little bit about yourself!

I’m a New Yorker through and through! I grew up in the Riverdale neighborhood of the Bronx, before moving out in the northern suburbs of NYC where I finished high school. I went to college at the University of Chicago, graduating with a degree in Environmental Studies and a minor in Human Rights. I wrote my thesis on ecofeminism and cowboys, so ask me about ~the West~.

I was pretty burnt out on organizing post-grad, and realized that, while I was taught how to “think,” I didn’t know how to “do” anything. So I worked for federal land agencies building trails and fighting fires from Maine to California, lucky enough to be outside every day. Right before coming to CCAN, I was out in Des Moines, Iowa doing some electoral organizing for Bernie.  

What woke you up to the climate crisis?

I had always been an outdoorsy girl growing up, finding any excuse to hike, backpack, ski, cycle, or swim, but it wasn’t until I got to college that I realized the need for climate action now. I took an environmental politics class and read Naomi Klein for the first time, which moved me to join our divestment from fossil fuels campaign on campus. 

What impacts of climate change currently hit home to you? 

Right now, the increasing intensity and frequency of wildfires. I was on an engine for only a season out in California, but my old crewmates are out on the largest recorded burns in California history as I type. But some of us are feeling the heat here in Richmond too. Focusing on EJ has always been my MO and there are definitely fires of our own to fight here in Virginia. I’m ready to dig into my new home to build a more equitable world!

What brought you to CCAN? 

I have been lucky enough to travel all over the country doing work that felt important to me. CCAN is no exception. In the height of COVID-19, I knew that I needed to come back to the East Coast and continue to fight for a liveable future. We cannot wait on climate change, and CCAN has allowed me to act immediately and focus my efforts on those who are most impacted. 

What has inspired you most working with CCAN?

While I have received so many warm welcomes and great advice as I’ve started, I was truly inspired by the resistance fighters along the MVP route. Not to plug myself here, but I went into much more detail in my blog post.

What have you contributed to bringing about a clean energy revolution that you are most proud of?

Although my entry into climate organizing was divestment, I didn’t stick with that campaign too long. Quickly after joining then-UCAN (UChicago Climate Action Network), I started another campaign on campus to aid the Southeast Side’s Coalition to Ban Petcoke. This group of pro-bono lawyers, artists, activists, and community members fiercely fought the open storage of toxic particulate waste that was held in Koch brothers owned terminals and shipped in from the nearby BP oil refinery. The work that those amazing folks put in eventually garnered a city-wide ban on open storage of petcoke. I am incredibly grateful to have learned from them and the folks at the People’s Lobby.

What do you hope to see happen in terms of climate in the next year?

My bare minimum hope is a president that believes that climate change exists. GO VOTE!!

What do you like to do when you’re not working on climate change?

I’m a big nerd, so most of the time I’m reading fiction. I’m hyped for the post-rona world, whenever that may be, where I can join a band (playing guitar) and a team (playing rugby)! Until then, I’ll be rollerblading the Capital Trail and hiking in Shenandoah. 

Who would you high five?

Tough one! Have to go with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Gotta support a fellow socialist boricua from the Bronx!

Maryland Poised To Risk Water and Climate With Del-Mar Pipeline Green Light from MDE

Maryland Department of the Environment Recommends DelMar Pipeline Construction Through Wetlands on Lower Eastern Shore 

Annapolis, MD — Today, the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) removed a hurdle for the fracked gas Del-Mar pipeline by recommending that the Maryland Board of Public Works approve Eastern Shore Natural Gas’ wetlands construction plans. The wetlands construction license for the pipeline will next be taken up by the Board of Public Works at an upcoming meeting.  
 
In response, Josh Tulkin, State Director of the Maryland Chapter of the Sierra Club released the following statement:
 
“This dirty, dangerous fracked gas pipeline threatens the health of our water, climate, and communities. At a time when clean, renewable energy sources are affordable and abundant, it makes no sense to threaten our water, people, and livelihoods with a fracked gas pipeline that we don’t even need. In fact, 67% of Marylanders want our state to get its energy exclusively from renewables instead of pumping in fracked gas from out of state. We need Governor Hogan and the rest of Maryland’s leaders to invest in clean energy solutions on the Eastern Shore, not fossil fuels like fracked gas.”
 
