BlogCommunity Benefits and Labor Standards

Debriefing our Community Benefits Summit

By June 1, 2023September 18th, 2023No Comments

By Annie Regan

June 1, 2023

Annie Regan is the Director of Digital Communications for ReImagine Appalachia

We have a historic opportunity to bring new funding into Appalachia – but how do we ensure that new economic opportunities benefit our communities and have high labor standards for local workers? Now is the time to work together to ensure the people of Appalachia have a say in how our region rebuilds. 

In May 2023, ReImagine Appalachia brought together hundreds of people from across Appalachia -virtually- to discuss that question. This event was one of our most successful and inspiring events yet! We had over 300 people register for this landmark event, which was planned by an advisory committee with feedback from several dozen groups across the region. 

Community Benefit Agreements and Policies (CBAs and CBPs) are an important part of ensuring maximum benefits to communities from implementation of federal climate infrastructure funding. The vision of the community benefits approach is that public investment should benefit everyone, that we should have measurable and concrete ways to name the benefits we want to see in our communities, and then ensure those benefits come to fruition. Every community deserves to be heard and benefit from new investments, but these processes are especially important for communities hit hard by inequality and historical disinvestment. 

Appalachian communities can’t afford to see new investments that don’t maximize their impact by including strong benefits for local communities and labor standards to support and grow our region’s workforce. 

We know that widespread community input on sustainable development projects leads to buy-in and incorporation of community member priorities, ultimately increasing the positive impact of these public investments over the long haul. 

In order to take full advantage of these resources, there is much collective learning and work to be done. The agenda of this two-day, five-hour event involved moving participants from a basic Community Benefit Agreement 101 towards having concrete knowledge of how to participate in and guide community conversations that can provide the foundation for strong community and labor standards. We learned about successful case studies and discussed the importance of building trusting and collaborative relationships with a diverse group of community members and share strategies.

Check out the recordings, resources, and notes below!

Day 1: Tuesday, May 23rd: Watch the recording here

Keynote Panel: What Are Community Benefits & Labor Standards & How Can They Help Grow Our Vision for Appalachia? (click on the arrow to expand for more information)

Presentation: Community Benefits Essential Definitions (click on the arrow to expand for more information)
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Case Studies for Transformational Change: Concrete Examples and Key Learnings (click on the arrow to expand for more information)

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Breakout Rooms

Being Part of the Conversation: Ensuring Communities Benefit from New Projects

Facilitator: Meagan Niebler, Fair Shake Environmental Legal Services

Description: Discuss how local government and community groups can collaborate, and how to push back when projects are reluctant to consider community led work.


Key Takeaways: Community Benefit processes are not perfect, but can help shift power to ensure communities have a say on what is happening in their neighborhoods.

We need decision makers (developers, governments) to see the value in Community Benefits.

We know there is going to be a huge range in readiness of governments.

Concrete example from Ionna Paraskevopolous, Co-founder of Action Tank Cincinnati:

  • One of the requirements for having a local soccer team go pro was to build a soccer stadium. 
  • The team wanted to do that in an opportunity zone which was in a Black neighborhood with a lot of historic buildings, etc. 
  • Ioanna worked with her team to make sure the soccer team negotiated for a CBA with the stadium surrounding residents. Not necessarily a successful CBA, but they wound up with a signed contract. 
  • The developer went out of their way to divide and conquer (peel off a non-profit and offer them money / staff).   
  • They brought in legal counsel Julian Gross to help build capacity on what CBAs are. 

Having really strong community ties ahead of time is critical because the process can be so stressful and paranoia-inducing if they don’t have solid relationships to start with.


  • We have to make sure we’re on the ball with ensuring community voices are being heard, so we host 60-day public participation periods. When we’re in an Environmental Justice (EJ) community, we have an additional 60-day EJ public participation period, which may run things out timeline-wise, but we try to have overlap. 
  • At the Office of Environmental Justice Committee (Ricardo Almodovar with Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection), we host two committees to ensure each of the departments have active conversations to make sure everyone is taking action .

In what ways can we provide that education around community benefits?

  • What are the educational forums in smaller towns? If there aren’t any, that needs to happen first. 
  • Putting together coalitions that are both state-wide and local is a huge challenge.
  • Can we organize in response to a common threat if not common opportunity?
  • Maybe ReImagine Appalachia could put together a map of organizations that does some of this work
    • Central Appalachian Network can also do some of this. They’re looking for union folks who are focused on mine land reclamation.
    • Just Transition Fund is also supporting policy building & project implementation. JTF can support your funding if you’re looking to contract some support. 

What does it mean for a community to build capacity given different levels of community organizing already. It seems like what community empowerment means is different from community to community

The way the system works is to trickle down a capitalist economic system. We’re just trying to get a piece of that trickle down.

  • The industry knows we’re competing with each other. 
  • In Pittsburgh, the Penguins are getting $3million in subsidies, and we fought for $10million to give back to the community.
  • Community benefit is just one way we’re trying to get crumbs off the table, but we really need the table. 

Social infrastructure is important. The more diverse spaces you have like that will allow people to have these conversations, even in whatever direction they choose to take them. 

The overarching theme is that we’re trying to make our communities holistically resilient. Climate change and natural disasters in addition to bad industry practices are creating problems with social infrastructure → taking away spaces to organize and communicate. 

