Important Upcoming Restoration Events :

         Steps Coalition is hosting a "Restoration Refresher" event in coordination with the Environmental Law Institute's Ocean Program and Audubon Mississippi in preparation for the MS Dept. of Environmental Quality's Restoration Summit. The refresher event will be Monday, November 13, 2017 from 12:00pm-1:30pm at the Hancock Bank Building in Biloxi. Lunch will be provided. This event is for local and regional environmental activists and organizers looking to refresh, prepare, and workshop with fellow activists before the Restoration Summit hosted by MDEQ on Tuesday. Please see the flyer below for more details. To reserve your spot at the Pre-Summit, please contact Howard Page of Steps Coalition at 228-233-4734 or stepsorg1@gmail.com
 
     In July 2012, Congress passed the Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities, and Revived Economies of the Gulf Coast States Act (RESTORE Act) in response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The RESTORE Act dedicates 80 percent of all administrative and civil penalties related to the Deepwater Horizon spill to a Gulf Coast Restoration Trust Fund and outlines a structure by which the funds can be utilized to restore and protect the natural resources, ecosystems, fisheries, marine and wildlife habitats, beaches, coastal wetlands, and economy of the Gulf Coast region. 
 The Go Coast 2020 vision is an effort to maximize and advance the unique region that is the Mississippi Gulf Coast with a major emphasis on advancing and preserving tourism, economic development, and infrastructure. 
You may also RSVP to the pre-summit refresher via our Facebook page here.
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After the refresher, attend the summit! 
MDEQ's Restoration Summit will be this coming Tuesday, November 14, 2017, at the MS Coast Coliseum and Convention Center. Before the summit, MDEQ is offering two educational breakout sessions described below. These sessions are from 2:15pm to 5:15pm. The summit is from 5:00pm to 8:30pm. 
 
MDEQ is also offering two educational breakout sessions: Restoration Finance and Restoration through Resource Management. Participation in both educational breakout sessions is open to the public. Registration is required for those who are seeking professional continuing education credit for attending the educational breakout sessions.
 
The Restoration Summit is an opportunity for any member of the public to learn about current restoration projects in Mississippi and the announcement of new projects for 2017. For questions about the 2017 Restoration Summit, please email info@restore.ms.
The Restoration Summit is open to the public from 5:00pm to 8:30pm, and will include the 2017 annual public meeting of the Mississippi Trustee Implementation Group (MS TIG). 
Registration to attend the Restoration Summit is not required. Steps Coalition has created a Facebook event for the summit here. Please see the flyer below for more details.
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Update on the Kellogg Initiative-Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation from our board member, Jona Burton : 

 One of our board members, Jona Burton, recently attended a Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation Orientation Session in Canton, MS. Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation is an initiative of the Kellogg Foundation to increase healing dialogue around race in America. This past January, Steps Coalition participated in Kellogg's National Day of Racial Healing and received declarations from six major Coast cities declaring January 17th as the National Day of Racial Healing--Pass Christian, Ocean Springs, D'Iberville, Gulfport, Gautier, and Biloxi. We also hosted a racial healing prayer ceremony including faith leaders from Christian, Islamic, Hindu, and Jewish faiths. Finally, Steps Coalition's previous director, Roberta Avila, and current board member, Glenn Cobb, conducted a racial healing ceremony in Gulfport which included their police force and Mayor Billy Hewes of Gulfport as well as various local community members. Ms. Burton's attendance at the orientation session last month is part of Steps Coalition's effort to continue this work.

Here are her comments on the event: 

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Steps Coalition Newsletter-July 2017

Steps Coalition Welcomes New Executive Director!
Steps Coalition would like to formally announce our new Executive Director, Mr. Gregory Brown! Mr. Brown comes to us from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and brings with him a wealth of resources and knowledge in the area of nonprofit management. 

Mr. Brown has served nonprofits and disadvantaged communities domestically throughout the United States and overseas in Central America for many years. He holds a Bachelor's degree in Political Science from American University and a Master's degree from George Washington University in Organizational Management, both located in Washington DC.

