“I never dreamed that all the farmland surrounding my house would be purchased by a billion-dollar industry to build Guernsey Power Station and that my forever home would become one of the most dangerous and toxic places to raise my family,” writes Janie Moore from Byesville, Ohio.
Janie Moore wants her story to be written so that people can understand the devastation and negative impacts that power plants cause to residents’ health and the environment, not to mention the fear and heartbreak. She does not want what has happened to her to happen to anyone else. She believes that her story can help others oppose and stop proposed power plants in other communities.
Why should you care about someone who lives in Ohio? The same thing that has happened to Janie could have happened in Burrillville, Rhode Island. It could happen again here. It is happening all over the country. We must learn from Janie’s story…
Janie Moore and her family have remained in the path of a gigantic, 1,650 MW (nameplate capacity of 1,875 MWs), fracked gas, 3-General-Electric-turbine, combined cycle power plant in Byesville, Guernsey County, Ohio. Guernsey Power Station (GPS), has been approved by the Ohio Power Siting Board and is currently under its first phase of construction as you read this. The construction began at the end of September. During operations, it will emit seven million tons of carbon dioxide per year as well as hundreds of tons per year of nitrous oxides, sulfur dioxides, particulate matter, volatile organic compounds, carbon monoxide, sulfuric acid and Hazardous Air Pollutants (including arsenic, lead, mercury, benzene, formaldehyde, and other cancer-causing chemicals). (This is twice the emissions of Invenergy’s Clear River Energy Center.) According to its application, GPS will use an average of over 441,000 gallons per day of pristine drinking water purchased from the Byesville Water Department. This monster will be commissioned and operational by 2022. There will be at least 33 continuous months of construction. This monster is more dangerous than Invenergy’s which would have/may still be built in northwestern Rhode Island. (If not Invenergy, another power plant company could.)
Janie Moore is an abutter – her property is RIGHT NEXT to the power plant’s property line – not 1,500 feet or 500 feet from the power plant’s property line – RIGHT NEXT to it. Think about that for a minute.
THERE WAS NO ORGANIZED OPPOSITION AGAINST THE POWER PLANT. NONE. Janie tried to get her neighbors to help, but they were too afraid of the multi-billion-dollar fossil fuel company… they did not want to get involved. Think about that for a minute too.
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When asked for Janie’s bio, this is what she wrote:
“I am a mother of 3 children. I grew up in Guernsey County in Byesville, Ohio on a little dead-end dirt road called Seneca Lane. In 1985, my 100-year-old farm house that first belonged to my grandparents was gutted with only the beams standing. I handed my father the last nail and board, finishing the rebuilding. In 1999, I purchased my first new mobile home and situated it right behind the old farm house. I knew it was my forever home…where I would grow old. I believed I would watch my children and grandchildren play in the same backyard under the same tree that I once played. I knew that I’d be watching from the same kitchen window that my grandparents and parents once watched me. I never dreamed that all the farmland surrounding my house would be purchased by a billion-dollar industry to build Guernsey Power Station and that my forever home would become one of the most dangerous and toxic places to raise my family.”
All fossil fuel companies lie – either outright or by omission. They all have the same playbook – find a rural, poor town/township/village/city that has a natural gas pipeline and transmission lines close by; quietly, secretly buy up or lease hundreds of acres of land; contact the community/local/state governments – promising tax revenue and jobs; holding public informational meetings in order to spread nonsensical, misinformation; and lastly, using “scare tactics” by stating that older, dirtier power plants (which may or may not be retired) would indeed be retired SOON – “you won’t have electricity” tactics.
We, in Rhode Island, know this to be true because our battle with Invenergy.
Natural gas, combined cycle power plants are being proposed all over the country. Some of these power plants are approved and are built while others are denied and are not built. One of the main reasons that power plants (and other natural gas infrastructures) are denied is large, “SOLID” ORGANIZED PUBLIC OPPOSITION.
Not all municipal governments in the country have the courage nor the scientific knowledge in order to see past the “shiny objects” that power plants dangle. Most of the communities where power plants are proposed are poor and need the tax revenue. These communities’ councils/commissions believe the power plants’ lies. (Of course, it is also possible that there are municipal/state governments that are completely corrupt.) The rural nature of these towns/townships/villages makes it almost impossible for the citizens to organize to oppose the power plants with efficiency. And, of course, the power plant companies depend on this. Guernsey Power Station took advantage of Byesville’s rural and poor community. The township, county and state jumped for the chance to be the host community – jobs and tax revenue.
Guernsey County is located in the southeastern part of Ohio. It is sitting in the Appalachian foothills. According to research, Guernsey County is 37 percent agricultural/farmland, 45percent forested/open space, 9percent residential, 7percent industrial and 2percent commercial. Byesville is an agricultural community in Guernsey County. It has a population of approximately 2,400 residents and has an area of approximately 1.2 square miles. It is a very poor community with 15percent of its population below the poverty threshold. (In 2018, the USA poverty threshold for a family of four was $25,400.) According to the 2000 census, the median income for a family was $35,690.
Briefly, this is the history of Guernsey Power Station. The power plant is being built by Apex Power Group, LLC and Caithness Energy, LLC. It was docketed by the Ohio Power Siting Board in March 2017 and was approved twice – the first time for it to be an approved 1,100 MW power plant in October 2017 and the second time (an amendment to increase its MW capacity to 1,650 MWs) in March 2018. It received its Army Corp of Engineering Wetlands Permit in February of 2018 and its Modified Air Permit was approved by the Ohio EPA (state environmental agency) in October 2018. The thing that should be noted here is that it only took seven months for the power plant to be approved by the OPSB!
