Tuesday, April 5, 2011

One more time: stand up for our city and say NO to the biomass incinerator!

Tomorrow is the air permit hearing for Palmer Renewable Energy (PRE)'s biomass incinerator.  Those of us in Stop Toxic Incineration in Springfield have been busting our asses for weeks, flyering the neighborhoods, phone banking, spreading the word.

I don't know how many people will turn out tomorrow night, but I think we're as well-prepared as we can be. Our allies in this fight have stepped up to help-- Toxics Action Center, Pioneer Valley Asthma Coaliton and the Conservation Law Foundation, to name a few.  These are new allies for Arise, but it's what the campaign called for, and I think our roots are deeper for it.

Tonight I spoke on a panel at Mt. Holyoke College called Women and Community Organizing. Someone asked me a question about ward representation, and I thought, not for the first time, how similar the ward representation and anti-biomass campaigns are turning out to be..

Every single person in this city was affected by the old at-large voting system, which denied real representation to everyone except the city's most affluent and politically connected-  but the old system had the most disenfranchizing impact on the poor and the powerless.

Every single person in this city is already breathing air of poor quality, and all will suffer if Palmer Renewable Energy ever begins spewing its fine particulate matter into the air-- but those who will pay the highest penalty are our children, our elderly, our people who are sick enough already-- disproportionately poor people and people of color.

Both campaigns came about because people were being shut out of the democratic process by antiquated laws and weak regulations that those in power had every incentive to maintain.

Both campaigns started from the grassroots, with very few people aware (at first) of the stake we had in these issues. It took two decades for ward representation to build a mandate in Springfield.  Anti-biomass sentiment in Springfield, however, has gone considerably faster-- from maybe two dozen of us opposed to the plant  twenty months ago to tens of thousands of us now.

There's a least one more similarity.  Not only are voting rights being attacked in many states through right-wing efforts to disenfranshize the poor and people of color,  the very meaning of our vote is being eroded by increasing corporate influence over elections and elected officials.  And while stopping this incinerator is intensely important to us here in Springfield, we are really in a struggle not only about our right to protect our well-being but about our right to determine what  kind of world we want to live in.  Struggles like ours are happening all around the planet, and we're late getting started

We won't know for sure whether or not the Mass. Department of Environmental Protection is going to grant PRE's application for some 30 days after the hearing.  We all do expect PRE to get their permit, but while that's far from OK, we have other cards to play.  And who knows?  Maybe turn-out will makie a difference.

So one last time: tomorrow, Tuesday, April 5, 6:30 pm. at Duggan Middle School, 1050 Wilbraham Road.  Come on out and see what people power looks like. Print Friendly and PDF

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