His most recent professional duties and responsibilities include serving as a Senior Managing Partner, Organizational Development/Management Consultant for Vertex Innovation in Costa Rica and as the Co-CEO and Founder of Organizational Bridges, LLC. He also serves as the Executive Director for Global Chamber® Kansas City Metropolitan Area. Mr. Brown has served in diverse roles and worn multiple hats throughout his career which include serving as a Nonprofit Executive Director, Fundraiser, Housing Counselor, Community Organizer and Nonprofit Board Executive Officer.

Mr. Brown has secured $16.6 million dollars in funding for nonprofits and government agencies in the USA for programs, projects and operating support and has provided consulting, technical assistance, and training throughout the USA to over 300 nonprofits, local and municipal government agencies, faith based organizations, social service, and community economic development programs and projects for clients domestically and internationally. Mr. Brown has also provided his services to educate and empower youth in Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Honduras. He also served as a volunteer for Habitat for Humanity.

Mr. Brown has worked with nationally recognized Washington, DC organizations committed to social changers and community empowerment such as the Center for Community Change, Neighbor-Works, Community Planning Development Office of HUD, Center for Technical Assistance and Training and Campaign for Human Development (US Catholic Conference). 

He is dedicated to developing leadership, increasing economic resources and empowering low-income residents, community groups--especially disadvantaged ethnic and cultural minority groups, constituencies and youth.
Steps Coalition Welcomes New Program Assistant and New Community Organizer!

Steps Coalition also welcomes its new Program Assistant, Crystal Hay, and its new Community Organizer, Brenna Landis. Their bios may be found at Steps' website here
Members of the Port Campaign Coalition
Update from Howard Page, Port Campaign Organizer
On June 22, 2017, the Port Campaign Coalitionheld a public meeting at the Good Deeds Community Center. An update on job creation revealed that the Port of Gulfport presently has less jobs than when the Port restoration started. The Port continues to struggle to meet the promised job creation goals. Of the 425 jobs claimed at the port, over 300 are hotel jobs in housekeeping, not maritime jobs as originally promised.

Numerous environmental actions that will affect residents of Gulfport need to go through a permitting process. SeaOne Gulfport, LLC, a gas export facility, needs permits for two new pipelines that will travel from I-10 to the Port. SeaOne has not held a public meeting to present a plan for the facility.   

The north Port property located at the intersection of 34th Avenue and 33rd Street is contaminated with lead and arsenic in the soil and groundwater. This property is a proposed site for warehouse facilities. The use of this contaminated site for Port activities raises concerns of spreading the soil and water contamination to nearby residents.

The 435-acre wetland fill proposed by the City of Gulfport and Ward Investments is stalled. The City of Gulfport and Ward Investments need to decide if they will proceed with a request for a permit to fill in 435-acres of wetlands in North Gulfport.  This wetland fill raises the risk of flooding and displacing residents.

There is a considerable amount of impact proposed in North Gulfport from gas pipelines to large wetland fills to the use of contaminated properties.  The Port Campaign Coalition (PCC), will monitor the permit processes and inform community members as soon as there is a chance for public participation.

The PCC is also working with their legal team to comment on the final EIS for the further expansion of the Port of Gulfport.

Attorney Robert Wiygul of Waltzer, Wiygul, & Garside Law Firm in Ocean Springs, filed a letter of intent to sue the city's contractor in Biloxi on behalf of the Gulf Restoration Network (GRN). The Restore Biloxi Infrastructure Repair Program's North Contract project has gone on for years in East Biloxi with poor storm water management that fills local waterways with sediment and creates conditions in Biloxi that have harmed residents and caused businesses to close. GRN and their attorney will be working with the city's contractor, Oscar Renda Contracting, Inc., to resolve the problems and correct the harms created by this project.
Steps Coalition member, East Biloxi Community Collaborative (EBCC), is also working on a campaign to organize East Biloxi residents and business owners affected by the ongoing North Contract work. This campaign is called "East Biloxi In Motion." To view their Facebook page and updates on community meetings surrounding the road project in East Biloxi, please click here. 
To see a recent article in The Sun Herald on the Restore Biloxi North Contract suit, click here
GCRC members, Khai Nguyen & Mahdi Suluki, pause while on a tour of MQVN CDC's Veggie Co-op Operations in preparation for the Celebration of A-Bun Dance.
Update from Ya-Sin Shabazz, Gulf Coast Regional Collaborative Project Director
The Steps Coalition's Gulf Coast Regional Collaborative (GCRC) project is preparing to enter its second year of advancing language access, community and stakeholder organizing, and economic and workforce development with a number of new faces around the table. Gregory Brown and Crystal Hay, Steps Coalition's new Executive Director and Program Assistant respectively, are teaming with Ya-Sin Shabazz, GCRC's new Project Director, to continue the work of improving family 
economic security for displaced Vietnamese-American fishermen.