Anne Havemann, General Counsel for the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, stated: 
 
“We’re disappointed that Hogan’s Department of the Environment has recommended a wetlands license for the proposed Del-Mar pipeline for fracked gas down the Eastern Shore. This pipeline wouldn’t be viable without the Governor’s thumb on the scale. We hope the members of the Board of Public Works recognize that the fracked-gas industry is dying and that this pipeline would bring more harm than good. We’re looking to them to listen to the markets and the will of Marylanders, and reject this pipeline.” 

Contact: Doug Jackson, 202.495.3045 or doug.jackson@sierraclub.org

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About the Sierra Club
The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with more than 3.8 million members and supporters. In addition to protecting every person’s right to get outdoors and access the healing power of nature, the Sierra Club works to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and legal action. For more information, visit www.sierraclub.org.

The Climate Podcasts to get you through 2020

So we all know just how shitty this year has been… Starting the year off with catastrophic bushfires in Australia, then the emergence and spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, and now the cataclysmic wildfires raging in the American West. This year has been absolutely terrible for the planet and for a lot of the people living on it. As a self-proclaimed environmentalist and climate activist, It is way too easy to find myself overwhelmed with the sheer magnitude of the climate emergency. Every day we are inundated with information, news clips, articles, tweets, and so much more media that can oftentimes make us feel like we are going crazy. 

One way that I have been able to cut through all of the craziness is by subscribing to a few podcasts that help keep me grounded. I am a huge fan of podcasts. So much so, that I started my own in undergrad. I believe deeply in the format as a way for people to tell compelling stories to a wide audience without the traditional media filters. For decades conservative talk personalities have used the radio and podcasts to tell their stories and connect with their audiences. Not until recently have we begun to see a similar thing happening for the climate movement. In the past two years we have seen an explosion of fantastic climate journalism and excellent new formats for climate stories to be told to a wide audience. If you are new to podcasts or are looking for a solid place to start, here’s the list for you. 

Here is my list for the best climate podcasts that you need to listen to in 2020! 

 

Drilled

Drilled is an investigative journalism podcast (think along the line of Serial or your other favorite murder podcast) that investigates the propaganda campaign waged by the fossil fuel corporations to sow climate denial into modern American political discourse. This show is quite scary and is really hard to stop listening to. This is a great place to start if you ever find yourself lacking anger for the state of the world we find ourselves in today. 

 

Hot Take

Hot Take is a personal favorite of mine and a huge leap forward for climate change discussions. In this talk show style podcast, veteran journalists Mary Annaïse Heglar and Amy Westervelt “take an intersectional, critical, but constructive look at climate coverage—with the ultimate goal of making the conversation more productive and powerful. Not just bigger, but more inclusive.” This show is a great place to start if you are angry about the way that climate change has been covered in the media for the past two decades. This podcast deserves way more attention, not just because of the thoughtful discussions but also for the way that the hosts incorporate the emotional component of climate change. 

 

Inherited

So by now if you haven’t noticed yet, Critical Frequency is a podcast network that has been producing amazing climate podcasts. They just launched two new podcasts actually, one of which is Inherited. This show is written and produced by the generation that is currently fighting for the future of the climate. This show highlights “stories from, for, and by the youth climate movement.”  This show really gets me excited because it takes the lens of climate action away from issues and solutions and provides a human face for the work of saving our planet. Every person on earth has a story to tell, and the stories from the children, teenagers, and young adults that are fighting the climate fight are all unique.

