Congratulations to the 2020 Sentinels!
The Community Sentinel Award for Environmental Stewardship honors those who address the root causes of environmental injustice in the United States, with a strong focus on racial justice in the face of oil, gas, and petrochemical activity. The award recognizes the leadership of those standing up for their communities to protect the places they love. For more information on the awards program, please visit www.fractracker.org/sentinels.
The 2020 Sentinel Awards ceremony was held virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic. But still it was an evening to remember, with over 100 fabulous attendees from across the country. Impassioned speeches and inspirational video presentations left us all teary-eyed with gratitude for all those leading us towards a future where environmental justice reigns.
We continue to celebrate these dedicated community leaders: Edith Abeyta of North Braddock, Pennsylvania; Yvette Arellano of Houston, Texas; Theresa Landrum of Detroit, Michigan, 48217; and Brenda Jo “BJ” McManama of Fairmont, West Virginia.
The event was a reminder that there are many kindred spirits from every region of the US together in the fight for environmental justice. Thank you to all of the grassroots organizers, activists, and environmental stewards whose work too often goes unseen. Read more about the awardees, watch the entirety of the ceremony, and learn more below.
Edith Abeyta of North Braddock, Pennsylvania. North Braddock Residents for Our Future. She/her pronouns
As an artist and volunteer community organizer, Edith has spent over six years fighting repeated attempts to drill in her community, a densely-populated environmental justice district already inundated with over a century of industrial pollution. She led changes to zoning code twice both in North Braddock and East Pittsburgh, which prevented drilling in 2014-2016, and again 2017-2020. In addition, she’s led successful fights against expired conditional use permits. In all her work, Edith’s approach is highly collaborative between a wide variety of stakeholders.
Edith has mobilized hundreds of residents to be civically engaged and make their voices heard. Recently, her work with North Braddock Residents for Our Future led to the East Pittsburgh Zoning and Hearing Board rejecting a permit appeal from Merrion Oil & Gas, the company seeking to drill a fracking well at the US Steel plant. This historical victory shows the power of unyielding grassroots organizing, and surely would not be possible without Edith’s unwavering commitment.
Yvette Arellano of Houston, Texas. Founder, Fenceline Watch; Board member, the Center for International Environmental Law, Backbone Campaign, Greenlatinos, and Peak Plastic Foundation. They/them pronouns
Yvette Arellano is a gulf coast organizer and emerging leader from Houston dedicated to environmental and racial justice. Yvette has served as a policy research and grassroots advocate with Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services and recently founded Fenceline Watch, a community-run effort.
In 2015, they led the campaign against H.R. 702, which opened the floodgates to U.S. crude oil exports. They were instrumental in the publication Double Jeopardy in Houston, Air Toxics and Health in the Houston Community of Manchester, and Plastic and Health: The Hidden Cost of a Plastic Planet. This report highlights the disproportionate toxic impact of the petrochemical industry on communities living on the fenceline.
Throughout their work, Yvette emphasizes that access to clean water, air, land, and food is a fundamental human right best pursued through vigorous intersectional thinking and organizing. They understand the importance of a multi-pronged approach that embraces various advocacy methods, including policy development, litigation, research, direct actions, coalition building, and crisis response.
Currently, Yvette is leading efforts in Houston, home of the largest petrochemical complex in the nation, to help the city’s most vulnerable communities on the petrochemical expansion fueled by plastic production.
Theresa Landrum of Detroit, Michigan, 48217. The Original United Citizens of Southwest Detroit; 48217 Community and Environmental Health Organization; Michigan Advisory Council on Environmental Justice; Sierra Club Detroit Chapter, MEJC Clean Air Council; Michigan PFAS action response team. She/her pronouns
A lifelong resident working in Michigan’s most polluted zip code, Theresa has educated hundreds of advocates, residents, and elected officials on the true costs of industrial pollution and environmental racism. Theresa has led a number of public pressure campaigns to decrease harmful emissions and other impacts from industrial sites such as oil refineries, coal-fired power plants, steel manufacturers, and frac sand mines. She leads countless numbers of Environmental Justice tours that educate and inspire others to take meaningful action.
Theresa is a tireless advocate for environmental justice whose efforts ensure that residents in impacted communities are rightfully recognized as experts in determining what’s best for their health and well-being.
Brenda Jo “BJ” McManama
Brenda Jo “BJ” McManama of Fairmont, West Virginia. Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN), Save Our Roots Campaign Organizer. She/her pronouns
Brenda Jo “BJ” has worked with Indigenous people and frontline communities to promote climate, racial, and energy justice for over 25 years. She brought Native Americans from Standing Rock and beyond to Pittsburgh, where they conducted a Water Ceremony and led a demonstration of resistance against the convention of the Marcellus Shale Coalition in October 2019. BJ also has a long history of working with state agencies in opposition to mountaintop removal and strip mining in West Virginia.
BJ has worked for the Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN) in different capacities for 16 years, in recent years as a campaign organizer working under the banner of Save Our Roots, an organization promoting forest protection. She also contributes to IEN’s Keep It in the Ground campaign, she is a steering committee member of the International Stop GE Tree Campaign, and serves on the POPCO steering committee as a West Virginia representative.
Throughout all of her work, and out of a deep commitment to an equitable future for all and our Next Seven Generations, BJ skillfully connects people from distant geographies and diverse backgrounds in support of those suffering from poverty and pollution of the fossil fuel and petrochemical industries.
2020 Partners & Sponsors
This event was hosted by FracTracker Alliance and Halt the Harm Network, and sponsored by The Heinz Endowments and 11th Hour Project. Partnering organizations include Breathe Project, Center for Coalfield Justice, Climate Reality, Crude Accountability, Earthworks, Fair Shake Environmental Legal Services, Food & Water Watch, Foundation for Pennsylvania Watersheds, Mountain Watershed Association, Ohio River Valley Institute, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, Plastic Pollution Coalition, Poor People’s Campaign, Rootskeeper, Sierra Club, Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project, and Young Voices for the Planet.
Join the Conversation
Support Our Work
FracTracker Alliance helps communicate the risks of oil and gas and petrochemical development to advance just energy alternatives that protect public health, natural resources, and the climate.
By contributing to FracTracker, you are helping to make tangible changes, such as decreasing the number of oil and gas wells in the US, protecting the public from toxic and radioactive chemicals, and stopping petrochemical expansion into vulnerable communities.
Your donations help fund the sourcing and analysis of new data so that we can keep you informed and continually update our resources.
Please donate to FracTracker today as a way to advocate for clean water, clean air, and healthy communities.