The community is consistently frustrated with the lack of transparency / awareness. This is the spark for community members to make sure they know what’s going on in their town. 

Regional Visioning for Big Results

Facilitators: Jacob Hannah, Chief Conservation Officer, Coalfield Development, Natalia Rudiak, ReImagine Appalachia 

Description: Discuss learnings from The Appalachian Climate Technology coalition (ACT Now) work to combine deep community engagement, a focus on equity and justice, and strong employer commitments from more than 200 private sector partners, including 4 of the 5 largest solar companies in the region. The coalition’s goal is to model multiple strategies for a just transition from the legacy energy industry to a modern, clean regional economy.

Key Takeaways: Important to be proactive, but patient, about involving community members in regional development opportunities. Don’t let apathetic elected officials get in the way! Try to be creative and engage as many stakeholders as possible to overcome barriers to change. 

Important to emphasize real changes, everyday impacts of projects/funding that community members will see, feel and realize. 

When dealing with conflict and power dynamics, focus on areas of agreement/commonality, and building up small stakeholders so that they can meaningfully engage in decision-making processes

Focus on conflict resolution, collaborating in rural communities

Jacob Hannah, Coalfield Development, 

  • As a CBO Coalfield Development works with cities, employers, unions 
  • Conducts stakeholder analysis, seeking entities that can collaborate / convene to pull money down 
  • Educational institutions are big players in the region but don’t historically work together, which enabled CD to serve as bridge/mediator with result of forming CBA
  • Worked to build capacity with smaller or less well resourced stakeholders to enable their engagement
  • Goal was to find areas of agreement / commonality

Tina Doose, Mon Metro Chamber of Commerce, 

  • Has pilot project for SW Pennsylvania local battery plant EOS Energy Storage to hire graduating seniors with competitive pay, cultivating career opportunities
  • EOS plant seeking DOE grant, only 20% of grant focuses on equity and the rest is on building a supply chain in the region, potentially providing hundreds of jobs at least
  • Will catalyze long-term systemic change

Natalia: How has work collided or collaborated within existing structures?

  • Hannah: Coalfield Development has CBA with federal government
    • Coal region needs to evolve and adapt but lack of interest to invest in workforce
    • Goal is to change a century-old system from perspective of org that knows needs of communities, still working to emphasize basic community needs
  • Doose: In beginning phase of applying for grant, focus is on laying the proper foundation right now. Key is early collaboration with EOS on applying for that grant and preparing to respond to community needs by already scheduling community meetings and forums well in advance
    • Community facing aging grid and housing stock that impact the every day lives of people, Important to emphasize the opportunity of batteries and clean energy

Question & Answer: 

  • What are the key needs we can identify that could help Appalachia grow this work?
    • Information / template RFPs for contractors to conduct community/stakeholder analysis that incorporates community voices holistically 
  • Are there specific events, discussion, or tools that could be created to fill these gaps?
    • Perhaps a session on working with third-party contractors to conduct stakeholder analysis or doing one as a CBO/local government
    • Discussion of navigating conflict between “old guard” and newcomers to local or regional change
  • How can we help ensure this work includes authentic and diverse stakeholder engagement – including stakeholders such as: labor partners, racial justice leaders in our communities, environmental justice leaders, faith led entities, etc.
    • “Snowballing” aka, working with trusted community leaders/voices to identify community voices/leaders who should also be in the conversation
  • What about bundling downtown revitalization into agreements with the big developers/manufacturers? Lots of our buildings are just a decade away from being unsalvageable … 
Maximizing Value: Community and Labor Provisions – What to Include and Why

Facilitators: Amanda Woodrum, ReImagine Appalachia, Will Tucker, Interim Director for the Southern Division, Jobs to Move America

Description: Learn from gold standard examples of Community and Labor Standards agreements in the region with a focus on how these kinds of policies can expand opportunities for discouraged workers, and increase opportunities for women and people of color.

Key Takeaways:

  • Ohio River Valley Institute in coalition and providing feedback to the federal and state government around procurement and contracting (Eric Dixon).
  • WV Building Trades starting to go into prisons to prepare people for apprenticeships (Justin Williams).
  • Keystone Research Center (KRC) doing research on apprenticeship – finding outcomes in union apprenticeship programs are better (Diana Polson).
  • With increased public money flowing from the federal agencies, there is more opportunity to hold employers accountable because they are being publicly-funded (Will Tucker).
  • It is important to look at 1) purchasing regions – with large populations like New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, etc. and then also look at 2) the producing regions of country (South, Midwest). He looked and in one rural areas the prevailing wage was just $10/11/hour–very low… do we have more leverage to demand higher standards with federal money?

Ideas for what we want in a Community Benefit Agreement: diverse group at the table, strong labor and wage standards, all the labor standards we can get in construction, apprenticeship training (higher wages), healthcare and pensions, provisions for local hire (Sunset neighborhood in Brooklyn have example of this), labor neutrality.