 

 

Generation GND

In November of 2018, after the massive blue wave that carried progressive candidates into the halls of congress an idea was born. The Sunrise movement staged a sit-in at the office of soon-to-be house speaker Nancy Pelosi. At that demonstration newly elected Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez spoke and brought media attention to a growing movement of young people who demanded change. In the following February, AOC and Senator Ed Markey put forth a resolution to establish a Green New Deal. This podcast tells the story of the young people who are at the forefront of the climate movement. An excellent show that from the first listen fills you with hope and energizes you to take action. This show is another production from the Critical Frequency podcast network. 

 

This Land

What do two murders, a supreme court case, and indigenous land rights have to do with climate? More than you might think. This Land is an unbelievable podcast that follows the story of two murders in Oklahoma that formed the backbone of a recent supreme court decision that has “resulted in the largest restoration of tribal land in US history.” Follow along as host Rebecca Nagle, an Oklahoma journalist and citizen of the Cherokee Nation, connects the dots between these murders and the fate of half of the land in Oklahoma. By this point you might be asking yourself, “what does this have to do with climate change?” Which is a fair question. Climate change is the result of unchecked capitalism and colonialism. Indigenous issues, especially those regarding the sovereignty of their land, are deeply connected to the future of how we address the climate crisis. 

 

How to Save a Planet

Sometimes, navigating the climate crisis can be overwhelming. I’m sure many of you will read that sentence and think about just how much of an understatement it is, trust me, I know. How to Save a Planet is a hilarious and exciting new show that tries to make that a little bit better. It is so good, I binged the first four episodes on one run and got lost in my neighborhood! Hosted by Journalist Alex Blumberg and scientist and overall ba**ss  Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, this show brings you along as the hosts interview people and try to discover what we can do about the climate crisis. 

 

 

Facing it

On my first day of undergrad in August, 2017 I walked into my first class and took a seat at the front. I pulled out my notebook and waited patiently for the class to start. In that class we all sat together and read the New York Magazine article, The Uninhabitable Earth, by David Wallace Wells. Since then, Wells published a book with the same title. This piece of writing was the first time I experienced climate anxiety. Facing It explores the emotional aspects of the climate crisis and how anxiety and despair are keeping people from acting on climate. This series also explores the unequal distribution of the emotional toll of climate change on frontline communities. 

 

 

Think 100%: The Coolest Show

Along with the amazing name, this podcast really does have it all. Produced by the Hip Hop caucus and their Think100% campaign, this show is a weekly dive into all things climate justice. The first season of this show is a deep exploration of environmental and climate justice, while their second season is centered around interviews with those at the center of the climate movement that are making huge steps forward. This show is a fun and informative podcast that makes me feel hopeful and energized.

 


Heated

Are you angry about the climate crisis? So is Emily Atkin. She is a climate journalist who created her own newsletter where she does in-depth analysis and fantastic reporting on the climate crisis every week. In this limited run series, Emily Atkin explores the connections between the concurrent crises of COVID-19 and climate change and how they are at times inseparable. 

 

 

 

No Place Like Home 

No Place Like Home is another podcast produced by the Critical Frequency network and another show that places human experiences front and center in the climate conversation. This podcast takes the stories of people who are connected to our environment and shines a spotlight on how beautiful those connections are. Through interviews and amazing sound design and storytelling, this show makes you feel a little less alone in the climate movement and grounded in the work we do. I decided to end with this show because I truly believe in the power of storytelling. I believe that the human experience, no matter how different or divided we may be, is shared. We all are stuck in this existence together and we all share so much in common. Storytelling is one of the oldest traditions of our species. It is what allowed us to build the civilization we live in today. 

 

Not sure where to begin? I recommend checking out this great post from our Hampton Roads organizer Lauren Landis where she talks about her love for podcasts and gives some solid recommendations for specific episodes. 

Podcasting is a unique form of communication that allows us to tune into stories and conversations that we generally wouldn’t. It allows us to create a community in ways that talk radio and other forms of storytelling have not allowed. 2020 has been a rough year for a lot of us in the climate movement, but I believe that with this new wave of climate storytelling, we can get through the challenges ahead of us together. 

