How One Inspired Woman Helped Move Florida Toward Banning Fracking


by Angie Aker

I first saw Ginger Goepper in a short piece of footage a few years ago. The Florida gubernatorial race was in full swing, and Food & Water Watch staffers and volunteers were busy tracking candidates’ every move. They had a goal — to get every gubernatorial candidate to pledge to oppose the toxic, damaging practice of fracking in their state. Ginger (a Pinellas County volunteer) had finessed her way into getting Ron DeSantis, a Trump-picked Republican contender, to commit to opposing fracking on camera.

What I didn’t know then was that the short piece of footage would turn out to be so pivotal in a campaign that some said would be impossible to win. And I didn’t know the path that led Ginger to that moment, or how much internal fortitude the retired public school teacher had to summon to make it happen. I spoke with Ginger recently to find out more about how she got involved with our fight, and her story gave me goosebumps. What I found was a woman who is locked onto her mission. She volunteers as a labor of love and is fiercely determined to follow in the footsteps of other conservationists before her.

How did you get involved with Food & Water Action in Florida?

My husband Eric, who I adore, found a program on PBS a few years ago that he thought we would like to watch together because it was about the environment. It was called “Dear President Obama.” After I watched that program I was so shocked and devastated that I decided to do some research on fracking. In the process, I knew I wanted to get involved with Food & Water Action because I had seen how effective the organization was at getting fracking banned in specific states and the one I was most impressed with at the time was New York, and they had strong connections in Southeast Florida as well. So I thought well, there’s a very active group in Southeast Florida, I think I’ll go to social media and try to find out if I can help. It was at that point I located Michelle Allen who is our Florida organizer, and I started volunteering with her, and later began to work with Brooke Errett. They have been wonderful mentors. They have been coaching me to give me the confidence I needed to do what I have to do to ban fracking and protect people from this toxic poison.

How does your community see you and the work you do to ban fracking?

I think when a person decides they want to get involved with Food & Water Action, they have to think about “the why.” Why am I doing this? It doesn’t matter how other people perceive you. What matters is that you are on a mission to protect people from toxic poison. And if you acknowledge that you are on a mission to protect people, nothing else matters. It doesn’t matter if they see you as a maternal/paternal figure, a hyperactive activist, a radical leftist, or an obnoxious noisemaker. It doesn’t matter how other people see you because you are sharply focused on your mission. You put your blinders on and you move straight ahead because you’ve got to protect people and that’s what drives me.

What benefits do you get out of partnering with Food & Water Watch?

Great leaders like Michelle Allen and Brooke Errett are a guiding light for me. They give me a sense of confidence. When they coach me, they do back and forth and they help me to see that I have to move quickly, this is a swift process, that I have to be polite and courteous. We can get a lot further if we’re polite — if we’re rude they just call security. Michelle and Brooke have cultivated that approach very successfully and taught me how to be successful in getting results. For me, my satisfaction comes when we get good results. We had two sponsorships of ban fracking bills last year and two more this year, and to me that’s a measure of success. But the crowning achievement was getting an executive order from our new governor to ban fracking.

What were you thinking the day you got him on camera pledging to support a ban fracking?

I spoke with his lovely wife Casey first. She asked me who I was with. I told her Food & Water Action and that we’re trying to protect people from toxic poison. I asked her if her husband knew about us and she said she wasn’t sure but she would ask him. She smiled and politely moved on to another voter. I realized then that if I don’t move forward on this it won’t happen. Change only happens if we make it happen. So I gently and cautiously tip-toed to the edge of the railing and waited for him to glance in my direction, and very gently and cautiously put my hand out. So here I am, a sweet little old lady with gray hair, smiling pleasantly to shake his hand. He came over and then I remembered exactly what Brooke told me — ”don’t let go of his hand until you get your answer.” I remembered Brooke’s coaching, telling me to thank him for supporting a ban of offshore drilling on our Florida coastline, and then immediately said, “Do you also support a ban on fracking in Florida?” It was extremely crowded and noisy, and it was hard for him to hear me, but he emphatically said yes. Then he let go of my hand and my job was done.

Amazing! Thank you so much for doing that. What are some of the places in Florida that are near and dear to your heart that will be protected by a ban on fracking?