Shabazz, who transitioned from a representative of project partner Hijra House, to the Project Director position is replaced by Mahdi Suluki as the current Hijra House representative to the GCRC. Daniel Le of Biloxi-based Boat People SOS, Daniel and Khai Nguyen of New Orleans-based Mary Queen of Vietnam CDC, and John Jopling of the Mississippi Center for Justice add years of project knowledge, expertise, and success as the experienced members of the team. 

The goal of the GCRC is to advance racial equity and increase family economic security for Vietnamese-American Fisher-Folks by way of and educating and engaging Vietnamese-American residents, African-American residents, and other BP Oil-Spill impacted communities along the Mississippi and Louisiana Gulf Coast. 

An upcoming July 22nd event in Bay Saint Louis, Mississippi aims to increase awareness, interest, and engagement in RESTORE Act processes by highlighting the New Orleans, LA East work of MQVN's Veggie Co-op for residents of Hancock and West Harrison County, Mississippi. Find out more about GCRC's collaborative Celebration of A-Bun-Dance here, and come out, meet some of our newest representatives and supporters, and enjoy the educational and fun celebration for restoration.


View of VT Halter Marine, Inc. operations from end of residential area in Cherokee Subdivision.
Update from Brenna Landis, Steps Coalition Community Organizer

Brenna began her role as community organizer at the end of June 2017 and has been volunteering with Steps Coalition since the spring of 2016. 
Brenna is now the Project Manager for Steps Coalition's role in the Mobilizing for Health project that works hand in hand with Boat People SOS to work to improve the quality of healthcare and language access for Vietnamese Americans in East Biloxi as well as multiple other community-based organizations helping Gulf Coast residents. The Mobilizing for Health project had a successful Cultural Competency Training session in April that was well attended by multiple MS Dept. of Health staff members as well as local community health organizations' staff members. This training focused on the history of the multiple waves of Vietnamese immigrants since the Vietnam War to the Gulf Coast and on educating the healthcare community on the culture of Vietnamese Americans and ways to better communicate and respect cultural differences. 
Brenna is also working under a newly secured grant for the "Solar Together" project to create a constituency on the MS Gulf Coast that is educated on the economic, environmental, and community empowerment cases for solar energy in Mississippi. Brenna is working with Mark Isaacs of Bay St. Louis with GS Research LLC to engage the public on the MS Gulf Coast surrounding the benefits under the new net metering laws which recently passed just last year. 

Brenna is also working with the Cherokee Concerned Citizens group of Pascagoula to engage with industry officials and local municipal and county officials to create better communication and to hold industry accountable for its impact on the community. 

In Pascagoula, Gulf Restoration Network and Cherokee Concerned Citizens have taken legal action against VT Halter Marine, Inc. Halter has allowed huge amounts of air pollution to leave their site polluting nearby waterways and harming local residents' health and property. Halter has been fined by the MS Dept. of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) and is under order to clean up their air pollution.  However, Halter continues to spew air pollution, and MDEQ allows it to continue. The legal action will attempt to correct the problems Halter and MDEQ have created.
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    More Drilling = More Oil Disasters

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    In the midst of the 7th year Memorial of the BP Oil Drilling Disaster, the Bureau Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) is hosting public hearings in the five Gulf state for 2018 GOM Draft Supplemental EIS.  BOEM's 2017-2022 Oil and Gas Leasing Program proposes to lease over 70 million acres of the Gulf of Mexico so that oil and gas companies can drill up to 9.5 billion barrels of oil equivalent over the next 70 years.  BOEM's proposal minimizes the environmental impact and costs associated with catastrophic spills and does not sufficiently justify the need for new leasing in the Gulf in light of emerging renewable energy markets and the seriousness of the climate change.

