A Report Back; In case you haven’t heard, the Ohio breakout at Powershift is about to rock your world…

I’m fairly certain that within 24 hours of getting this job, late last September, I was already telling anyone who would listen that the Ohio state break out at Powershift is going to be the most magical 3 hours of the year. After this weekends steering retreat not only am I more convinced of that than ever, but I’m also riding the most determined, excited, and hella inspired post-OSEC-meet-up glow ever; close to 50 students from over a dozen schools coming together and banging out some seriously strategic campaign planning can have that effect. Thus, I thought i’d take a minute, spread the glow, and explain exactly why that state break-out at Powershift is going to be pure, epic, Ohio-lovin magic.

For startsies, you should know that this is how we spent our Saturday morning:

Yup, that’s the Ohio River, and that is a big fat nasty coal plant. To be specific, it’s ‘Mountaineer’: a pulverized coal-fired power plant owned by American Electric Power, and one of the only AEP owned test-sites for Carbon Capture and Sequestration (read: clean coal bullshit) in the country.

This is us with Elisa Young, an amazing woman who lives in Meigs County who shared her stories, insights, and abundant knowledge on the true cost of coal. As it turns out, the Ohio river valley has the second highest concentration of coal-fired power plants in the country. In this picture, we were at a childrens playground. Those smokestacks in the background are just over the river from this playground. Yikes, right?

This is the ‘Phillip Sporn’ coal plant, which is right next to ‘Mountaineer’ (the plant from the above photo).  These kids look like they’re ready to go to Powershift, like woah.

So after touring these coal plant sites, along with ‘Gavin’ (the third largest coal plant in the entire country, and one which polluted the surrounding village of Cheshire so thoroughly that AEP straight up bought the town to prevent lawsuits) and seeing an active coal mine, we all came to the same conclusion as Zoe did: Powershift is our generations opportunity to get it right and move beyond such an outrageously toxic and exploitative energy system (read; this shit’s gotta end).

So, we went back to Ohio University, and got to work! Enter: the part where our state-break-out is about to rock your world. OSEC is now officially laying foundations and preparing campaign frameworks in five (Yes; FIVE!) issue-focused areas, which will be promoted at the state-break out as opportunities for students across the state to engage with. Ready? Here they are:

1. Don’t Frack with Ohio! Seriously. As communities across Ohio are approached to sign leases (read; to have a  gas well that will essentially blow up the land under their homes and release over 596 chemicals directly into the water table, put in) OSEC will be organizing regional public hearings (See the above blog by Clay Graham; if the Tea Party can do it, so can OSEC!). These hearings will provide a community space for residents to learn the facts on fracking, voice their concerns to legislators, and build solidarity in resisting the incoming energy companies. Furthermore, these hearings will be instrumental in passing local fracking-bans and regulations.

2. Smart Transportation for a Smart Generation. Gov. Kasich announces the Ohio budget March 15th, and we’re fairly positive it’s not going to be very transit-friendly. Thus, OSEC students have developed a number of creative strategies for keeping transit in the public eye and fighting back widespread austerity measures; not only are we gonna have 100 students biking up and down the 3c corridor this summer, but in the meantime we’ll be doing our research on corporations in Ohio that don’t pay taxes. Imagine all of the revenue that would be available for transit if tax-evading corporations were held accountable! Obvi, stay tuned for hella exciting details, and some irresistible citizen tax-collector-action opportunities.

3. Dirty Energy Action Crew After spending a Saturday morning on the Ohio River seeing one coal plant after another, OSEC students were ready to build a seriously badass campaign to kick coal out of our state, starting with our campuses. The Ohio breakout at Powershift will feature a caucus for Ohio schools with coal plants on campus, and anticipates some serious momentum to shut down every campus-coal plant in the state (WOAH, right!?). In the meantime, the dirty energy group is gonna be flying cover for the EPA and the Clean Air Act; both of which are under serious threat with our new Congress. Coincidence that Boehner is from Ohio, and his district currently has one of the largest and fastest-growing Beyond Coal movements in the country? I think not; we’ll be making sure he hears from his constituents (and I’m, personally, hoping spray tanning can be involved).

4. FLOF for all! FLOF, or Fresh Local Organic Food, is going to bring together students around Ohio in order to build a stronger understanding of food policy issues, local solutions, and model community initiatives (like a number of the country’s largest urban agricultural projects that all happen to be in our state!). Before you know it, campuses across the state will not only have a more sustainable food sourcing/ production program, but will hopefully be using the hottest new word in the state (FLOF).

5. The Lake Erie Offshore Wind Project… is going to be the first freshwater offshore wind project in the U.S… And it’s happening in Ohio, which is ab.so.lutely. amaaaaazing! Thus, we’re gonna not only build the political will to make sure the project actually happens, but furthermore develop local campaigns to pressure University administrators to purchase energy from the project once it’s completed. Does it get anymore totally badass!?

So, all that to say… the Ohio break-out at Powershift is absolutely not to be missed; it’s truly shaping up to be an epic moment in our state’s economic, environmental, and energy future. Seeing so many students come together this past weekend in order to start planning was amazing, and was a preview of that magic moment when 500 students from across the state get together, and get to work on these issues. Is it Powershift yet!?

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