ORVI Insider Vol. 6

The newsletter of the Ohio River Valley Institute

A Message from Our Executive Director 

Back at my desk in Pennsylvania, I have the strong sensation of being in the eye of a storm; the past few months of frenzied political campaigning and voter education have crescendoed, Election Day has arrived, and the gaze of the nation is upon us as we all await the results. At this moment, we do not know how long this period of uncertainty will last – it could take days, or even longer – but the important thing is that every eligible vote is honored and the integrity of our democracy affirmed.

Over the coming days, one thing that will not be in dispute is the importance of data. In this edition of the ORVI Insider, we feature our Advisory Council Member, Monica Unseld, Ph.D, MPH, an environmental justice advocate and founder of Data for Justice. Dr. Unseld is committed to making research and data accessible to community members, supporting civic engagement, and local organizing. With a deep respect for the expertise gained through lived experience, Dr. Unseld approaches her work with humility and curiosity in addition to scientific integrity.

We also share an update on the Supreme Court case that could determine whether certain mail-in ballots in Pennsylvania are counted, and a new piece from Senior Researcher Sean O’Leary on why Donald Trump would likely be disappointed by the results of his proposed economic analysis of the fracking industry.

Advisor’s Corner: Meet Advisory Council Member Monica Unseld

“I believe that data has the power to catalyze change, and I believe data should be more accessible to community members. I want them to have the tools they need for their work,” said Monica Unseld, in a recent report she co-authored with the Environmental Data Governance Initiative (EDGI).”

Monica E. Unseld, Ph.D, MPH received her doctorate in biology from the University of Louisville in 2008 and her Master’s in public health from Benedictine University in 2018. She has over a decade of experience working on environmental justice issues. She believes that data can be a powerful tool for justice and recently founded the group Data for Justice. She lives and works in Louisville, KY.

ORVI Research Spotlight

 

The United States Supreme Court earlier this week refused to decide on a Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling that allowed the state to count ballots postmarked on November 3 and received three days later. For the moment, that means Pennsylvania ballots postmarked by Election Day and received through November 6 could be counted. The opinion may have looked like a win for voting rights in a battleground state that has, for years, struggled with its tight deadlines and disenfranchisement. But it’s too early to celebrate.

Trump Wants to Order an Economic Impact Study for Fracking. He won’t like the results.

 

A serious study of fracking’s economic impacts to date would find them to be far less impressive than the administration seems to imagine. And it would find the future of the oil and gas industry, even with increased production from fracking, to be distressing, particularly as it relates to the American economy. The reasons that the share values of major oil and gas companies are down by more than half over just the last few years is that the surge in optimism and investment that accompanied the fracking boom has given way to stark realities.

ORVI In The News

Are You Fracking Kidding Me, Trump? (The New Republic)

West Virginians Were Promised an Economic Revival. It Hasn’t Happened Yet. (ProPublica)

Will Joe Manchin Ruin Democrats’ Best Chance to Fight Climate Change? (The New Republic)

From Appalachia To Wyoming: Youth From Coal Country Discuss The Future After Coal (Ohio Valley Resource)

Ted Boettner: Oil, gas push for millions in tax cuts (The Register-Herald)

What We’re Reading at ORVI

The presidential campaigns are coming to a close, but energy and democracy issues continue to dominate headlines. Here are the stories we are reading this week:

  • Climate Change Activists Eye Flipping Pennsylvania State House and Boosting Biden (Philadelphia Inquirer) In a September poll by Climate Nexus, Yale University, and George Mason University, 76% of Pennsylvania voters said they consider climate change to be a serious problem, with 45% calling it very serious. 
  • The Supreme Court Pennsylvania Decision on Mail-in Ballots is a Threat to Voting Rights (Vox) The Supreme Court handed down an odd order Wednesday that appears, at least at first glance, to be a victory for voting rights. The Court ruled that it will not decide — yet — whether to reverse a Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision ensuring that many ballots mailed before Election Day but arriving after the election will be counted. Dig down just a little bit, however, and the order isn’t the win for voting rights that it seems to be.

  • Appalachian Election Workers Manage New Processes, Safety Protocols (The Appalachian Voice) There seems little question that the 2020 general election is the most challenging to run in American history. Early voting suggests a massive, perhaps unprecedented turnout is underway — even while a global pandemic makes in-person voting potentially dangerous for millions of voters and poll workers. Across Appalachia, those responsible for running the elections appear to be rising to the challenge.

  • FirstEnergy Fires CEO, 2 Other Top Officials in Wake of $61M Political Bribery Scandal (Utility Dive) Thursday’s announcement by FirstEnergy’s board of directors made it clear that the dismissals were in fact related to the company’s involvement in the Householder scheme that led to the successful passage of the bailout legislation, House Bill 6.

  • Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation CEO hoping race matters summit is driving change in WV (Charleston Gazette-Mail) The foundation kicked off the 2020 Summit on Race Matters in West Virginia series in August with five planned events, but the virtual crowd sizes showed the demand for a sixth. The upcoming event is Nov. 5 from 4 to 6:30 p.m., and will be headlined by Michael Eric Dyson, a Georgetown University sociology professor and contributing opinion writer for The New York Times. The panel will discuss education and employment issues.

  • After the Election: Finding Our Dignity and a Way Out of This Mess (Working-Class Perspectives) It’s almost 50 years old, but the 1972 book The Hidden Injuries of Class by Richard Sennett and Jonathan Cobb accurately identified the problems of class in the U.S. that have fed the divisiveness of Donald Trump. If only we paid attention. Their book also gives us an alternative path – a way out of our current mess.

  • The Future of the Democratic Party Is in Pennsylvania (The New Republic) A statewide project connecting rural and metropolitan concerns could emerge on the subjects that concern the entire state and that have, on occasion, riven the Republican coalition: schools and the environment. In 2014, Republican Governor Tom Corbett lost his reelection bid after his budget cuts to education drained his popularity throughout the state. Similarly, Republican support of the natural gas industry is ceasing to pay dividends, with the industry in free fall and renewables cheaper than ever.

  • Using Less Energy Is the Most Renewable Energy There Is (Sierra Magazine) In the absence of any real city action to mitigate climate change, the city’s best hope lies in grassroots organizing in neighborhoods like Homewood. The things that poor communities have to fight for the hardest—like affordable housing and lower energy costs and the right to green space—also have a real effect on greenhouse gas emissions.

  • Casey Touts Civilian Conservation Corps Revival (Beaver County Times) Casey, D-Scranton, called on Congress to approve a New Deal-style spending package that includes a Civilian Conservation Corps revival during a virtual Reimagine Appalachia roundtable.