Well, first I want to give credit to two of our local ladies who I am extremely proud of. My commissioner Kathleen Peters. She supported a fracking ban bill in the Florida House. And Dana Young who is a Florida senator from the next county authored and pushed through three committees a ban fracking bill. It is because of these trailblazers that public awareness grew until we reached a tipping point. We don’t get ahead with giant leaps. We get ahead with small baby steps, and these small baby steps are what paved the trail to this thrilling moment where we know that our sacred spaces will be protected.

Three protected spaces that are near and dear to my heart are the Chassahowitzka River — it is pure, 100% natural. Another beautiful place is Rock Springs Run. The third place is Dogwood Spring.

Regardless of party affiliation, we all want a safe, clean environment. One outstanding leader who I cannot end this conversation without mentioning is the late Nathaniel Pryor Reed. He is a Floridian credited with authoring the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act. I have reached out to Florida leaders with a pictorial booklet I created in his honor, in an effort to reach their hearts and help them realize we have so much to lose. If we don’t get busy and ban fracking in Florida it would destroy everything we cherish. We just can’t let that happen. One of the songs that inspires me is “Big Yellow Taxi” which talks about “paving paradise to put up a parking lot.” We can’t let that happen.

What else do you want to share, Ginger?

It’s important for your readers to know that they too can help. Many drops can fill a bucket and before you know it you have a gallon. It’s all of us contributing — maybe an hour of phoning from home, maybe a Saturday morning picketing, in whatever capacity you feel comfortable. If you work full time, you could do something for maybe an hour on the weekend. Each one of us who feels strongly against pollution can do something even if it’s just an hour a week to try to fight toxic pollution caused by this industry and others. All you have to do is pick up the phone and talk to people. The light bulb will go on and you will see the mission we are on. We are all in this together.

Every donation helps us fight for a livable future.

Mile By Mile, Door By Door, Food & Water Action Gets Out The Vote


by Miho Suzuki-Robinson

Our Get-Out-The-Vote effort is in full swing! We are going door-to-door in key districts speaking directly with voters about how important the midterm elections will be in determining the health of our planet and our democracy for years to come. 

These photos from the field feature our hard-working canvassing team engaging voters one knock at a time.


How Canvassing Works

Canvassing is a time-tested tactic to connect with voters who are likely to support the same candidates we do and to remind them how important their vote is. A team of committed people divide up a list of the voters in their area that they want to talk with, and pound the pavement to inspire as many voters as possible.


Our canvassing team in Pennsylvania gets ready to knock some doors!

Our canvasser, Liv, is a seasoned pro when it comes to canvassing. She’s been involved in various environmental groups in her area, and thinks canvassing is crucial to get out the vote.

“There’s so much at stake this mid-term election… we should be concerned about everything from climate change to clean water and air…to supporting a woman’s right to choose.”

Liv Ross Perfetti
Liv has knocked on hundreds of doors in the hopes that residents will chat with her about the importance of this year’s election.

Because polluting corporations only care about their profits, canvassers put their time and energy into protecting the world we love.

“Given that the last election was really close, canvassers can really make a difference. I canvas for candidates like Chris DeLuzio because he’s willing to hold corporations accountable.”

— Pape Diop, a Food & Water Action canvasser in Pennsylvania
A beautiful view of Allegheny County during an afternoon spent knocking on doors. PHOTO: Liv Ross Perfetti

Will you join us in helping to elect climate champions?

Now more than ever, it’s critical to protect the progress we have made for a livable climate. We must elect climate champions and preserve the democratic majority in Washington – for us and future generations. There are many ways you can help to Get-Out-The-Vote. You can RSVP for events in your area, volunteer for our letter-writing team, texting team, or donate

Fight for food we can trust, water we can drink, and air we can breathe. Not to mention, a democracy we can believe in!

Donate now to help
get out the vote!

Food & Water Volunteer Network: How We Took On Manchin


by Katy Kiefer

Every significant win we’ve been able to achieve – from banning fracking in New York and Maryland, to getting arsenic out of chicken feed – wouldn’t have been possible without our incredible team of volunteers. The behind-the-scenes work that it takes to win real policy change doesn’t often get the spotlight, but it’s critical to our must-win fights for safe food, clean water, and a livable climate.

Our Food & Water Volunteer Network helps to build power on our campaigns from every angle: making calls and sending text messages to mobilize support from the public, lobbying elected officials to take the right policy positions, gathering petition signatures, speaking at community events, and getting our issues covered in the media. No matter where you are, how much time you have, or your experience level — we need you in this fight and we have a role for you.

