Spencer County air polluted enough; it doesn't need more

To the editor:

Even though admitting it would produce plenty of toxic chemicals, IDEM says the proposed coal-to-diesel plant in Dale would have no significant impact. Can anyone really believe that an industrial endeavor of this magnitude wouldn’t have a significant impact on the people who live in the region? Where’s the common sense, the logic here?

One only has to look at the ugly industrialized sprawl produced by the AEP-I&M coal-powered generating plant in Rockport, the second largest in the state, and one of the largest in the country, to see its devastating impacts. In less than 40 years, half my lifetime, Spencer County has gone from a quiet, rural, wooded, agricultural county to becoming an appallingly unhealthy place to live. According to the  EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory, the Rockport  plant has now released more than 5 million pounds of toxic chemicals into Indiana’s air, land, and water every year since 2005, ranking Spencer County 23rd for toxic releases among all U.S. counties, making it one of the largest toxic power plant polluters in the country.

In addition, the Sierra Club Clean Air Task Force has also estimated that “pollution from I&M’s AEP-Rockport coal-fired power plant contributes to an astounding 130 premature deaths, 200 heart attacks and 2,200 asthma attacks every year.”

It isn’t difficult to speculate that the area has become so blighted in recent years because IDEM ignores social, health, agricultural and a broad range of other impacts, while favoring only short-term economic schemes. They refuse to look at all the cumulative aspects of how a super polluter will affect an entire region and apparently hand out permits to anyone who applies. At this rate, it won’t be long until every inch of Spencer County becomes even more devastated than ever.

Do we really want to trade in our quality of life, our “amber waves of grain and fruited plains” for a quick buck and be left with a toxic third world wasteland? Maybe it’s time to tell the make-money-at-all-costs folks that our region is priceless  and our lives — and our future are not for sale.

—Jeanne Melchior

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