Amanda WoodrumReImagine Appalachia:

  • Creating vision together, build vision together, build relationship across diverse stakeholders. Think about how to get there… creating good union jobs, prioritizing people who were displaced, build pathways into these jobs for Black workers, women, those left behind.
  • Process is important, make sure you have the right person in the room, find the win-win-win, prepare for hard discussions–look for solutions.
  • Gold Standard:
    • 1.) Maximize creation good union jobs – Project labor agreements, bundling of projects to create larger project for bidding out, developers/employers should be required to adopt labor peace agreements.
    • 2) Target benefits of job creation to impacted workers and communities previously left behind – develop funding formula that prioritizes coal communities, create targeted hiring program (first-source hiring system and require 20% of work hours to be completed by apprentices and/or pre-apprentices).
    • 3) Ensure community benefits. Cool examples – Cincinnati Solar Model; Cuyahoga County Community Benefit and Opportunity Program. Access to unionized apprenticeship program. Buy local. Hardest thing is coming up with definition of disadvantaged workers… poverty in a census tract. 

Eric Dixon- Ohio River Valley Institute

  • A project they have been involved in regarding the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law – money to clean up sites from coal industry and gas industry – after the infrastructure bill passed.
    • RA put together coalition – community and labor groups – how to make sure the implementation maximizes labor and community benefits.
    • Brought people together and talked about shared goals.
    • Offering comments to federal government and to the state governments that procure the contracts to do the work.
    • Continue to have regional coalition – talking every 2-4 weeks with the federal government. Been helpful.
  • States have a lot of power as well.
    • We have state caucuses… coming up with strategies to influence the bid process–procurement.
    • Seeing some success – guidance about how to spend this money and what they are prioritizing with this money. Not a lot of this is required.
    • Bipartisan Infrastructure Law requires higher wages but not apprenticeship.
    • Proposals or projects around pre-apprenticeship would like to see. Once you build that infrastructure it wont go away.
    • Building trust so moving forward abandoned mine land but also can work together on future projects
Negotiating Hard Agreements

Facilitator: Michael Parker, Executive Director and Managing Attorney, Fair Shake Environmental Legal Services

Description: How can community coalitions and attorneys negotiate with developers for strong community benefit agreements?  Learn basic negotiating strategies and tips, then watch and practice a hypothetical community benefit negotiation to walk away with a stronger understanding of the negotiating process.   


What’s your negotiation style?

This quiz will determine what your negotiating style is. The quiz taker will discover if they’re Competitive, Collaborative, Compromising, Avoiding, or Accommodating. Use this quiz template for your career coaching business to generate leads, segment them based on negotiation style, and educate them about negotiating higher salaries.

Key Takeaways:

  • Fair Shake Environmental Legal Services
    1. Nonprofit Environmental Law firm
    2. Mission
      1. Environmental Justice
      2. Sliding Scale Legal Services for Appalachia
      3. Education
      4. Community Empowerment and Outreach
  • Community Benefit Agreements
    1. “…legal agreements between community benefit groups and developers, stipulated the benefits a developer agreed to fund or furnish, in exchange for community support of a project.”
    2. Can include:
      1. Living wage
      2. Hiring goals
      3. Training programs
      4. Diverse contracting goals
      5. Green Infrastructure and Architecture
  • Types of Environmental Conflicts
    1. Use
      1. Trying to use the same resource but interfering with each other.
      2. Issues in how to use a common resource
    2. Values
      1. Focused on the question of what should be considered property.
    3. Priorities
      1. Goals which are incompatible even if the values are similar.
      2. Example: Two people wish to develop land for recreational use, but have different directions on what recreational use to pursue.
  • What is Negotiation?
    1. Two or more parties coming together to reach an agreement on a common area.
      1. Looking for a win-win
      2. Give and take
      3. Not a battle
  • Steps In Negotiation
    • Preparation
      1. Prep is key.
      2. Logistics
        1. When and were
        2. How long
        3. What is the agenda
        4. Strategy and goals
      3. Alternative scenarios
      4. Establishing your bottom line beforehand
      5. BATNA
        1. Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement
        2. Develop this beforehand as it allows you to better evaluate proposals.
        3. This will let you know what you will get without a negotiated agreement, so you know what to fallback on and compare to.
    • Discussion
      • Time to understand the other side, ask questions, and gather/exchange information necessary to reach an agreement.
    • Clarification of Goals
      1. Important to understand both sides goals in order to develop compromises and win-win scenarios.
    • Negotiate a Win-Win
      1. Both sides are invested in an agreement and have made gains.
      2. Must have compromises, alternative positives, and common ground.
    • Agreement
      1. Detail phase
    • Implementation
      1. Don’t stop observing the issue once there is an agreement, you need to keep the other side as honest and accountable as you.
      2. Ensuring provisions in the agreement in case the agreement is not followed through on.
    • Additional Elements
      1. Legitimacy
        1. Both sides must believe the negotiation is fair and legitimate or there cannot be the trust and good faith necessary to execute an agreement.
      2. Relationships
        1. Important to develop a strong working relationship, this will help the process.
      3. Alternatives and BATNA
        1. Keep the other options in mind throughout the negotiation, compare offers to them, know what you get if no agreement is reached.
      4. Commitments
        1. Helpful to start with easy topics and reach some agreement and receive some smaller commitments.
        2. Once people commit to smaller things, they will be more invested when discussing the larger issues.
  • Negotiation Styles
    1. Accommodating
      1. Willing to give up more to reach an agreement.
      2. Focuses on the other sides wins more than other styles.
      3. I lose you win.
    2. Avoiding
      1. I lose, you lose.
      2. Attempts to avoid conflicts, even to the detriment of their own side.
      3. Wants to get the negotiation over with.
    3. Collaborating
      1. Looks for common ground and focuses on the win-win with less given up by both sides.
    4. Competing
      1. Looking for a win.
      2. Focuses on hard goals and getting what you need first.
    5. Compromising
      1. Goal is not a win, sacrifice on both sides.
      2. Each side gives a little and takes a little.
      3. Win some lose some
  • Practical Exercise and Discussion
    1. Scenario
      1. Utility-Scale Solar Project
        1. Proposed for a brownfield in a former industrial town
        2. Suburb with moderate density and minority-majority demographics
        3. Community Opposition based on:
          1. Misinformation about toxic chemicals
          2. Concerns about glare
          3. Lack of direct tax benefits to the community
          4. Concern over decommissioning costs
          5. Lack of community engagement
    2. How do you approach this as a community group representative?
      1. What is the BATNA?
        1. Nothing. Without a successful negotiation, none of the opposition is satisfied.
      2. Must develop your position and what to ask for.
        1. Can ask for baseline info and studies on chemicals and glare.
        2. Alternative benefits to tax benefits, such as cleanups and other ways to give back to the community.
        3. Community engagement to prevent misinformation.
Community Land Trusts as a Tool for Economic Transition

