An OVEC Press Release
|For Immediate Release August 29, 2016
OVEC Announces New Executive Director
HUNTINGTON, W.VA. — After 24 years with the organization, nine of them at the helm, Janet Keating, executive director of OVEC, is retiring. The grassroots group OVEC, or the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, began in 1987 and is based in Huntington, W.Va. Keating is a native of Huntington and grew up just blocks from the group’s headquarters.
Before moving into the position of executive director, Keating served four years as co-director with Dianne Bady, the group’s founder and original director.
Bady says, “OVEC has grown enormously under Janet’s leadership, and it is sad to see her move on, but this is a day we’ve been preparing for.”
More than a year ago, the group’s board of directors formed a leadership transition committee to find a replacement for Keating.
Committee member Reverend Jeff Allen says, “We will miss Janet. Her dedication to the environment and to West Virginia is unmatched.
“After reviewing more than 40 applications and interviewing multiple candidates, the OVEC board has chosen Natalie Thompson as OVEC’s executive director. We are excited about her leadership as she moves OVEC into the future.”
Thompson, a Beckley native who has lived in Huntington for the past 13 years, has been on staff with OVEC for nearly two years as project coordinator for the group’s work on election reform (public financing of elections) and energy efficiency policy. She has a bachelor’s degree in environmental policy and assessment from Marshall University and more than 12 years of management experience. She’ll assume the leadership role on October 1.
Keating says, “Natalie’s love for our people and iconic mountains drives her passion for justice and a better quality of life for everyone—traits that are essential for OVEC’s executive director.
“During September, I will transfer as much as I can of my 24 years of working knowledge about OVEC to her. I already know that she’s a quick study and eager to develop and apply her previous management skills to her role as a non-profit leader.”
“I am honored to have been chosen to lead the tenacious team that is OVEC,” Thompson says. “I know have some big shoes to fill, but with Janet’s gracious help and the support of my work family, I am confident OVEC will move forward with strength, endurance, and continued success.”
Bady adds, “For close to 30 years, dedicated OVEC volunteers and staff have inspired one another and worked together to reduce and prevent pollution and to make our region a healthier place to live and do business. We are thrilled that Natalie will carry on that tradition as our new executive director.”
Under Keating’s leadership, the organization acquired its own office space in 2015. Although Keating laid the groundwork that made the acquisition possible, she attributed much of the success of the final outcome of the space to the work to Thompson and Maryanne Graham, OVEC’s administrative director.
Keating says, “Natalie’s work to make OVEC’s office energy efficient was an extension of her efforts as OVEC’s energy efficiency project coordinator. During the 2015 and 2016 legislative sessions, Natalie worked to educate citizens and lawmakers about the Local Energy and Efficiency Projects (LEEP), a bill that would allow businesses to borrow money from a lender or municipality for energy efficiency projects and then pay it back on their property tax bill. Although the bill has not yet passed, it will be reintroduced in 2017.”
She adds, “When Natalie was first hired at OVEC, I was impressed with all her many and diverse relationships in Huntington. She is extremely active and involved locally, which will help to grow and strengthen support for OVEC in our hometown, as well as statewide.”
OVEC formed in 1987 to fight a huge toxic waste incinerator planned for an already polluted, low-income community near Huntington; the then-all-volunteer group stopped the incinerator. OVEC has since had several major successes. For instance, Keating was instrumental in building a coalition of citizen groups and labor that, over the course of several years, succeeded in stopping the construction of what would have been the largest dioxin-producing pulp and paper mill on the continent.
In 1998, after OVEC members applied 11 years of unrelenting pressure on environmental regulators and politicians, the U.S. Department of Justice leveled the then-largest fine in its history ($38.5 million) against Ashland Oil in Catlettsburg, KY (now a Marathon refinery), requiring that the company bring all its U.S. refineries into compliance with environmental regulations.
For almost two decades, OVEC has been a leader in the movement to end mountaintop removal, due to its destruction of land, water, communities, and human health. Of late, the group has been gearing up to take on similar abuses stemming from the rise of activities associated with unconventional deep shale gas extraction, also known as fracking.