- by Norma Kreilein, MD, Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics
[The biomass facility proposed for Jasper, Indiana referred to in this letter was canceled this year thanks to the hard work of Dr. Kreilein and Healthy Dubois County –Ed.]
I am writing as a concerned pediatrician in Southern Indiana. We live in the heart of the power plant belt of the Midwest. For many years I have suspected that our local pollution is greatly responsible for our high rage of inflammatory processes, malignancies, and increasing rates of autism.
I have been trying to fight the addition of a biomass plant to our city. The city has long been an industrial base with many wood factories, so there has apparently been a high VOC load. In addition, we live near many power plants. There was a coal fired municipal power plant within the city limits and very near a residential neighborhod since 1968. The city has said that the plant has been shuttled for approximately the past 3 years because it isn't "profitable."
They have been planning a biomass refit for the past 3 years, although the plan became more public only less than a year ago.
Strong opposition was voiced from the time it was publicly mentioned, but the city has pushed the plant through, anyway. Much manipulation of emission data has occurred (averaging emissions out over the whole county to make them appear insignificant), but ironically one of the more interesting arguments is that the plant, though polluting and within 1/2 mile of a residential neighborhood, should nonetheless be built because the plant will decrease our dependence on coal fired plants.
Essentially the argument is to build more so we are not as dependent on the ones we can't seem to shut down. Many of the arguments against coal-fired plants are used by manipulative entities to justify continuing to poison the population. In our particular city, the greed for development appears to take precedence over the consideration of air quality.
Until the EPA begins to mandate states to use more accurate exposure models (better than averaging concentrated pollution over a county), states like Indiana and cities like Jasper will continue to actually increase pollution.
Biomass combustion is being sold to communities around the country by high pressure, ambiguous, unscrupulous carpetbaggers who promise "jobs" and "green energy" but are vacuuming precious federal funds to produce expensive energy that will never solve our dependence on foreign oil nor make our air any cleaner. Worse yet, they use existing knowledge about coal-fired plants and aggressive manipulative mathemathics to convince communities that the particulate/dioxin emissions will be nonexistent or "minimal."
The ultimate problem is that the same monitors and regulators that fail to close down coal plants will do no better with biomass. We will just spend more and think we feel better about it.