Ohio Citizen Action

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Ohio Citizen Action is Ohio’s largest environmental organization, with a focus on environmental health. The organization was founded in Cleveland in 1975 as the Ohio Public Interest Campaign,[1] a coalition of union, senior citizen, church, and community organizations. Responding to a wave of factory closings in Northeast Ohio, the coalition proposed state legislation to require advance notice to employees before a closing (1977). The Ohio legislature balked, so U.S. Senator Howard Metzenbaum (D-OH) sponsored it as a federal bill. It became federal law in 1988.[2]


Based in Cleveland, Ohio, Citizen Action recruits members and conducts issue campaigns with door-to-door canvass staffs and organizers in Cleveland and Cincinnati, and a telephone canvass staff in Cleveland. Rachael Belz of Cincinnati is its executive director. The president of the Ohio Citizen Action board of directors is Dr. Anne Wise of Cleveland. The president of the organization's research and education affiliate, Ohio Citizen Action Education Fund, is Dr. Richard Wittberg of Marietta.

Toxic Chemical Right-To-Know and Good Neighbor Campaigns[edit]

The organization has increasingly focused on environmental health issues, including landfills, hazardous waste dumps, groundwater and wellfield protection, incinerators, pesticides, and especially, industrial pollution.

In 1980, Ohio Citizen Action, working with allies in neighborhoods, firefighters, and labor unions, began a contentious two-year campaign that passed a Cincinnati toxic chemical right-to-know ordinance[3] over the opposition of Procter & Gamble and the Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce. The Cincinnati ordinance became the model for laws the organization was able to pass in Akron, Cleveland, Columbus, Kent, Lancaster, Norwood, Oregon, and Toledo.

In the fall of 1985, Ohio Citizen Action and other groups across the country delivered more than a million petition signatures urging Congress to pass a strong bill. The measure passed by a one-vote margin, and included an important new component, the requirement that industries report the chemicals being used and stored at their facilities, and their emissions into the air, land, and water. That was the birth, in 1986, of the Toxics Release Inventory.[4]

Since then, Ohio Citizen Action has used the Toxic Release Inventory as the basis for “good neighbor campaigns” with polluting companies. These campaigns combine community organizing, regional canvassing, direct negotiations with the company, and other techniques to cause major polluters to prevent pollution, according to former Executive Director Sandy Buchanan, “far beyond what federal or state regulations would require.”

So far, such campaigns have involved AK Steel, Middletown; Brush Wellman, Elmore; Columbus Steel Drum, Gahanna; DuPont, Washington, WV; Envirosafe Landfill, Oregon; Eramet, Marietta; FirstEnergy,[5] Northern Ohio; General Environmental Management, Cleveland; Georgia-Pacific, Columbus; Lanxess Plastics, Addyston; Mittal Steel, Cleveland; Perma-Fix, Dayton; PMC Specialties, Cincinnati; River Valley Schools, Marion; Rohm and Haas, Reading; Shelly Asphalt, Westerville; Stark County landfills; Sunoco Refinery, Oregon; Universal Purifying Technologies, Columbus; U.S. Coking Group, Oregon; Valleycrest Landfill, Dayton; and Waste Technologies Industries hazardous waste incinerator, East Liverpool.

Ohio Citizen Action has published a Good Neighbor Campaign Handbook[6] (Lincoln, Nebraska: iUniverse, 2006), describing how such campaigns are organized.

Coal and natural gas[edit]

Beginning in 2007, the organization took on the issue of coal plant pollution, with campaigns to end mountaintop removal coal mining, block a new AMP-Ohio coal plant in Meigs County and a Baard Energy coal refinery in Columbiana County, to press FirstEnergy, AEP, and Duke Energy to retire outdated coal plants statewide, to reform federal coal ash laws, and to uncover the financial and environmental risks to municipalities and ratepayers from the Prairie State coal plant in Marissa, Illinois.

In 2012, the group began campaigning against the practice of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) by Chesapeake Energy and other oil and gas drilling companies. The group urged Governor Kasich to include language to repeal the oil and gas industry’s exemption from reporting hazardous chemicals directly to emergency planners and first responders.[7] Ohio Citizen Action also organized testimony from others, including doctors, nurses and first responders.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Encyclopedia of Cleveland History: OHIO CITIZEN ACTION". ech.case.edu. Retrieved 2016-04-22. 
  2. ^ WEINSTEIN, HENRY (1989-02-04). "Plant Closing Law Now in Effect, but the Debate Goes On". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved 2016-04-22. 
  3. ^ "Workers' Right-To-Know about Chemical Hazards in the Workplace: A Proposed Model Uniform Right-To-Know Act and a Critical Look at Cincinnati's Right-To-Know Ordinance Comment 10 Northern Kentucky Law Review 1982-1983". heinonline.org. Retrieved 2016-04-22. 
  4. ^ EPA, OEI, OIAA, TRIPD, US. "Learn about the Toxics Release Inventory". www.epa.gov. Retrieved 2016-04-22. 
  5. ^ http://allthingsnuclear.org/dlochbaum/look-me-in-the-eye
  6. ^ Ryder, Paul (2006-02-28). Good Neighbor Campaign Handbook: How to Win. Lincoln, NE: iUniverse, Inc. ISBN 9780595386512. 
  7. ^ Keeton-Olsen, Danielle. "Group pushes for more chemical disclosure at fracking sites". Columbus Dispatch. 

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