What climate podcasts do you listen to? Shoot us an email at info@chesapeakeclimate.org

White Paper: Why the Eastern Shore Pipelines are a Bad Investment for Maryland

The Eastern Shore of Maryland–ground zero for sea-level rise caused by global warming–is facing two proposed gas pipelines. We are  concerned that expanding gas infrastructure to the area is an expensive, short-sighted option for the region. While studies have shown that there are cheaper, viable alternatives to gas, including electrification and geothermal energy, the State of Maryland didn’t consider any of these options. Instead, it only requested applications for a gas pipeline to supply gas to two state-run facilities.

The economics of gas are faltering, with hundreds of gas companies expected to declare bankruptcy by the end of next year. These bankruptcies, combined with Maryland’s commitment to tackling climate change through electrification of buildings, raises concerns that investing in new gas infrastructure will lock ratepayers into paying for decades for a product that will not be viable for that long. 

This new white paper, prepared by CCAN with help from our partners at the Maryland Chapter of the Sierra Club and the Wicomico Environmental Trust, outlines our concerns about the economics of these pipeline projects, details how Maryland has cheaper, cleaner options, and also debunks the promise of “renewable” natural gas.

Through a Newcomer’s Eyes: Grounding Myself in People and Place Along the Mountain Valley Pipeline Route

By Elle de la Cancela

Maury called me throughout the whole drive over.

It was welcomed, as I trekked my way through the mountains and into Monroe County, West Virginia. He told me where to stop for cheap gas, which snacks I should grab, and the turns I would take down gravel roads to get to Sweet Springs. I knew nothing of the area. I had only just moved from New York to Richmond three weeks earlier — my car was still heavy from the last of my things. 

I was there to tour the route of the Mountain Valley Pipeline. Told that my new position with CCAN would include fighting the Mountain Valley Pipeline, I knew I had to get a handle on the project and get in touch with the local resistance fighters. I had spent the week prior preparing myself, planning the logistics and buying supplies. But I was overwhelmed with what I actually witnessed. The contrast between the kind, caring folks I met and the sheer negligence of a company hell-bent on delivering unneeded fracked gas through farms, backyards, and public land was dizzying.

 

Maury Johnson in front of the right-of-way by his property

I arrived at Sweet Springs Resort, currently non-functioning but with a deep history. Maury Johnson acted as my tour guide these first few days. An expert in the area, he has filed over 180 violations (of sediment and erosion control, incorrect storage, among others) caused by the pipeline he has personally identified along the route. He explained that Sweet Springs Resort, named for the hot springs nearby, was a hotel for a period of time and the current property owner planned to restore it. When I inquired further into the past, he said that this spring originally belonged to native peoples (mostly likely historical Eastern Sioux lands of the Yesa Confederacy, but he never specified), and that there had been a massacre to acquire the land. This was an orienting way to start my trip: the aggressive reminder that we are all on stolen land. As I interacted with those whose properties were taken through eminent domain to build the pipeline, I remembered the long history of abuse and land theft. 

Before we began our destruction tour, Maury pointed out three different water bottling plants and a few other springs resorts, touting that Peters Mountain has some of the best water in the world. Water is not just an attraction, but a source of manufacturing and a major economic driver. The pipeline’s presence threatens that. We first must consider the runoff, erosion and sediment deposited in this karst zone (meaning that there are underwater rivers and caves throughout the region) from construction alone. And keep in mind that with every project there is a possibility of leakage, which would poison the water in the whole region. This is not just folks’ drinking water and health we’re talking about (which should be reason enough to halt the project), but their livelihoods. 

We drove in our separate SUVs, communicating by walkie talkie because of COVID concerns and its rising rates in the county. Maury stopped in the middle of the road to take a picture of a box turtle (they’re doing a study, he informed me) and safely delivered it to the other side. I can think of no better way to describe the folks in this fight — attentive and driven to preserve life. As we pulled up to the right-of-way at Pence Springs, my heart sunk. Lush green hills were stripped down to a 125-foot clearing. Along the edges of the stream were splitweed and ironweed, yellows and purples dotting the water before it opened up to a massive treeless zone. Here the pipe had already been put in the ground. It hasn’t held any gas and never will, if we have anything to do with it.