Stopping Manchin’s Side Deal Was A Passion Project For Our Volunteers

In our recent efforts to stop Senator Manchin’s dirty side deal to fast-track fossil fuel projects, our volunteers played a major role in blocking initial attempts to pass this deal that would greenlight the Mountain Valley Pipeline and make it harder for communities to stop dangerous fossil fuel projects.

When we first heard that Senator Schumer had struck a deal with Manchin in exchange for his vote to pass the Inflation Reduction Act, it seemed like an insurmountable hurdle to block this deal. There was little to no public opposition from members of Congress, and it could have passed in secret.

When we let our volunteers know what Schumer and Manchin were planning behind closed doors, they dove into action – getting thousands of phone calls into Congress, showing up at rallies, and even getting arrested to take a stand against this deal.

People Working Together Build The Power to Win Against All Odds

All-in-all, we mobilized over 10,000 calls into Congress – an incredible amount of calls in just a few weeks – and over 80 Representatives and 8 Senators joined letters to Congressional leadership in opposition. This deal went from “likely to pass” to “politically unfeasible,” largely due to our volunteers working to mount such powerful opposition. 

There’s still a long road ahead to stop Manchin’s deal for good, but we know our team is up to the challenge.

Are you ready to join in? Check out our dashboard of upcoming volunteer opportunities and join a First-Time Volunteer Action Call to get started.

RSVP for a First-Time
Volunteer Action call!

‘You’ll Never Even Know We Were Here,’ Sunoco Told Ginny. They Lied.


When Ginny Marcille-Kerslake looks at the damage to her community, what’s most upsetting is how Sunoco/Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) lied to her.

“You’ll never even know we were here,” is what the fossil fuel corporation said, according to residents who were talked into getting on board with their underground drilling plan for the Mariner East 2 and 2X pipelines, which would transport highly explosive liquids right through their community.

It’s become something of a sick punchline now that time has shown the havoc ETP would wreak on residents’ homes, yards, safety, and property values, not to mention their time, energy, and peace of mind. Initially, Ginny and her neighbors were willing to give the company the benefit of the doubt that drilling could be done safely. But then a chain of events occurred that proved how unsafe it really was, and Ginny credits Food & Water Action with teaching their community how to organize and grow their collective power.

Sunoco Causes Disaster Upon Disaster In Pennsylvania And Creates An Activist

The first time it became apparent that Sunoco had lied was when the trees got cut down across from Ginny’s yard. What was supposed to be a few trees suddenly turned into clearing the entire swath that had once offered shade, habitat, cleaner air, and beauty to Ginny’s neighborhood.

Then on June 22, 2017, Sunoco/ETP hit the aquifer underneath their neighborhood with their drilling. It caused copious amounts of water to flow down the hill, destroying the private wells residents rely on for drinking, cooking, and bathing.

Ginny, who had spent much of her career as a soil scientist, had a lot going on in her life with a new home textiles business (she says folks around town were starting to refer to her as “the apron lady”) and sons who still needed her presence. But when she saw how difficult it was to get straight answers from Sunoco/ETP, and how likely they were to keep dangerously drilling, Ginny knew she had to take on a new role — as an activist against the Mariner East pipelines.

Their Community Responds To Sunoco’s Blatant Disregard For Their Wellbeing

As Ginny reached out and assembled with other community members, she learned about how the pipeline was keeping them awake at night too. Parents of small children were terrified because the pipeline would run right underneath their play areas in the yard. Some neighbors had functional parts of their property, like sheds, cut off from their use for what would become years. The really sobering fear was how densely populated the area was and how many people would be hurt or killed if a pipeline explosion happened — which happened recently west of them in an area less populated, avoiding fatalities only by sheer luck. How would one hospital’s burn unit handle 500 children at once if they needed to? If an explosion occurred, how would they evacuate the senior living residents with a pipeline running directly alongside their windows?

So Ginny and her neighbors got to work. They worked with Senator Andy Dinniman to get temporary halts to the drilling. They pursued longer-term moratoriums, too. They bird-dogged ETP every time something went wrong — like the times ETP didn’t self-report as they’re required to do when sinkholes occurred on Lisa Drive. As community member Caroline Hughes retells it, a resident recorded the accident and reported it to the Public Utility Commission (PUC) after ETP had been given a chance to self-report and did not. When the resident spoke to a representative at Sunoco, they reportedly said, “Sunoco isn’t going to shut down Mariner because you asked them to.” Twenty-four hours later, the PUC forced them to shut it down temporarily.

