Last Sunday's Post-Journal editorial made several claims about the Sierra Club. The Post-Journal got one thing right last week: the Sierra Club is hiring an organizer in Western New York. Rest assured, however, that members of the Sierra Club do not want the Jamestown Board of Public Utilities (BPU) shut down. In fact, regular readers know that I was quoted in this paper on Sept. 20, 2011, (''Group Pitches Alternative Energy") saying exactly that. Your lights are not going to turn off and your electric or heating bills are not going to go up because of us-in fact, they're likely to go down.
The 1.4 million members and activists of the Sierra Club are just like you, and some of us are your neighbors. We hope our children will be able to explore and enjoy the outdoor spaces that we treasure. We're also worried that the air our children breathe while they're outside or the water they drink might make them sick because of pollution-and it does sometimes, even in Jamestown.
It is a sad fact that too many of our children-around six million nationwide-suffer from asthma and other respiratory diseases. Unfortunately, over four thousand asthma suffers die of the disease every year. One of the causes of asthma sufferers' trips to the hospital when they have trouble breathing is air pollution from burning coal. In fact, pollution from coal-fired power plants like Jamestown's contributes to four out of the five leading causes of death in the United States: heart disease, strokes, respiratory diseases and cancer.
Pollution from coal-fired power plants is a serious health threat - and it's a threat that hits close to home. Recent air pollution modeling from the Jamestown plant, which The Post-Journal reported about on Dec. 11 (''Study Says BPU Not Meeting EPA Guides"), shows that the coal burning units at the Jamestown plant have the potential to cause unhealthy and dangerous levels of air pollution. Nobody wants that.
Fortunately, there are other options for Jamestown. As The Post-Journal pointed out, at least two of Jamestown's coal-burning units are shutting down. Instead of burning coal, the BPU has the ability to use natural gas to provide heating services downtown. Beyond that switch, the BPU can help you lower the energy bills at your home or business by supporting investments in better, more efficient and advanced appliances, lights, and equipment. If the BPU wants to build new electricity generation, the cheaper choices are clean energy options like wind and solar. Over the last seven years, 166 proposed coal plants have been canceled while more than 20,000 MW of wind and solar has come online. Today Iowa and South Dakota get 20% of their total electricity from wind power-and residents of those states have continued to pay consistent rates on their energy bills. What is working in other areas can work for Jamestown too.
The best way to ensure cleaner air, affordable power and healthy families in Jamestown is to make your voices heard. The BPU is a municipal utility-it belongs to you. It is you and your neighbors who will decide if the BPU invests in energy efficiency and clean energy. Members of the BPU Board, appointed by City Council members you elected, have paid a consultant hundreds of thousands of dollars over the last 6 months to prepare a plan to meet your electric needs for the next 20 years. Because some concerned Jamestown residents who want nothing but the best for their community took the time to show up and ask some questions, you now have the opportunity to comment on that plan.
Maybe it is about time the BPU asked you what you want. This is definitely your time to tell them. Why not join your neighbors and go to the next board meeting on March 20 at 12:30 p.m. to do so in person?