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Illegal or wrong?

Proposed Virginia City power plantThis morning, Mark and I followed coal trucks up the highway to go to court in Wise.  We weren't in trouble, but some friends of ours were --- young people who had chained themselves to barrels last month to protest the construction of a coal-fired power plant which is being built about ten miles from our farm, and about two miles from another coal-fired power plant.  (The picture to the left is the power company's idea of what the plant will look like, with a little smoke photoshopped in by me to make it more realistic.)

Unfortunately, prevailing public sentiment in our region runs pro-plant.  We passed a massive yard sign a few miles up the road from the power plant site which proclaimed "Elect McCain-Palin --- they support coal!"  Although our region (in my biased opinion) is one of the most beautiful spots in the world, Wise County is also the most economically depressed county in Virginia and its residents are quick to believe the full page ads Dominion has taken out in the local newspapers proclaiming the riches which will flow into our region once their power plant is built.
CCAN photo
Those of us who submitted comments to the DEQ, spoke up at public hearings, begged our elected leaders, and pummeled the local papers with letters to the editor made no headway in preventing the plant from receiving its permits (though we did reduce the permitted mercury emissions from 72 to 4 ppm.)  Eventually, hot, young heads cooked up an act of civil disobedience.  And even though I don't really approve of civil disobedience in non life-or-death situations, I ended up driving to the courthouse to show my opposition --- again --- for the power plant.

In the end, the judge agreed to give the young people fines, community service, and probation instead of the threatened jail time.  Most of them were taking time off college to come to the hearing, and they had travelled from across the U.S. both to chain themselves to barrels and, now, to pay for their "crime."  The county ended up taking in over $4,000 in fines and fees --- I always did say that tourism would be our region's saving grace. :-)

"I know what I did was illegal, but I do not think it was wrong," said one of the young women in her prepared statement.  Personally, I know that building a dirty power plant in a region with the highest asthma rates in the state and some of the lowest levels of healthcare infrastructure is wrong --- I just wish it was illegal.

If you want to read more, or help out, check out some of the major players in the battle:



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