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September 28, 2011

Moving Planet - Fighting Coal in Portland, PA

Walk Away From Coal
Last Saturday I joined residents and activists outside the GenOn coal plant in Portland, PA as part of the September 24th Moving Planet Day of Action. This was just one of the hundreds of events taking place around the world to help move our planet beyond fossil fuels (read about more over on our Scrapbook blog).

Dozens of people came from near and far to gather outside this old, dirty coal plant that sits on the Delaware River in rural Pennsylvania.  We planned on making a 3-mile trip on foot from the plant in Portland to Knowlton, NJ, and back to show how GenOn's path of pollution affects both states.  Much to our dismay, the Borough of Portland threw a wrench in our walk by refusing to write an acknowledgement letter to PennDOT for our permit.

We weren't going to let a bureaucratic wrench stop us from taking a stand against GenOn.  We sang and chanted and shuttled people right to the plant – 40 strong – to stand up for clean air and tell GenOn to walk away from coal. 

Moving Planet - Lydia Stettler
The sky was dreary and the air was humid and I was inspired by the enthusiasm of the crowd and the passion of the speakers.  Lydia Stettler (pictured above) suffers from asthma and lives right next door to the plant.  In a soft voice she talked about how hard breathing can be and called for GenOn to stop polluting her community.  Anna Maria Caldara comes from Bangor, PA, where GenOn dumps tons of toxic coal ash into an old slate quarry.  Anna has been fighting for an end to this pollution for over 10 years.

GenOn Portland is not in a big city like some of the other coal plants in this country.  It sits in Small Town, USA, but its plume of dangerous emissions leeches out over 7 counties in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, putting the health of hundreds of thousands of residents at risk.

I'm fortunate to live in New Jersey, a state that is serious about air pollution regulations.  But what's unfortunate is that GenOn's air pollution doesn't respect state boundaries. That dirty air blows right over the Delaware River and is the direct cause of high asthma rates in Warren County, NJ. That's why the State of New Jersey has sued GenOn and petitioned the EPA under the Clean Air Act.

The EPA is just about ready to take action on the Portland plant and then it's up to GenOn to do the right thing.  This plant is one of the top 5 soot polluters in the country. It's been around for 50 years and its time is up.  GenOn should retire the Portland plant and walk away from coal.

See more Moving Planet - PA event pictures here.

-- Christine Guhl, Sierra Club New Jersey


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