Clean Water 50 Stories: MA State Senator Jo Comerford
In honor of Clean Water Action's 50th birthday, we are lifting up voices and stories in the Clean Water movement through #CleanWater50Stories. Our story is the story of everyday people who have used their power to make a difference to create a healthier and greener future for all.
Meet MA State Senator Jo Comerford, a true environmental advocate leading the way to a clean, green, healthy future for us all. Senator Comerford has played important roles in the state legislature and has worked with Clean Water Action to prevent PFAS contamination in Massachusetts. Senator Comerford's story is one of many we will feature throughout our 50th anniversary year, lifting up our history and the people along the way who have contributed to our legacy and created impact. Senator Comerford inspires us, and we bet she will inspire you too!
What's your connection to Clean Water?
When I was an organizer back in the late 1990’s, I first got to see the work of Clean Water Action up close. We were working on a coal burning power plants campaign, which Clean Water Action was leading, and I saw the effectiveness of that work really up close. We closed the Mount Tom dirty coal plant, and we were able to close it in large part because of Clean Water Action. I’ve also appreciated, over the years, having a chance to get to talk to the younger, newer organizers working with Clean Water Action and really appreciate the way Clean Water is raising up the next generation of organizers, and doing that door-to-door grassroots education work is so critical.
Why is protecting clean water so important?
Like the air we breathe, water is necessary to live. And Clean Water Action has such a laser focus on these intersecting ecosystems, all of which have an impact on our water. Everything from PFAS, other chemicals, dirty energy, regulations around licensing and the river – all of these things have an impact on the health of our water systems that we need to live. I’ve always appreciated Clean Water Action’s laser focus on this central element and the way Clean Water Action is unequivocally clear about what must be done to protect it.
What's your favorite Clean Water Action memory?
The PFAS work we’re working on now. Now that I’m back working in the legislature, it is really wonderful to see Clean Water Action’s unequivocal leadership to ban PFAS in the Commonwealth. Clean Water Action with MASSPIRG are the two organizations out front, by far, in leading the policy analysis, research, base building, education, and leading legislative strategy.
I couldn’t do my work without you. Clean Water Action is set up differently than some other organizations because you not only have the base building activism and public pressure activism, but also research policy. You do “inside work” on research and “outside work” raising awareness, both in the same organization. That is really the sweet spot of good work.
What's exciting for you now and for the future?
Banning PFAS in the Commonwealth. We get closer and closer every single day – literally. And there are very few weeks that go by without someone in my office hearing from someone at Clean Water Action about banning PFAS. There’s a lot of hurdles, the task force is difficult to see into, but I love that Clean Water Action never gives up. Clean Water ACtion is clear about your goals and never give up until you win. The arc of winning is long; sometimes too long. And that is very difficult for many people to sustain, but Clean Water Action is there, year in and year out, moving us closer and closer to the environmental justice that we need. That is a treasure, honestly, because sometimes organizations come together quickly over a particular topic and are wonderful, but if they’re short lived then they don’t have the opportunity to build historical memory or longer term traction and relationships over time. Clean Water Action has been around for 50 years, and has that historical memory and has built so many strong relationships. And you have a track record of capitalizing on both to win.
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