TOXIC DISCONNECT: While calling for action on cancer cluster, Specter pushes project that would increase local cancer risk
The senator's clashing calls suggest a fundamental disconnect in his thinking. While the cause of the high PV rate has not yet been pinpointed, it's certainly safe to say that building a significant new source of toxic pollution will not help people already suffering from high rates of cancer and other chronic illnesses -- never mind the insult of using cancer victims' tax dollars to help pay for a project that will further damage their health.
Specter's meeting about PV took place at 4 p.m. yesterday at the Genetti Best Western in Hazle Township and involved about 20 local PV patients, physicians and public health advocates, the Pottsville Republican Herald reports:
The purpose of Monday’s meeting ... Specter said, was to get answers, and to map out a PV cancer cluster battle plan.Among the strategies reportedly discussed at the meeting was research to examine similar health issues in West Virginia, another coal mining area that like Schuylkill County is also a center of heavily polluting waste-coal-burning power plants. In addition, there was discussion of investigating contaminants in the confirmed cluster area. Local oncologist Dr. Paul Roda will write up the "battle plan" and deliver it to Specter’s office by the end of the week.
“I want to get a handle on this and develop an action plan to move ahead with a sense of urgency,” he said.
But at the same time the senator is claiming he wants to help area residents who are suffering disproportionately from cancer, he's pushing a project that will increase his constituent's likelihood of getting the disease.
Interviewed after a town hall meeting held earlier yesterday afternoon at the Penn State Schuylkill campus, Specter told the Republican Herald that he wanted to boost Schuylkill's economy through government support of John W. Rich Jr.’s proposed waste coal-to-oil refinery in Mahanoy Township near Gilberton. The plant would be a new source of cancer-causing pollution in a county that already has a serious toxic pollution problem due to the numerous waste-coal-burning power plants. Schuylkill County has more of these dirty facilities than any other county in the nation.
The state Department of Environmental Protection has permitted Rich's refinery to annually release up to 99.9 tons each of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide and fine particulate matter, as well as 49.9 tons of carcinogenic volatile organic compounds, according to the Energy Justice Network. The facility would also dump into the air each year hundreds of tons of other health-damaging air pollutants -- including 38 pounds of mercury, a known carcinogen and neurotoxin.
Why is Specter pushing for a new heavily polluting facility despite the local area's serious health problems? Campaign finance records offer a clue. The Rich family is a generous contributor to the senator's campaign fund, having donated $10,200 to Specter in 2007 and 2008 alone, according to OpenSecrets.org.