Even now, it’s hard to get straight answers from ETP. Shortly after the corporation began hydrostatic testing in mid-2018 to look for leaks, Ginny found a strange accumulation of water in front of her yard. She had a representative from ETP out to look at it. He told her that if it had been a leak from the testing it would have appeared green. Ginny pointed to the green-tinged water and asked, “You mean like this?” He then outrageously claimed it had to be algae — even though it was only about a day after the water appeared. So Ginny and her neighbors keep fighting to get ETP and this drilling out of their community. The residents cannot trust them — period.

Stopping this dangerous pipeline is also about stopping the fossil fuel industry from turning Southeastern Pennsylvania into “Houston on the Delaware.” They’re planning for a major build-out of toxic infrastructure that will make entire communities sick and further destabilize our climate.

‘The Pipeline Lady’ Shares How Food & Water Action Made A Difference

These days, because of her relentless work, Ginny is also known around town as “the pipeline lady.” Ginny says Food & Water Action gave her and other community members the skills they needed to maximize their fight against ETP, like when they teamed up to elect officials in the local legislature who would fight back against the pipelines. She recalls:

Last year one of the townships on the pipeline route realized that they would have to change their local government in order to get representation for the community against Mariner East and they didn’t really know how to do that until Food & Water Action came in and helped them organize their community, recruit volunteers, and get people out to vote. As a result of what Food & Water Action helped them do, the community was wildly successful on Election Day. It really couldn’t have been possible without Food & Water Action and their organizing abilities.

One of the organizers, Sam Rubin, recently asked me to tell someone what he does for a living.

I said, “Sam, you get people to do things without them realizing you’re getting them to do it.”

And that’s how we were able to flip that township.

And that was just the start. Building from that momentum, Ginny managed the campaign of Danielle Friel Otten for State Representative, one of her neighbors and new friends in this fight. Danielle decided to run after meetings with her state representative left her feeling that her voice and that of her community were not being heard. She learned her representative and others in Harrisburg accept large donations from the oil and gas industry. With Ginny managing her campaign, and Food & Water Action lending people power and consulting to the campaign, Danielle Friel Otten successfully won the seat and will represent her community’s interests from that powerful position.

We’re In This Together, In Ginny’s Neighborhood And Beyond

Ginny and her neighbors are fighting back, and have carved out important wins along the way. It’s still a David vs. Goliath kind of battle, though, and they’ll need support along the way — just like communities all over America that Food & Water Action empowers to stand up to corporations like ETP.

These fights don’t just affect one person — they affect entire communities, states, and the future of our country. And though Ginny’s story involves the Mariner East 2 pipeline, it reflects the kinds of fights going on all over the country. We’re in this together and we’re making lasting changes that will secure safe climates and environments for our future generations.

UPDATE: In the years since we first published this story, Ginny has come to work with Food & Water Action as a part of the staff. It’s incredible to see how passionate people fighting polluting corporations grow stronger in their tenacity to win.

Will you chip in to help our work with fighters like Ginny? Your contributions are what support these true heroes on the ground with the tools they need to fight the fossil fuel industry.

Every donation helps us fight for a livable future.

Her Grandfather Left A Land Legacy That Mountaire Poisoned


by Angie Aker

Gina Burton’s grandfather, Herbert, worked tirelessly as a sharecropper in southern Delaware. Through the years, he built his savings and purchased a large tract of land. The plan was to sell some of it for a profit, but keep enough to leave his children and grandchildren parcels that they could live on, prosper from, and enjoy together as a family. At first, the plan worked just as he imagined. He sold a portion of his land along the Indian River to Townsend, Inc., a smaller poultry plant. Then he divided up the rest of the land and passed it down through his family members. He passed away with the sense of accomplishment of having done something worthwhile to protect his family’s future. The lane separating Burton’s family properties from Mountaire’s fields is in fact named after Gina’s grandfather — ”Herbert Lane.”

