I’ve been following coverage of the protest at GenOn’s Portland Generating Station and the local officials who tried to deter it.
The protest, which was held last Saturday, called attention to the harm this plant does to local residents and the thousands of tons of greenhouse gas emissions [GHG] it spews into the air, thus increasing global warming. According to organizers, the original plan was to march from the generating station in Portland to the ash-disposal site in Bangor, emphasizing that the smokestack emissions aren’t the only problem; the coal ash that remains is also highly toxic. Coal-fired power plants, of which this is one of the dirtiest in the country, are causing irreparable damage to the ecosystems on which we depend for life itself.
The United States was founded when our ancestors had the courage to defy the powers that be and demand an end to ‘business as usual’. In the 1770s, the enormously-profitable British East India Company received generous tax breaks as it was destroying local independent local businesses. (Sound familiar?) The Boston Tea Party protest is now honored, despite the fact that it was illegal, disrupted commerce, and destroyed private property.
The organizers of the GenOn protest, on the other hand, went out of their way to comply with the law and seek cooperation with local officials. PennDoT was willing to accommodate the march if local officials would confirm that they were aware of the plans, but they wouldn’t even do that. Portland Borough Council President Bob Cartwright said that doing so might create a liability risk, but PennDoT said there was no issue of liability for the municipality. Was Cartwright just making up an excuse for not supporting the event, or was he really that ignorant about the law?
Today, we cite the Boston Tea Party as an example of heroism and moral action, but when people today wanted to criticize immoral and illegal activities by a business, local officials did what they could to deter them. Maybe they were more concerned about public opinion than doing what’s right, but the vast majority of the motorists passing on 611 indicated support for the protest.
The GenOn protest raised awareness that the Portland plant is destroying the health of local residents and making global warming worse. For years, the Portland plant has been known as one of the worst in the country—and now GenOn wants extra time to decide what to do.
Yes, I know the GenOn plant provides jobs, and that’s really important these days. But do we want jobs that pollute the environment, make people ill, and increase global warming or jobs that give us cleaner air and water and better health? A real ‘no-brainer’.
So here’s a hint for GenOn and for local officials, and it won’t require a lot of study: What they need to do is shut down this plant—stop polluting our air and water, stop destroying our health, and stop making the global warming crisis even worse.