Friday, June 26, 2009

Why all the blogging all of a sudden?

I know, I know. I never update this thing anymore. But this is a special case. When Franklin Hill from the EPA came to talk to Perry County Wednesday night about TVA's plan to dispose of their coal ash here, he had some unkind things to say about local newspapers. That we're misinforming the public, that we have some insidious "other agendas" that cause us to fabricate information about this ash to get people up in arms. That we, not the ash, were the problem for making people here worry. Though he didn't come out and say it, this is what he meant: nobody down here, least of all the press, has the slightest idea what they're talking about. He was here to set the record straight for us, to correct our misguided and ill-informed concerns. I could see Commission Chairman Fairest Cureton giggling when Hill took his jabs at us. 

When people presented him with their worries, real and valid ones about the implications of disposing of the toxic ash here, he deftly brushed off their concerns. "I realize you have your perceptions, and your perceptions are real to you," Hill told the crowd. The implied meaning: they may be real to YOU, but they're certainly not ACTUALLY real. 

Our concern here at the Herald is this precise attitude: that bureaucrats, politicians, and executives know what's best for Perry County, and its own people don't. We can't get our local leaders to listen to us. They're only in it for the money. We can't get EPA to heed our concerns, Hill told us as much Wednesday night: "I'm not here asking, quite frankly for approval."

The arrogance displayed by federal, state, and local officials toward the real and deeply-felt concerns of our residents is disgusting. There are people living in Perry County right now who feel completely powerless, and rightfully so. Their concerns about the quality of life for them and future generations are being brushed aside. Their worry, and ours too, is that no one listens. Decisions are being made that will impact Perry County forever — once that ash is here, it's here to stay. That makes some of us uncomfortable. On one hand, EPA sent us a representative to tell us that the ash was perfectly safe, and we had no need to worry. In Washington, though, that same agency is rethinking its position on coal ash as we speak. Concerns about the material's toxic constituents may mean it gets reclassified as hazardous waste. The Dept. of Homeland Security wants to scrub over 40 existing coal ash storage facilities from the map, citing the danger they pose to surrounding communities as potential terrorist targets. With mixed messages like that, tell us again why we shouldn't be concerned. 

I've posted the Herald's coverage of the coal ash debacle thus far to get it to a wider audience. Does it seem inflammatory, or fabricated, or intended to mislead? That's not our intention. We check all our facts, and when we are informed of inaccuracies, we correct them. We're not here to lie to the people. We're here to give them a voice. 

From the look of things, we're the only ones who will. 


  1. Okay. So a quick web search shows a link between coal ash and cancer. Perhaps they're just looking for a way to make Perry County grow on an individual level.

    Look at what individual growth did for Love Canal!

    Maybe that's a bad example. I'm sure Perry County -- with the help of the press -- could get a cancer center! We may have to compete with Anniston...

    See? Coal ash will create jobs and bring new services to Perry County.

  2. Thank you, Mr.Clark, for spotlighting the condescension displayed by an EPA Regional Director, Franklin Hill, who visited your community to tell you that your newspapers can't be trusted and that your citizens' concerns about toxic landfills are unfounded. I'll note that it is Hill's job to remediate the TVA coal ash spill, a job he can't do unless communities can be persuaded to accept this material (and it should be telling that very few communities will consider it). If one is looking for a "hidden agenda," to use Hill's words, perhaps we can find one at the EPA Superfund Division headed by Hill.