Activists participate in a press conference with Greenpeace's Rolling Sunlight outside the hearing
On April 27, 2011 the Environmental Protection Agency held a hearing at the Pequest Trout Hatchery in Oxford, NJ. The hearing addressed the federal Clean Air Act petition filed by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.
The petition's aim is to greatly reduce the amount of sulfur dioxide spewed by the coal plant in Portland, PA, as it affects residents in state and just over the border in New Jersey. The Portland Generating Station is the fifth highest emitter of sulfur dioxide in the nation.
A few representatives from GenOn, the company that owns the plant, were there to tell their side of story. Without fail, they talked about the burden of the economic costs of installing pollution controls and how much more time they needed to study the proposed rules. Granted, at an estimated 300 to 500 million dollars these are pricey renovations.
But as Robert Gardner, Greenpeace Coal Campaigner, said in his testimony, the economic costs are not the only thing to be considered, and should not be the bottom line, especially for a $3 billion company. If the only thing that the coal industry has to bring to bear against the impairment of human health, life, and happiness is decreased profits, then this is a poor argument indeed. Especially when it’s given next to the testimonies of local citizens who just want a safe, clean home for their children to grow up in.
When my name was called, I took my seat in front of the microphone and began.
“Hello, my name is Erin Dascher, D-A-S-C-H-E-R.
While it is great the EPA is trying to get the Portland coal plant to clean up its act and further control the amount of pollution that is being spewed into the environment, ultimately, the only way to protect human health, wildlife, and the environment at large is to shut the plant down.
On a personal note, the last time I went to a doctor's office for a sore throat and nasal congestion, one of the questions my doctor asked me was if I grew up in Philadelphia. She asked me to see if I was used to the air or not, and that was not what was causing my symptoms. It is concerning to hear, especially from a medical professional, that the air itself can cause adverse health effects.
This small personal experience has certainly illuminated for me the plight of the people who live near the Portland plant, both here in New Jersey and back home in Pennsylvania. They suffer from poor health as a result of the Portland coal plant. They live with adverse health effects every day and what makes it worse is that they know what is causing their health problems, and yet nothing has been done about it.
At twenty-three years old, I have concerns that the legacy being left to my generation is one of pollution and impaired health. It is imperative that the future of our planet be preserved by the aggressive pursuit of truly renewable energy such as solar, wind, and geothermal resources. Thank you.”
It was an oddly satisfying feeling I had upon finishing my testimony, similar to the pleasantly full feeling one gets after a good meal. It is not often that one feels like they have truly contributed to this thing we call democracy, but speaking at the hearing, where each person's testimony is weighed in the EPA's final decision, I felt contented and satisfied knowing that I had been heard.
You can make your voice heard, too. Take action right now to fight coal and stop global warming.
Written by Erin Dascher, Grassroots intern in Philadelphia