Facilitator: Jared Spears, Director of Communications and Resources at the Schumacher Center for a New Economics. 

Description: Communities facing plant closure or redeveloping industrial sites can adapt Community Land Trusts (CLTs) as a tool for economic transition. Participants will learn about the innovative CLT model that empowers communities to better shape their own economic futures in brownfield, plant, or mine redevelopment proposals. Participants will be encouraged to share redevelopment projects they are familiar with and discuss the applicability of a CLT. Together, we’ll explore how beneficial lease restrictions can establish labor and environmental oversights that communities typically lack on industrial sites.


Key Takeaways:

  • What is CLT (Community Land Trust)?
    • Tool for sustainable community building….three elements
      • Broad community (place-based)
      • Land
      • Trust (a physical organization representing the whole)
  • Uses economically viable land for use by the community.
    • 501(c)3 (non-profit) with subsidiary that holds land
    • Democratically-governed
    • Membership open to area residents 
  • A means to secure significant sites for a community-designated purpose – gives greater degree of self-determination (broad community agency)
    • Empowers
    • Affordability
    • Equity in land ownership (not the building but the land)

History – Derived from a partnership with New Communities (late 1960s) – derived from international models, focused on empowering Black families to shape livelihoods together. Agrarian oriented.  Repopulate rural areas depleted through the Great Migration.

CLT – a legal arrangement that separates title from land and building to create community control and permanent affordability.

  • Made up of .33% community, .33% lessors, .33% experts (balance of power)
  • One time upfront subsidy lowers initial sale price to an affordable level then limits the rates at which the price can rise over time – stays affordable. Limits written into the legal documents. Profit is realized but affordability is built in. 

Different from Conservation Land Trust (not about nature and agriculture by nature)

  • Donations are tax-deductible.
  • Local democratic governance
  • Designed for leaseholders to gain equity

+300 CLTs today – mostly in affordable housing; now secure farmland and some experiment with neighborhood scale commercial space.

They may get extra points in state and federal grants:

Diversify CLTs in Energy Communities Examples:

  • West VA Agrarian Commons (all about small farming, local food)
  • Woodland Community Land Trust (TN) – hold forest land (self provisioning) – regenerative use of forest predating modern industrial era
  • Crescent Community Land Trust (LA) – Ninth Ward in New Orleans

Diversified CLT in Industrial Sites Example:

  • Staughton Lynd identified the CLT as a viable response to industrialization and disinvestment (put the land into trusteeship)


  • Make private capital more accountable
  • Build wealth
  • Mitigate future harm (boom and bust of American economy)

What do you get?

  • Community voice (local elected trustees)
  • Decisioning power (on the lease – restrictions)
  • Priority and affordability for local businesses (must be a resident to become a lessor; cannot be an absentee landlord)

Additional in just transition: 

  • Lease restrictions might enable enviro or labor standards (a new mechanism to hold developers accountable)
  • Creative multi-use scenarios private owners may not have considered (like, eco-industrial park)
  • Removing land debt from start-up costs makes worker or community owned assets possible
  • Build long-term wealth

Always ask:


Some private entities just discard or abandon land.


  • Q – Intersection with RMI…. Curious – Have your worked with or seen examples regarding absentee ownership?  IN Central Appalachia, ARC’s 1970s study showed 75 – 80% of land is externally owned?  How get them to the table?
    • A:  We have these scenarios// federal guidelines positively pressured to engage with communities – through that process we might bet to the point at which an outside operator is brought to the table – operators would be comfortable with a long term lease; it does not carry land as an asset = lightens their load – they’d be interested in the land buy-out.
  • Q: DOE – low-cost financing – Could CLT take on debt?  (can imagine… guidance just came out but you can imagine that the financing piece – community gets loan, benefit of subsidy passed on to land seller… to lessor.  This becomes a patient capital loan.  Cost of lease in traditional CLT is nominal.  Outside operator? Charge them more, cover initial capitalization costs)
  • Q: Polluted land – asset and liability – could be abused; lemons in the hands of land trusts. (Transparency is the answer)
  • Q: An idea – I’m in Beaver County, J&L steel just sold their land to 72 Steel.  Had we had a CBA or a CLT would could influence that transition of land.  We have no power to influence this.  Had we done this a long time ago, this would be a different story.
    • A: Shuttering coal plant we are working with – these transitions are happening behind closed doors.  
      • These negotiations probably include federal dollars… Where can the community insert itself?
      • Coal plants are hot commodities… other assets that are less hot are more realistic to get this started.
Justice40, Energy Communities, Climate Screening Tools and More

