Lydia Stettler speaks to the crowd in front of the Portland Generating Station.

 

On September 24th, 2011, I joined with people all over the world to call on governments and corporations to leave dirty fuels like coal and oil behind in favor of clean, renewable energy.

As events were taking place in hundreds of countries and thousands of cities, I stood on the side of a country road in front of the GenOn-owned Portland Generating Station with over 40 people from surrounding communities.  

We wanted to walk one mile from New Jersey to the plant in order to highlight how the plant pollutes both states.  Unfortunately, after speaking at a Portland Borough Council meeting where we heard how much the council disliked our message, officials on the council refused to write a letter stating their awarness of the event.  Lacking this letter we were unable to get the necessary permit from the Department of Transportation.

Not to be deterred by red tape or political rhetoric, we instead gathered directly in front of the facility to call for this old, dirty coal plant to finally shut down.  

This plant has been polluting residents of Pennsylvania and New Jersey for over 50 years.  Its pollution has gotten so bad that the state of New Jersey is suing the plant because of all the health problems it’s causing across state lines.  The EPA is set to announce its decision on the plant in just four days.  

As I stood in the shadow of the coal stacks, which rise above the tree line and loom over the scenic Delaware River, I listened as Lydia Stettler described what it’s like to have an asthma attack.  Lydia has lived next to this plant in Upper Mount Bethel, PA for decades, and every year her asthma has gotten worse.

Anna Maria Caldara described what it’s like to open her window on a windy day and have coal ash blow into her house from the dump that sits just up the hill from her.  Anna lives in Bangor, PA, which is seven miles away from the plant.  Every day trucks from the plant dump hundreds of pounds of coal ash into an old slate quarry that sits above her community.  When it’s windy, the ash blows all over town.  

As I looked at all the people who took their Saturday to stand up against this polluting facility, one thing became more clear than ever: we can’t wait any longer.  Safer technology exists.  It’s possible to create energy without causing Lydia to have another asthma attack or Anna to keep her windows shut whenever the wind blows.  None of the thousands of people who live around the Portland Generating Station should be forced to inhale its pollution every day.  It’s time to quit coal and start the renewable revolution.