    Last year, concerned citizens across the five Gulf states joined the national Keep It In the Ground and No New Leases campaigns to halt new oil and gas extraction on our land and water.  As a result of national efforts, the Obama Administration removed the Atlantic and the Artic from the Oil and Gas Leasing Program leaving future oil and gas exploration to concentrate in the Gulf of Mexico.  This year BOEM is moving forward with the program and is getting ready to sell off our Gulf to the highest bidder.  But before they do, the public has one more chance to comment on the EIS

    The 2018 GOM Draft Supplemental EIS contains analyses of the potential environmental impacts that could result from a proposed region-wide lease sale in the Gulf of Mexico, including preliminary results of new air quality modelling. The preliminary results have not yet been subject to review. BOEM is interested in comments regarding the modelling and analysis. The Supplemental EIS is expected to be used to inform decisions on proposed Lease Sales 250 and 251, as scheduled in the 2017‑2022 Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing:  Proposed Final Program (Five-Year Program). The analyses may also be applied and supplemented as necessary to inform decisions for each of the remaining proposed lease sales scheduled in the Five-Year Program.  

    To learn more, citizens should attend the public hearing on Wednesday, May 3, 2017, Courtyard by Marriott, Gulfport Beachfront MS Hotel, 1600 East Beach Boulevard, Gulfport, Mississippi  39501.

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    Join Steps Coalition and partners outside the Marriot at 4:00 pm for a press conference.  For more details about the conference, contact Jennifer Crosslin at jcrosslin@stepscoalition.org.

     

     

     

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    Communities Have A Right To Know

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    Photograph taken by local resident

    Last June, a gas processing plant in Moss Point located within three miles of several neighborhoods exploded.  The gas processing plant is owned by BP Amoco and Enterprise Products, LLC.  It is one of the largest gas processing facilities in the nation with the capacity to process up to 1 billion cubic feet per day.  The Destin Pipeline (jointly owned by affiliates of Shell, Sonat, and BP Amoco) carries natural gas produced in the Gulf of Mexico directly to the plant, and then delivers the processed gas to five interstate pipelines.

    Fortunately, no one was seriously injured as a result of the explosion, but nearby residents were concerned about what they might be exposed to as a result of the explosion.  Though Jackson County Emergency Management did not notify or evacuate the surrounding neighborhoods, many were awaken in the middle of the night by the sound and sight of the explosion and decided to evacuate.

    Unlike oil and chemical plants, gas processing plants are not required to report the list and quantity of hazard pollutants they release to the Environmental Protection Agency's Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) Program.

    The TRI Program was created as part of a response to several events that raised public concern about local preparedness for chemical emergencies and the availability of information on hazardous substances.

    On December 4, 1984, a cloud of extremely toxic methyl isocyanate gas escaped from a Union Carbide Chemical plant in Bhopal, India. Thousands of people died that night and thousands more died later as a result of their exposure. Survivors continue to suffer with permanent disabilities. In 1985, a serious chemical release occurred at a similar plant in West Virginia.

    In 1986, Congress passed the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) to support and promote emergency planning and to provide the public with information about releases of toxic chemicals in their community. Section 313 of EPCRA established the Toxics Release Inventory.

    The EPA is now considering a rule that adds natural gas processing plants to the TRI program.  Communities have until May 7, 2017 to submit their comments about the proposed rule.  The EPA provides the following recommendations for submitting a public comment:

    A comment can express simple support or dissent for a regulatory action. However, a constructive, information-rich comment that clearly communicates and supports its claims is more likely to have an impact on regulatory decision making.
     
    These tips are meant to help the public submit comments that have an impact and help agency policy makers improve federal regulations. 
     
    Read and understand the regulatory document you are commenting on 

    Feel free to reach out to the agency with questions 

    Be concise but support your claims   

    Base your justification on sound reasoning, scientific evidence, and/or how you will be impacted 

    Address trade-offs and opposing views in your comment 

    There is no minimum or maximum length for an effective comment 

    The comment process is not a vote – one well supported comment is often more influential than a thousand form letters

    Click here to submit your comments.

    To learn more about the health impacts of gas production, check out these resources.

    Coming Clean Inc.