Facilitators: Matthew Mahoney, Director of Government Affairs, Sustainable Pittsburgh
Carla Walker, Director of Environmental Justice and Equity for WRI-US
Thom Kay, Program Manager for Energy Transition at the BlueGreen Alliance
Devashree Saha, Senior Associate at World Resources Institute United States (WRI)

Description: New federal laws, including the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act, have special carve outs and programs to prioritize investments in historically underinvested communities. However, these new programs are still evolving, making it hard for communities to learn where and how they might benefit. Hear from national and local partners about programs like the Justice40 Initiative, Energy Communities definitions, new screening tools and other resources that can support your community’s federal advocacy efforts on economic recovery and infrastructure investments. 


Key Takeaways:

The breakout session gave an overview of the administration’s Justice40 Initiative, an initiative aiming to funnel at least 40 percent of funding to disadvantaged communities. The speakers made clear again that the 40 percent is the base, not the ceiling of funding for disadvantaged communities.

Where are those communities and how are they defined? 

One way for communities to find out if they fall under the government’s definition of “disadvantaged community” is to use the Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool (CEJST). Based on the tool, about one third of the US population lives in a disadvantaged community.

The tool was developed with input from communities; but, the CEJST can and will be changed (and hopefully improved) overtime. It is also worth noting, that different departments (e.g. Dept. of Energy, Dept. of Transportation) have their own screening tools, and it is worthwhile for a community to seek those out as well when exploring grant opportunities. Different States also have different EJ tools. 

Another focus of the administration is on so-called “energy communities,” since the administration considers this status when awarding certain grants and tax credits. We learned about the government’s definition of an “energy community” where they are and how/if they overlap with a “disadvantaged community.”

Lastly, we discussed what would happen to Justice40 if we get a different administration. Justice 40 is based on an Executive Order, but since several of the associated grants and tax credits are part of legislation, they would be harder (but not impossible) to stop. Also, work at the state level is another way to assure that the goals of Justice 40 are kept in place regardless of federal election outcomes.          

Tools partners have: 

WRI has done some work digging deeper into the CEJST screening tool and how that is expected to work with other federal agency tools. Recent analysis includes: CEQ’s Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool Needs to Consider How Burdens Add Up.  

BGA just released a BIL & IRA Energy Communities map that identifies eligible energy communities by both definitions within those laws. While that is similar to what DOE has already publicly provided, our map updates unemployment data to reflect what we believe will be the final map for clean energy tax credits. We have also included a Justice40 layer to help agencies and communities identify the energy communities most in need of resources. 

We have also recently created a fact sheet outlining the programs in BIL and the Inflation Reduction Act most pertinent to energy communities, and plan to update both the map and fact sheet with information as agency guidance continues to roll out. Sustainable Pittsburgh would plan to speak a bit about Sustainable Pittsburgh’s Municipal Equity Toolkit, a resource for Pennsylvania’s local government staff and elected officials when considering, developing, implementing and/or administering equity measures. The toolkit supports municipalities that are thinking about and/or working for an inclusive, fair, and just community in program and policy governance, administration, and outcomes. The toolkit is intended to enable a systems-wide awareness, analysis, and assessment of equity, and can help local governments explore and develop equity actions in alignment with Justice40.

Day 2: Thursday, May 25th: Watch the recording here

Breakout Rooms

Building a Broad Coalition and the Role of Visioning in Creating Authentic Relationships 

Facilitators: Joanne Martin, ReImagine Beaver County & Meagan Niebler, Fair Shake Environmental Legal Services

Description: Growing strong and trusting relationships is the spark to community change. It is an ongoing action that takes time and attention to connect with partners and in real and authentic ways. Participants will be introduced to a tool to help them think about how you want to build with neighbors, partners, decision-makers, and community.


Key Takeaways:

  • Relationships are important and must be cultivated
    • Require nurturing like our gardens. Who are we growing strong relations with? 
    • How are we building our table – who is most impacted, who has experiences, considerations, who has been left out in past, etc.?
    • Authentic Relationship Building – who am I with others, how do I communicate? How and when do I show up? How do I introduce myself?
  • Joanne shared the engagement process for Reimagine Beaver County
    • First year they had 3 public events and 130 people engaged. They had food, and speakers who could educate folks on various topics. We had a giant map – had breakout groups to generate ideas – “what would you like to see in your sustainable community?”
    • Did a final report with all the ideas from residents. Then went to do some research on what are the assets of the community… wanted to share all the ideas from residents – all of the input we put it in a report.
    • 4 sectors of growth suggested: sustainable agriculture, energy innovation, riverfront development, green chemistry… these were main examples of what we shared with policymakers.
    • Our group did chose green chemistry – create an eco-industrial park – what type of industry – green fossil/biomaterials development… how could this be mainstay of this eco-industrial park. 
    • Trying to create atmosphere for change – didn’t realize the power of our imagination… fun, silly, builds relationships. Dream, think big. 
  • Having a shared visioning process is critical for people to begin to see a different path/what is possible.
    • Eco-District Model (Triboro Ecodistrict consisting of Millvale, Enta, Sharpsburg): they did a year of visioning and engagement, relationship-building. For eco-districts – create different levels of participation. Real-world projects that people can see. When people build stuff together, it cements the relationship – planting a garden, etc… IF we can stack activities towards the will of more long-term work. 
    • Give people space to be able to contribute, step back and come back again as their time frees up.
Methods of Conflict Resolution

