Friday, August 19, 2011

A Civics Lesson

Last night people from across Georgia came together to comment on an air permit for Plant Washington, a proposed coal fired power plant which would be built near Sandersville, my rural home. The opponents of the plant outnumbered the pro-plant speakers, with only 2 of the 24 supporting the plant.

Two doctors ran through a long and scary list of illnesses and diseases resulting from exposure to a coal plant. Many of these include the horribly damaging impact of coal on pregnant women and their developing babies, as well as young children. Dr. Yolanda White said that because the plant toxins settle in the lower layer of the air, children are exposed to more toxins because of their height and because they breathe faster and more often (which makes sense but I had never thought about it).

At the close of what had been a vey polite two hours, someone from Milledgeville spoke. He began by praising everyone for doing their homework and about a project that will have permanent effects on our community's health and natural resources. He thought the community had set a real example of civic engagement.

Then he cautioned us that we are bargaining badly if local leaders continue to support the
plant. Because he lives near Plant Branch he spoke from experience as an educator and
concerned citizen.

I am proud of the way students, friends and neighbors, strangers, and national leaders in protecting rural communities and their natural resources from environmental injustices worked together to make case after case on the reasons the state should not issue the permit. I hope the elected officials, business leaders, and EMC board members took our comments to heart.
It takes courage to stand up and be among the few who are willing to put their community's health and safety above profits and power (literally and figuratively). I am stand with them.

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