Other areas I came across were not nearly as “finished.” While MVP claims that they are 92% done, I cannot say I saw even half of that during my time. At only a few locations did I see the yellow topped markers indicating that the pipe was in the ground. Most of the route was vast dead zones. In the most “completed” areas, pipe was welded and staged with no trench to be seen. In other areas, the pipe wasn’t even staged — segmented and piled, left out to bake in the sun for years since they were placed there. These pipes and their coating aren’t supposed to sit out for more than one year, but I saw some dated 2017. 

Pipe dated 2017

In other areas, it seemed utterly uncleared. Because of the stop work orders in place (status uncertain due to the recent biological opinion), several sections in Giles County had time to regrow for the past two years. Nature is resilient; the ecosystem in these areas will restore itself. As long as we stop gas from ever entering these pipes, there is a chance to bring these areas back.

During my time on the route, I was able to visit the Yellow Finch Tree Sit as they marked their two-year anniversary. The right-of-way here looked particularly rotten —  horrible, steep, brown, with big white tarps over it — a band-aid to control MVP’s numerous erosion violations. It looked like a black diamond ski slope with its steep drop-offs, but far wider than any expert run would be. I hiked up a logging road, imagining what a terrible sight it must have been for those at camp as thousands of trees like the ones they were sitting in were trucked out. With a wave of death snaking through the hills in one direction, the other view held a hand-felled cut, leading right up to a remaining stand of trees on the route. From this height, I could see a little bit of white amidst the canopy — a poster draped over one of the sits. As gut-wrenching as it was to see all of that barren land, this little section imbued some much-needed hope in me. I hiked down to get a look at the sits from below. 

There were three platforms about fifty feet up in the trees. They had buckets and pulley systems, banners and tarps. Beneath them were big umbrella-like barriers to prevent anyone from climbing up. MVP had only sent one surveyor who had climbed once – to spike a tree, killing it, where a sitter’s platform was staged. These folks are willing to put their bodies on the line and break the law for what they know is right. It reminded me of other fights against injustice, and the presumed “illegality” of human bodies when they are in certain spaces. Social justice and environmental justice are joined in so many ways — like how climate refugees will only increase with extreme weather

Anniversary day was a weird one – celebratory for the staying power of the Yellow Finch tree-sitters — but deeply tired. Yellow Finch hasn’t had many visitors other than stalwart suppliers due to COVID-19, but last weekend about ten of us visitors sat apart from each other in the dirt, trying to make the most of it. Folks walked around drinking beer and eating cakes with antifascist slogans. While morale was high that day, there was the explicit hope that we all wouldn’t be there next year. These tree-sitters want to go home, to not have to face another winter out here in the cold. In full organizer mode, I asked what I could do to help – did they need material resources, what sorts of media should I send their way, etc. At one point, I received a blank stare: “Just stop the pipeline.” It was a sobering moment. The tree sits are a stalling method for the tedious legal, policy, and media work – for those of us who are down here safely on land to do our jobs and stop this pipeline from ever being completed. We all have our place in this fight; we too have a vital part to play.

My trip was coming to a close around Labor Day, which I spent with Russell Chisholm, the leader of a coalition of local “preserve” groups called POWHR. I drove into the Newport Village Green to meet him, welcomed by a sign stating “You are now entering the blast zone.” Unlike my experiences with Maury, we didn’t visit the private landowners affected, but instead travelled along the Forest Service land that had been permitted for construction. The thought of this alone is unsettling — a forest that is supposed to serve the public good and is highly frequented by campers is now zoned to have a massive 42-in pipeline running through it. Forty-two inches is a huge diameter: I stood next to these wide tunnels, and realized I could easily crawl inside.