Tragedy Befalls The Burton Family Soon After Mountaire Moves In

What Herbert didn’t know was that Townsend, Inc. would sell the land to Mountaire, which in 2000 moved in across the lane from where his grandchildren and great-grandchildren live, and expanded the operations to volumes that were unsafe for the surrounding families. He didn’t know that what would follow was toxic spraying in the air surrounding their houses, that high-volume chicken waste would leach into their groundwater, or that many in his family would fall ill, and in the case of his great-grandson (Gina’s son) die from asthma complications. Gina’s grandfather toiled for years, and Mountaire’s carelessness has threatened to turn his legacy into a curse. But Gina won’t let the story end there, and with Food & Water Action’s help, she plans to force the company to do right by their community.

Gina is a fighter. She works for the Delaware Department of Corrections. When asked why she spends her free time working to expose Mountaire’s bad practices and the damage it’s caused her family, there are many answers. Her son’s tragic death in 2014 from an acute asthma attack is obviously her number one reason. Her family’s many health tragedies, like her Aunt Martha’s loss of her legs, her mother’s colitis, and her sister’s many tumors and strange black spots all over her back are another. Gina herself also suffers from gastrointestinal issues. Other area families wonder whether their strange health issues and the deaths of their family pets could be because of Mountaire’s contamination of their air and water.

The Fight Against Mountaire Comes Down To Right And Wrong

Beyond the immediate effects her family has suffered, Gina also has a deep sense of duty to hold the company accountable for doing wrong to so many, and she speaks with passion about why:

It’s about doing people wrong. If you know you’re harming somebody and you know it’s not right, then I mean that’s a cause or reason to fight.

Mountaire, a poultry processing facility in Millsboro, Delaware, produces 2.4 million gallons of chicken waste each day. The waste – comprised of manure, feathers, carcasses, organs, blood, dirt and massive amounts of wastewater – is stored in lagoons and sprayed onto nearby disposal fields that are right across the lane from where Gina Burton’s mother, sisters, nieces, nephews, Aunt Martha, and other family all live on the land that her grandfather provided for them. Gina recounts a recent story about someone being curious about what was being sprayed over those fields:

One day we came home from church on a Sunday and somebody had taken the end off the sprayer and it was straight green solids coming out — turds coming out… It was within feet of my mother’s front yard.

Working With Food & Water Action and Food & Water Watch Has Made a Difference

The groundwater aquifer below the plant is the sole source of drinking water for the surrounding community — and tests have shown contamination since at least the year 2000. Interestingly, Mountaire Farms was the fifth-largest contributor to Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign — arguably an investment in the government’s continued inaction in addressing the undeniable contamination coming from the company.

In the face of that kind of financial and political power, Gina says that working with our affiliated organization, Food & Water Watch, has been instrumental in helping her fight back and defend her grandfather’s legacy. Gina credits the boost in her fight to teaming up:

Food & Water Watch are experienced… They had the resources, they knew the legal aspects of it. They had contacts. I went to school for criminal justice but I did it on a law enforcement aspect, not an environmental aspect. You need to connect with people who are more experienced.

Mountaire has been able to dominate the media coverage through strategic advertising and donations to community causes, something that Gina says would be difficult to combat if she were fighting them without the help of Food & Water Action and Food & Water Watch.

The Type of Pollution Mountaire Commits Isn’t An Isolated Problem

What Mountaire is doing in Delaware isn’t isolated. Slaughterhouses, which are only one link in the polluting industrial meat production chain, are ruining family lands all over America, and poisoning people who have a basic human right to clean air and water in their homes.

Whether it’s community meetings, press conferences, educational outreach, or exploring legal options, Gina works night and day to try to make her grandfather’s legacy right again. She knows how hard he worked to achieve the American dream, and she works just as hard to defend it. Mountaire is clearly in the wrong, but Gina is an extraordinary hero for fighting for her community and a champion to inspire us all to fight even harder, too.  

Chip in to help us support fighters like Gina taking on corporations who think they’re too big to be reigned in.

Every donation helps us fight for a livable future.

Host A Letter-Writing Party To Get Out The Vote


The stakes are high this election cycle, and it has never been more important that we elect environmental champions to Congress and preserve the Democratic majority. You can help! Host a house party between October 9 and October 15 for your friends and family to join you in writing letters to voters in key districts.

What is a house party? It can be any way you want to gather (an evening happy hour, or a potluck brunch, for example). Choose a time between October 9-15 that works best for you and your circle of friends. We’ll provide you with all the materials and instructions you need to make a critical impact on the elections. We recommend planning to host for 1.5-2 hours.

Sign up to create your
invitation now!


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