Facilitator: Alaa Kamel, Senior Policy Advisor, BlueGreen Alliance

Description: If your group doesn’t have conflict, it’s not big enough, but done right, conflict can help grow your vision and make your project more impactful. Learn practical skills to approach conflicts which occur. Remind people this can be a messy process – conflicts not just between company and community, but also between someone’s sister-in-law on the zoning board.

Presentation can be found here.

Key Takeaways:

Disclaimer: Alaa works for the BlueGreen Alliance, but the presentation doesn’t represent BGA policy but based on Alaa’s own education and experience.

Why is dispute resolution important? Should be impeded into any project, but the more stakeholders, the more important. 

  • Maintaining positive relationships. CBA negotiation can often strain relationships. Structures to resolve conflict are essential.
  • Ensuring agreement compliance. Dispute resolution makes sure compliance is a priority, as clear process prevents slow down. 
  • Minimizing litigation risk, can slow down projects and cost money. Better to have processes to prevent. 
  • Enhancing credibility of projects.

Tools available are:

  • Mediation – neutral third party, helps communications and mutual interests. Voluntary and non-binding
  • Arbitration – more formal but still a neutral third party. Decisions are binding.
  • Litigation – Court action, takes time and money. Also binding
  • Facilitation – More mellow process, different than mediation. Not dispute focused, more process focused. Solutions oriented
  • Advisory Board – Alaa is a fan of this. Included in the CBA, membership should be defined. Reps of all stakeholders. Avoid conflict. 
  • Negotiation – All of the process is in this bucket. Direct and informal. Discussion, can include a facilitator or not depending on the situation. 

Confliction prevention methodologies:

  • Transparency and clarity: Important to set this at the very beginning.
  • Early engagement: Set communications norms early, encourage discussion
  • Win-win tailored solution: Solves problems, encourages compromise from both sides, adapt methods to fit this goal
    • Most of the time, interests are opposed. Negotiating different interests comes into play. Tradeoffs from both sides. What is the leverage in the community? Doesn’t mean we are all best friends. 

Community and labor disputes, internal conflicts in a coalition. 

Community and labor conflicts can be healthy and expected. Dialogue to align interests. Labor can be very concrete and static on their asks. Political relationships can be different. Even if reputation is bad, partners still need to be at the table, otherwise it strengthens their position in opposing you. We all want the benefits. 

Labor vs. labor conflict

Don’t be a part of that conversation if you do not need to be. Let labor figure it out, don’t intervene as a third party. But, you can stand strong on your leverage and ground in what you need and want from an agreement. Accountability is possible in labor due to democratic structure. Leadership can be changed. Sometimes these conversations need to happen and changes need to happen, but don’t insert yourself needlessly. 

Jurisdictional issues arise more in new industries, like solar. But, the AFL-CIO has a process for them to sort out.

Toolkits focus on building the coalition and interaction with a developer, less info on internal conflict. Conversation is the key. Politics have shifted in Pittsburgh, things are better in terms of intragroup conflict between community and labor. 

CBAs are different everywhere, as stakeholders and political conditions are different. Developers act in different ways in different places. 

Internal conflict: Set decisions on how choices are made and what is prioritized. Facilitators and mediators can be good if conflicts are known. Resolve before interacting with the developer, do not bring it to the table or the developer will exploit

What if partners do not want to discuss conflict and bring it to the surface?

This issue happens at every level. Step 1 is get both parties to agree on what the conflict is. Each party could have different issues and not what each other thinks. Misunderstanding of positions.  Getting past this is key. Step 2 is getting each party to state their position. Step 3 is stating what each party wants. Clear communication. This can often help resolve. If not, time for a facilitator or mediator, if no one can give in or compromise. A focus on priorities can help here. 

 Research and Education to Empower Community Participation

Facilitator: Emily Freeborn, Staff Attorney, Fair Shake Environmental Legal Services

Description: What are the facts and policies you may need to educate and empower local advocates to learn about new projects coming to your area? Learn how to research the companies and policies that will affect those projects, and how you can engage your community in these conversations. These processes aren’t transparent – often we don’t know about projects until key decisions are made. This session will also cover tools and processes to track entities, including local governments and other agencies, which can alert early in a development process.


Key Takeaways:

Early engagement

  • Communities do not find out about projects until they are well underway; need to work quickly in many cases.
  • Monitor ongoing economic development activities
    • how to track:
      • who has the information
      • who can you talk to
      • where can you check regularly

“Divide and conquer”

  • Find the original source of information; follow up with that source.
  • Look up permits, brownfield listings, EPA citations – find databases of this stuff.
  • Google the industry – what are the supplies/the supply chain? What is the production process?(If high heat, air emissions)
  • What government agencies are or will be involved?  (Subject to public information laws)
  • Name of owner/related entities
  • View the site; consider community reaction
  • Economic development agency website is important; so are county websites. City and county department of development.  State department of development. Metropolitan planning organizations as well.
    • Look at ownership at Secretary of State office.  Can send inquiry to the agent.
  • Sign up for notification of permit filings

What are the key needs we can identify that could help Appalachia grow this work?