We approached the right-of-way through the Jefferson National Forest, a steep path that included several hard right angles. As we pulled in, we saw that posted up on a tree were notices that this area — of public land — was off-limits due to construction. To circumvent our inability to walk the site, Russell brought out a drone — a very helpful tool in catching when and where construction begins again. That day it showed me a longer stretch than I could imagine — a trail of brown bobbing over ridges through the otherwise verdant forest. The aerial view from the drone showed me the magnitude of this project — of how much has gone to waste when the MVP is cancelled like the long-fought Atlantic Coast Pipeline. 

There are countless other horror stories I could share: of retirement dream homes built from scratch t on old family property that was completely bisected by the pipeline; of flower beds outside kitchen windows torn up for an easement less than 100 feet away; of a sinkhole caused by boring into CARST zones near a couple’s chicken coops; of an organic farm that will disappear if the pipe is filled with gas. I have the happier stories, as well: of posters, walls and cars painted in anti-pipeline slogans; the jokes and onion rings among the trees; the fresh country eggs that were gifted to me for breakfast; the folks that opened their homes and their hearts to me as I slept in their backyards. 

I drove the three hours back to Richmond meditating on what I had seen. Resolved and directed, I am acutely aware of my place in the fight. You too have a place. 

The fight’s not over. September 11 is the FINAL DAY to submit comments to FERC to oppose the extension to the MVP. The deadline to file a comment is 5pm this evening. You can sign the CCAN public comment here or file a personal comment of your own through FERC with this toolkit

Please also donate to Appalachians Against Pipelines in support of the Yellow Finch Tree Sit, POWHR or CCAN. We will always be outspent by MVP — only we can fund our collective liberation.  

45,000+ Tell Dominion Energy: Fire Tom Farrell Immediately

Environmental advocates deliver massive nationwide petition to Dominion leadership, shareholders

RICHMOND, VA — In the wake of the high-profile cancellation of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, environmental organizations announced that more than 45,000 people signed a petition calling on Dominion Energy to fire Tom Farrell from the company. 

CLICK HERE TO READ THE PETITION IN FULL

“Typically, when a CEO wastes billions of dollars of customers’ money, leads the company in an entirely wrong direction for years upon years, lets down Wall Street and shareholders, that person is let go,” Mike Tidwell, Executive Director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, stated. “It’s long past time for Dominion’s board to give Tom Farrell a pink slip. It’s time to start a new era of truly responsible leadership in one of the country’s largest utilities.” 

Tom Farrell has served as CEO of this utility giant for more than a decade. He was the main cheerleader for the ACP when it was first proposed. He continued pushing for it even as a massive grassroots movement grew in opposition to it, drawing nationwide attention from the likes of former Vice President Al Gore, who called it a “reckless, racist ripoff.” The pipeline was held up for years through delays as permit after permit were thrown out for not holding up. Yet for years, under the leadership of Farrell, Dominion Energy claimed that the ACP was on track, that it would be a great boon for shareholders — which was its primary goal. Eventually, legal complications led to ballooning expenses which made clear that the financial argument didn’t hold up either. 

Dominion Energy recently announced that Farrell would step down as CEO and become Executive Chair of the Dominion Board of Directors. But the company’s new CEO will report to him, and Farrell will still have a heavy hand in planning Dominion’s future. Farrell himself said in response, “I’m not going anywhere.”

The petition states in part: “Farrell has proven himself to be an ill-equipped leader — a business model built on extraction, environmental injustice, and political corruption will not be tolerated.” It is supported by Chesapeake Climate Action Network, 198 methods, Climate Hawks Vote, Corporate Accountability, Daily Kos, and Friends of the Earth Action. 

CLICK HERE TO READ THE PETITION IN FULL

Contact: Denise Robbins, denise@chesapeakeclimate.org, 240-630-1889

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The Chesapeake Climate Action Network is the first grassroots organization dedicated exclusively to raising awareness about the impacts and solutions associated with global warming in the Chesapeake Bay region. For 17 years, CCAN has been at the center of the fight for clean energy and wise climate policy in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C.