Dear Senator Manchin, Your Jobs are Killing Us

April 5, 2012

The following is a letter to  Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) from Elisa Young, a resident of southern Ohio, not far from the West Virginia state line.

Dear Senator Manchin:

I read an article in the Charleston Gazette this morning where you expressed concern about the number of jobs that would be lost if environmental protections to protect public health and safety that the EPA has approved move forward, and your vow to fight these protections:

My family has long lived on the border of Ohio and West Virginia (Meigs/Mason/Gallia Counties) where 4 of AEPs power plants are concentrated (2nd largest concentration in the United States, second only to Morgantown, WV). I have personally witnessed the lives of people in community being harmed and even shortened due to coal dependency and specifically American Electric Power’s emissions.

Ohio has consistently taken home the prize for the worst air quality in the nation, and within that ranking, our county has the highest asthma rate in the state, the highest lung cancer death rate, the shortest life expectancy, the highest uninsured rate for children and families, and rank the second highest in the state for all cancer deaths combined (second only to another rural, coal-producing county in Southern Ohio).  The air quality in our schools under the power plants was ranked as being in the top third percentile for the worst air quality in the nation (post scrubbers).

I lost one neighbor to lung cancer who never touched a cigarette in her life.  Her husband also died of respiratory illness.

I lost 6 neighbors to cancer, had cancer myself (and 2 more precancerous conditions that we have no family history of – did I mention I don’t have health insurance?), and remember when one friend’s husband died, her sharing this story:

Both she and her best friend’s husbands were dying of cancer in the same hospital, one room apart from each other (one lived almost immediately under the power plants, the other about 2 miles out from the power plants on the Ohio side of the river – the majority of the pollutants fall within 15).  When Sue’s husband died (an hour before Lola’s), she shared that within the next month, they would have exceeded their lifetime maximum health care benefits of $1 million.  She didn’t want her husband to go, but had no idea how they would have made it once their health insurance ended.

Another story (just to put a face on this), a friend who’s husband worked at the Gavin plant in Cheshire (a village my family helped found when they moved here in 1798 and that AEP bought and depopulated recently due to “clean coal” experiments gone wrong), who died from cancer, told me that as he was dying, she promised to get him a black granite headstone with yellow roses.  The cemetery where he was buried was immediately behind the power plant he gave his life to.  Within a year of his death, the roses had been eaten off the granite.  When Dorothy called the company to have the granite headstone recarved, they asked her what on earth she’d done to it.  SHE hadn’t done anything.  Did I mention the cemetery is next to the school?

I remember when my best friend got cancer, I drove her to the hospital to get the pathology results from her biopsy, and then had to call her husband, who did consulting work as an engineer and was traveling, to give him the news, because she couldn’t speak except to hand me the phone and tell me to do it.  She was sitting their staring into the air on one side of me, and he was yelling at me to put his wife on the phone on the other side, while I’m trying to process that I will probably lose my best friend.

I should probably tell you that both her dogs died from cancer, too.  One died while she was receiving radiation and chemo treatments in Chicago – I had to give she and her husband the vet report when Hoofie was diagnosed with terminal lymphoma, and was the last one to see her alive.  The other, Wheezy,  died from cancer after she moved away to New England.  Her oncologist had told her if she wanted to get healthy she would have to move away from here.  So yes, I lost my best friend.

I was dumbfounded to read, “Those workers installed more than $1 billion worth of scrubbers and other equipment to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions by up to 90 percent, he said.”

What those scrubbers meant was worse air emission problems around John Amos (Maybe you’ve forgotten)

These were the same emissions problems caused by the scrubbers on the Ohio side of the river – a stone’s throw away – that lead to the purchase and depopulation of Cheshire – a village my family founded in 1798 that AEP destroyed after the scrubbers were installed.  The scrubbers cause that blue haze you all experienced down in Charleston, same as they did here, triple the amount of solid waste, and create much more toxic waste.  Since the scrubbers were installed, the radiation levels have skyrocketed to being 1000 times higher than the EPA says is “acceptable.”

I could send you a volume about the people I’ve know who have died here, but I’m sure you are a busy man.

I would like to hear your side of the statistics, since it bears no resemblance to the reality that exists in my community, compliments of coal.

I would like to see the actual numbers your quote is based on that states, “Between 2006 and 2011, at AEP power plants in West Virginia, you created 27.7 million work hours on environmental construction projects,” Manchin told his audience.

Your jobs are killing us.


Elisa Young
Athens, Ohio

4 Responses to “Dear Senator Manchin, Your Jobs are Killing Us”

  1. These are the stories people who say coal is ‘cheap’ need to hear. The health (and climate) costs are a massive externality not reflected in the market price of coal.

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