Lists of specific databases, info sites, permit sites, – with links – would be very, very helpful!

Are there specific events, discussion, or tools that could be created to fill these gaps? 

Clarifying on how research can penetrate the tax break conversations – how community is typically shut out of this would be useful.

How can we help ensure this work includes authentic and diverse stakeholder engagement – including stakeholders such as: labor partners, racial justice leaders in our communities, environmental justice leaders, faith led entities, etc. 

Discussion about how conversations early in the education and research project can create partnerships – with the building trades, other labor groups, church groups, residential groups, schools and PTA, etc.

CBA Negotiation Approaches for Attorneys

Facilitator: Julian Gross, Law Offices of Julian Gross

Description: This session, led by Julian Gross, one of the nation’s principal experts on community benefits in land use development and public infrastructure, will focus on sharing information for attorneys and others interested in the process of negotiating these agreements.

Key Takeaways:

  • Coalition Advocacy
    • Typical CBA Coalition
      • Individuals and organizational members
      • Varying degrees of sophistication
      • Mix of labor and community reps
      • Multiple capacities needed:
        • Organizing
        • Research
        • Political advocacy
        • Media
        • Fundraising
        • Legal
        • Internal leadership
  • Organizational Structure
    • Most common structure: no formal organization
      • May utilize a letter of commitment, MOU, etc – laying out shared goals and expectations
        • Too formal of a structure does not tend to work and is not necessary. There are no examples of great CBA wins that are associated with legal structure for coalition. Legal capacity will be needed during actual CBA construction and negotiation.
        • Takeaway: Unnecessary formalization is a major pitfall for coalitions. Do not waste time trying to figure out handling hypothetical conflicts of interest, voting disputes, etc.
  • Negotiation Context
    • Proposed land use development project
    • Basic bargain – developer provides community benefits, coalition provides project support
    • Result will be a CONTRACT – Contracts can only be enforced by the parties of the contract and each party is bound to the contract in some way.
    • Organizational structure issues come to the forefront in negotiation and execution of the CBA (or any contract). From the legal perspective, it is absolutely important to know who is going to be signing this thing, who will be required to support the project, and who will ensure accountability over time.
    • There must be accountability on both sides of the agreement. Everything that the developer cares about happens at the front end, meaning not opposing the project. All of the benefits that the community wants happen over decades after that initial phase and may involve new parties, landowners, etc. The coalition goes away and the contract becomes the standing and sustainable component. Strongest tactic is to have individual coalition organizations become parties to the CBA to ensure the ability to enforce it later on.
    • What is a standard enforcement mechanism? Because it is a contract, the default enforcement mechanism would be legal action (starting point).
      • Common consideration: pros and cons of arbitration over litigation
      • Another approach to deviate from this approach is a democratic voting process of coalition members before enforcement can move forward. Sometimes, there are discussions about a CBA oversight board or monitoring board created through contract (representatives of developer, community organizations, and possibly, public). Julian’s opinion is that if this body adds transparency, it adds value, but if it is the only mechanism for enforcement, it weakens the process.
      • How are CBAs enforced?
        • Examples that Julian worked with dealt with injunctive relief, where a court orders a party to take a certain action. This is typically more beneficial for the community compared to simple monetary compensation outlined by an arbiter. Preference for injunctive relief because it often directly calls for the original actions of the CBA.
    • Amanda discussed CBA instructions for leasees by the original developer to ensure new parties do not undermine the CBA. Julian shared that these contexts are the most challenging in terms of legal provisions for CBAs. If a leasee comes in and does not sign on to the CBA, the community is out of luck. The community often does not have transparency surrounding negotiations for leasing discussions.  There is no magic way and the issue of successor liability is one of the main sources of litigation in the business/real estate world.
      • There is no perfect way to write those CBA provisions – Can I swear to you that we locked down every actor to come into this project over the next 20 years? No, but when a developer is selling, leasing, or bringing in an operator, require that they notify the coalition. Require that they share the agreement with the coalition too.
  • Attorney Duties: Who is the client?
    • What should you expect of your attorney?
      • Clarity on who the attorney is representing- May seem obvious, but it has happened multiple times in negotiations, that the developer will provide an attorney for the coalition, and then this attorney provided by developer is not applying with basics of professional responsibility. Lawyer should be able to say who they are representing and all of the parties that they are representing.
      • Duty of Confidentiality
      • Duty of loyalty – cannot have their own agenda that impacts any aspect of work for you. Once a lawyer picks a client, they have an absolute duty to advance their interests. Lawyers must notify everyone and must get written consent for all parties to protect these duties.
  • Options
    • Legal organization as coalition member – you do not have to have a client. Rules and protections of attorney/client relationships do not apply. Totally valid approach but need to be clear that you are not representing the other groups. You do not take direction from the other coalition members. You can bring legal skills but you do not have the duties of confidentiality. Do not duty to make sure all other parties know you can withdraw at any time.
      • John from Fair Shake shared that they do not ever join coalitions and become members. Sit on the side and provide support. Not coalition members or legal representation. Viewed as an educational or informational role. Fair Shake can then take a different role if a CBA negotiation moves forward.
  • CBA Negotiation Structure
    • How negotiations can be structured
    • Coalition members vs TA/lawyers at the table
    • How the coalition makes decisions between negotiations 
    • How attorneys work with coalition members and how coalition members interact with one another
    • Amanda shared that what comes up a lot, especially with the Biden Administration, specific community organizations or members can be picked off from coalitions after they get what they want. Developer then says they have community support even if only one coalition member. How do you prevent a developer doing a divide and conquer tactic?
      • Julian shared that there are always going to be some coalition members that did not get what they wanted. Not every coalition member is going to get the same value from the CBA.
      • Amanda shared that now that the DOE is requiring some sort of Community Benefit Plan, the developers have to have these things. They are coming to groups to try to offer benefits without transparency about the plans just to check a box.
  • Maintaining Credibility as an Attorney
    • Working in communities of which you are not a part requires special case regarding roles, communication, and certain rules of professional responsibility
    • General ethics and rules of legal profession are incredibly valuable – Duty of loyalty
    • Clarification of Roles
      • Clear distinction between legal and non-legal recommendations and advice and keep the latter to a minimum
      • Examples of advice: should we fight this decision at city council, is this a good deal,
      • Unless you have great trust level, always clarify and proceed with caution and clarity
      • Constant attention to power dynamics; consistent approach
        • Based on power imbalance, attorneys need to keep this in check and not have undue influence over the non-legal aspects. This is where lawyers will have less expertise and context anyway. Be careful about advice given and clearly differentiate from legal opinion.
  • Pitfalls to avoid-specifically about outcomes for negotiations. (Example: 20% of jobs go to Black workers)
    • Race-based classification – In a private CBA, there is more flexibility compared to the public sector. If legally or politically, that feels risky, start to consider workarounds.
      • Local and disadvantaged hiring – People are usually understanding of special construction pipelines for local communities, even though racial equity is a co-benefit rather than stated primary objective.
      • Can a CBA say you have to use a PLA? This is a complicated legal question, but it is common for labor and community reps together advocating. Commonly, there can be parallel CBAs and other labor contracts coming out of the same movement. Some states with bans on PLAs, like Kentucky, are for public entities only. States cannot ban PLAs between two private parties, though there could be other federal legal decisions threatening this.
      • Can an independent reviewer for tracking labor standards be hired as part of a CBA? Independent of both parties? Julian said that you do not want to totally outsource these enforcement duties. He falls back on broader language in CBAs about reporting and information sharing from developers to limit pushback
 Opening up Communities That Are Resistant to New Ideas

