Mary Clare Rietz believes in fighting for the little guy—so much so that she’s taking on state government to protect Ohioans from encroaching polluters. Rietz works for the Ohio chapter of the National Center for Health, Environment and Justice, the organization founded by Lois Gibbs, who organized community opposition at Love Canal in 1978.
As the Ohio organizer, Rietz, a 1987 graduate with degrees in social work and English, is writing legislation to require communities’ involvement in environmental pollution issues caused by corporate or government facilities. She held six forums in 2007 in communities impacted by operations such as coal-fired energy plants and hazardous waste incinerators.
“This is about environmental racism in which high percentages of typically African-American or low-income people live in neighborhoods with the highest concentrations of emissions and poisonings,” she says.
Now she’s using their feedback to write a draft and is seeking support from legislators. For advice, she has environmental heavyweight Al Gore in her corner. Rietz trained last year with Gore’s Climate Project. She says it’s still fighting for environmental justice, but in this case, everyone on earth is one of the little guys.