Foes of gasification fail to back up claims

To the Editor: As an "import" to this area, I have witnessed the anger toward individuals and businesses that were actually able to turn a profit in this county.

I have also heard the "urban legends" and "conspiracy theories" that keep these negative attitudes entrenched.

I attended the gasification hearing in Shenandoah. While it was supposed to be a forum for questions, it quickly deteriorated into personal vendettas and "silly science."

If our county has the "horrific" health problems of cancer, infertility and asthma that the opponents claim, why are local hospitals struggling financially? If our cancer rate is so extraordinary, wouldn't we have more specialized treatment centers here?

I bet none of the medical specialists in our area are unable to handle the volume of patients and types of cases they get. Physicians go where the need is and I know that they are looking for doctors who will treat obesity and diabetes. This county is in the "severe" category in these two classifications. This has little to do with the coal companies.

If our children and prisoners are threatened by "mercury raining" from the co-gens and future gasification plant, why are the local school districts downsizing their special education departments and handling them independently?

I also bet the medical records at the prisons don't reflect a sudden increase in mercury-related ailments.

I am weary of the "Someone might die" battle cry. Soon we have a whole new layer of regulations, increased insurance costs, protective measures like evacuating schools for a week because someone dropped a thermometer, and a whole new set of fears to stress over.

I would play martyr and die of a rare disease supposedly connected to gasification if it meant that 1,000 skilled construction workers got great paying jobs in their neighborhood and their families benefited from the stable income. The local busineses that feed and serve them would also benefit and that would mean more taxes paid.

Hopefully this plant's success will help turn the entire poverty- stricken Appalachian Mountain Belt into a region that makes money from the country's demand for affordable transportation fuel.

Someone has to step up to the plate, although the personal and financial risks are incredible, because of the hatred and skepticism.

Our county should be proud of its innovators and risk-takers, not lined up to take a punch and keep us in the Dark Ages.

Karen L. Kehler

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