    Mom's Clean Air Force

    Environmental Integrity Project

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    LIZZ WRIGHT: PAINTED SKY

    Our partners at the Kellogg Foundation shared this incredible video Lizz Wright created of the song she wrote and performed for the National Day of Racial Healing. Hope you enjoy it!

     

     

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    The People's Campaign For Solar

    emailtopsolarbigger.png100% Renewable Energy Economy in Mississippi is Possible!

    Mississippi has taken its first step toward a solar powered future with the passage of the net metering rule. Though it is a positive step in the right direction, there is much more we need to do to transition to 100% renewable energy (solar, wind and water). That is why Steps Coalition would like to invite you to be a part of a strategic planning initiative to build and advocate for a just transition in Mississippi.

    REGISTER HERE

    Continue reading →
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    Mississippi Gulf Coast Citizens Join Hundreds for No New Leases Rally

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     On March 23rd, Mississippi Gulf Coast residents joined hundreds from across the region from Texas to Florida to oppose the sale of 43 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico for offshore drilling as part of a national effort to call for a just transition toward clean energy. The movement has had significant victories, including the recent win by Atlantic coast residents to protect their shore and the postponing of oil and gas auctions in Utah, Colorado, Montana, Wyoming, and Washington D.C.

    Continue reading →
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    MS MIP: Where is the Accountability?

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     Mississippi will be receiving over $2 billion in the next 17 years as a result of fines, penalties, and damages from the BP Oil Drilling Disaster.  The money will be coming from different sources that have different requirements and priorities for how it can be used.  Recently, the state released the MS Multi-year Implementation Plan that identifies how the state will spend some of the RESTORE Act funding, specifically as it relates to economic recovery.

    Continue reading →
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    Historic Call To End New Oil Drilling in the Gulf

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    On March 23rd, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, artists, musicians, advocates, activists, land owners, EJ/front line/fence line community members, fisher folk, water defenders, land protectors, frack-fighters and lovers of all kind will encircle the Louisiana Superdome with standing in solidarity with each other, while putting forward our liberation declaration for a Gulf region powered by solar and wind energy, and a call for an end to new Gulf oil drilling leases.  Our goal is to stop the the U.S. Department of Interior's 3.23 lease sale of 42 million acres of the Gulf waters to the oil and gas industry, present a document calling for the development of clean energy infrastructure and a just transistion of the Gulf region away from fossil fuels, an end to new oil drilling leases in the GOM, and an immediate hiring of at least 1,000 workers to repair the 27,000 abandoned and leaking oil wells in the Gulf region.   

    Continue reading →
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    Let's Help Pascagoula Citizens Fight For Clean Air

    first_air_sample.jpgIn 2014, Steps Coalition was invited by a group of residents living in Cherokee subdivision to help support their organizing efforts to reduce their exposure to industrial pollution.  The subdivision is located near Bayou Casotte Industrial Complex in Pascagoula.  The complex houses the largest Chevron Refinery in the world, two sandblasting and paint operations, two chemical plants, and a BP processing plant and gas exporting facility.  The closest facility is about 500 feet away from a couple of houses in the neighborhood. Many people in the neighborhood are getting sick and the Cherokee Concerned Citizens believe their exposure to industrial pollution is the cause.

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    What Brings Us to the Climate Justice Movement

     Paris_Delegation.jpgI had the opportunity to go to Paris as one of 30 delegates from the Gulf South Rising Movement.  We went to Paris with the goal of networking with other frontline communities across the globe, particularly the Global South, and exchanging stories of our respective struggles and triumphs in the fight for climate justice.  It was truly a life changing experience for me.  Not only did I have the pleasure of meeting climate justice activists from all over the world, but I also spent a week with some of the most passionate, talented, and conscientious climate activists in the Gulf region.

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    STEPS COALITION HOWARD PAGE TO BE HONORED

    30th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Sunday Inspiration

    From the Steps Coalition, “The Steps Coalition is proud to announce the Howard Page was honored for his devotion and work to the Port Campaign - Partners for a Safe and Health Port and for his commitment to Environmental Justice. Howardpagebeach.jpg

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Steps Coalition
610 Water Street, Biloxi, MS 39530
(228) 435-3113

Economic Justice | Environmental Justice | Affordable Housing | Preservation of Historical Communities | Human Rights