Facilitator: Natalia Rudiak, Director of Special Projects, ReImagine Appalachia

Description: Many community advocates experience frustration with the dynamics between new economic opportunities and long-held political dynamics. Let’s discuss how we can open up new conversations, and support these unprecedented efforts towards a sustainable economy. What are some strategies and tactics that have worked to break through despair, stagnation, and old ideas and move forward in a way that is effective with long-term impact?

Key Takeaways:

Mayor Brittany Reno: Eco-District: Sharpsburg, PA | Population: 3,400 -along Allegheny River near Pittsburgh. 24-27% live under the federal poverty line; has typically been an affordable community to live with a good school district. 130 distinct municipalities in County. 

Prone to heavy flooding; built into riverbank and sewer system gets over-full during storms

Sharpsburg Climate Action Plan (CAP): 

  • Group of angry citizens voiced concerns during Plan meeting/discussion
  • Talking about ideas and trying things out is HUGE – no matter how small they may seem

Addressing community needs is the top priority

  • (Issues: Equity, Food, Water, Energy, Air Quality, Mobility)
  • Equity – at the core of all issues; prioritizing support for those most burdened
  • Seek to Learn and Understand – Get feedback and listen to it

Taking time to know people’s personal lives creates space for deeper conversations

Understand local history + context for getting past the past and move forward delicately

  • *Every perspective is unique and valuable* – figure out how it fits into the full story
  • Utilize data and get your residents talking about the data in context of the opportunities
  • Local systems: Create local asset map, spaces for shared meals and bonding activities

Where does your community fit into the story… Locally, Regionally, Nationally, Globally!

CAP Sharpsburg Assets: Energy Baseline Study, Group Solar Purchasing Program, WalkWorks, Community Tree Plantings, Flea Market, Market Garden, etc.

In summary: Build trusting relationships, encourage strengths and passions, know your community needs, build your assets together, etc. 

Barriers: Community was aging and vacancy rates were rising (at least 10% at one point) – but now real estate is booming; bridging the divide between “new” and “old” Sharpsburg.

  • Encouraging new residents to participate in “old” Sharpsburg social fabric

Sharpsburg engaging with University community for hydrological research – example of utilizing local assets for mutual benefit; 

Flood management affects all kinds of opportunities – example of identifying barriers (certain activities not allowed in flood plain) that prevents improvement on key Issues.

Regional coordination, because of the scale of these Issues, is vital. 

*Water doesn’t stop its movement/effect at a city border*

Building policy takes time – build the foundations for future policy initiatives to take off

For those against polices: Ask them what they want; find a way to connect issues with a solution

Next Steps

Participants of this summit answered some questions to leave you with some inspiration: