BOSTON (SHNS) – With a name invoking the underdog power of David taking aim at Goliath, a new environmental health and justice organization, Slingshot, plans to launch Thursday to “hold polluters responsible.”

The nonprofit aims to harness “community power,” co-executive director Mireille Bejjani said, meaning it seeks to support local leaders who are already working to address problems in their communities.

“For a long time, folks have been made to feel helpless and are made to feel like they don’t have a voice or their voice isn’t being listened to,” said Bejjani. “So we want to ensure that the neighbors and the residents living down the road from the landfill or the powerplant that is harming their children, that they are the ones who get to decide what happens.”

The nonprofit has a long list of priorities, from stopping pipelines and closing landfills to overhauling the regional energy grid and addressing PFAS contamination. Bejjani said the nonprofit plans to hit the ground running, advocating to shut down the peaking power plant in Peabody and to halt the construction of a pipeline Eversource planned to run through Springfield and other parts of western Massachusetts.

The Peabody peaker plant has already drawn fierce opposition from local climate activists who are concerned over high amounts of carbon dioxide and other pollutants emitted from the plant, and who believe shutting the plant is essential to achieve the state’s goal of “net zero emissions” by 2050.

Asked how Slingshot is going to support climate activists already speaking out against the plant, Bejjani said the organization can help local leaders with advocating to state and regional authorities.

On the controversial Eversource pipeline, Bejjani outlined specific steps the nonprofit plans to take.

“We are going to be really active every step of the process through the Energy Facility Siting Board, as the key decision maker,” Bejjani said. “We’ve already been engaging in the legal process for that project. We’re looking to the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act as well as other state agencies that hold hearings and issue permits. A lot of our campaigns center on those agencies as places to secure favorable decisions.”

The nonprofit also plans to appeal to state legislators, Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Beth Card and Gov. Charlie Baker, as “one of the key people who has the power to slow down or stop the project” — or whoever replaces him after November’s election, Bejjani said.

Apart from the environmental effects of a natural gas pipeline, the pipeline also endangers communities with increased risks of gas explosions. Bejjani added that lower-income communities would end up bearing the economic weight of the project.

“We know the people who can transition away from gas fastest are the folks who have the means to do so and the support to do so, which is not often lower income and communities of color,” Bejjani said.

One of Slingshot’s new board members, Alice Arena, has been on the ground fighting against a natural gas compressor station in her hometown of Weymouth since 2015.

Fore River Residents Against the Compressor Station began advocating against the compressor station in 2015 concerned about the pollution and the dangers of an explosion. Despite local opposition, the station opened in fall 2020 and has since had several emergency shutdowns that have caused hundreds of thousands of cubic feet of natural gas to be released into the air.

In January 2022, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman Richard Glick said, “the Commission likely erred in siting the Weymouth Compressor Station where it did,” but let the permit stand.

Frustrated after “warning them time and time again” and ultimately “not being heard,” Arena said she is excited to see Slingshot provide more resources and support for local activists.

“We’re not just organizing against things either, we’re also organizing for things like clean energy,” she said.

Arena mentioned that Massachusetts is positioned to get in on the ground floor on wind energy in the United States, especially with offshore wind farms. She said she hopes the new nonprofit can help communities that want to see clean energy in their grid.

“We have enough activists, we need organizers,” Arena said. “That’s what Slingshot is going to be.”

Slingshot tapped environmental organizers from across the Northeast for its staff and advisory board, and signed an agreement in June to be fiscally sponsored by the Conservation Law Foundation.

Executive directors Bejjani and Dana Colihan began talking about Slingshot in 2021, Bejjani said, but it wasn’t possible until CLF agreed to financially support the enterprise. Both directors and all of Slingshot’s staff and board members have been working in environmental advocacy for years.

“We all already have strong ties to the community leaders we are going to work with,” Bejjani said. “All of us on our team have already been working in the region, and in general in this movement for a while.”

Slingshot is holding a launch party and fundraiser over Zoom on Thursday at 6 p.m.