Apex Power Group, LLC and Caithness Energy, LLC held two public informational meetings that residents attended – one in January 2017 and one at the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce in February 2017. Apex put on quite a show, highlighting the tax dollars and jobs, of course, and not one word about air pollution emissions. The Ohio Power Siting Board held a public hearing on August 15, 2017. Only two or three residents spoke out against GPS. The venue was packed by businesses and unions who were proponents of the power plant. Janie was one of those residents who opposed it. There were only a handful of written public comments in the Ohio Power Siting Board GPS’s docket. Janie wrote two of them – in opposition. The rest were written by proponents. There were no other public hearings held by the Ohio Power Siting Board. This is what the OPSB’s “Opinion, Order, and Certificate” (where OPSB approved GPS) stated concerning the August 2017 public hearing and the written public comments received (page 4-5):
“On August 15, 2017, the local public hearing was held. At the hearing, 17 witnesses testified. Several letters were additionally filed in the docket. A majority of the witnesses were in favor of the project and discussed the positive economic impact the project would have on the local community. Witnesses in support of the project included county citizens, elected officials, and representatives from local businesses, unions, and school districts. Those testified in opposition to the project expressed concerns regarding the possible polluting effects created by the facility. Additionally, written comments from a family that lives next to the proposed facility expressed concerns about the project. Specifically, the family questioned the impact the facility would have on local lakes and rivers, including Seneca Lake, a local tourist attraction. They also addressed whether pollution from the facility would affect the local air quality and the local water table. Overall, the family was worried that the project might be too large for such a small community and whether the project would actually bring all the economic benefits that others in the community were expecting.”
Janie Moore was that “family.”
Also, in that OPSB “Opinion, Order, and Certificate,” on page 11, it states:
“Staff states the construction and operation of the facility will be in compliance with all safety regulation and industry standards. GPS has worked with the community in developing the project, having held informational meetings and meetings with local public officials. GPS plans on continuing to engage with the public before, during, and after construction of the facility.”
Although GPS had one informational meeting with the public and one informational meeting with the Chamber of Commerce of Cambridge, GPS has NOT engaged with the public before the construction, nor has it done so for the last month of actual construction. No agency is watching.
The state of Ohio, Valley Township, Byesville, and Guernsey County governments (included elected officials) WANTED this monster power plant to be built in order to gain “economic benefits” – jobs and tax revenues (as you read in the quote from the OPBS above). There were no comments from the state environmental agency (Ohio EPA) or the Guernsey County Health Department. It is obvious that the state agencies believed the “misinformation” in GPS’s application. (As we know, all state regulations are written to make it easy for power plants to be sited.) Once this happens, the residents have no “say,” especially when there is no organized opposition.
GPS offered the school district $42M over the span of 30 years. The School District was thrilled and took the deal – not even wondering or questioning about the health of its students who would attend public schools within miles of the polluting power plant. “The Rolling Hills Local Board of Education unanimously approved an agreement Tuesday between the district and the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission that, with one stipulation, will help fund construction of new facilities.”
“That money would be the district’s match to OFCC funds from the state.” There was no “decommissioning agreement” or “host agreement” or “property value agreement” signed by the township and GPS – at least not that can be found.
Two years ago, Guernsey Power Station’s company offered the abutters an “option to buy” package. It offered Janie and her father less than ¼ the value of the property on which her 100-year old family farmhouse and mobile home sit. Janie and her father said “no” because they trusted the process – that the environmental/health agencies would do the right thing and because they could not afford the financial “hit.” Most of their neighbors took the offer and left. Their houses were demolished. Only a handful of other residents turned down the power plant’s offer.
As far as GPS’s application goes, it is riddled with multiple contradictions and misinformation. There was only one mention of hydrogen and the application calls it “hydrogen bottles” instead of “hydrogen tube trailers.” Of course, there is no “blast radius” study which would have shown the devastation of a natural gas or hydrogen gas (or combined) explosion and the blast zone. The volume of water used by GPS continues to state an average of 441,000 gallons per day, but according to a diagram and upon calculations, the volume should be three times larger – which, by the way, Byesville Water Department cannot deliver. The biodiversity study is “lame” and incomplete. The noise levels written in the application are incorrect–there is no way that the “estimates” can be as low as GPS states. (There are no noise ordinances in the township, county or even the state of Ohio.) The air emission model is a 5-mile radius circle surrounding the “project.” This does NOT mean that anyone outside that radius is safe from toxic emissions. The Hazardous Air Pollutants (arsenic, lead, etc) are not included in the air emission model. (Please note that this is not required by state and federal agencies. This does NOT mean, however, that these HAP emissions are not dangerous.) There is too much more to include here.
Within a span of one day, the beautiful farmland surrounding Janie’s home has become a hazardous construction site:
For over a month, the power plant has been drilling into and “grouting” the abandoned coal mines under which it will sit. Yes, you read that correctly…Guernsey Power Station will sit on top of a massive swath of abandoned coal mines – specifically, Puritan Coal mines. (Sound familiar? It should – Invenergy’s Lackawanna Energy Center, 1,500 MW power plant in Jessup, Pennsylvania did the same thing with on-going “consequences.”) According to GPS, the drilling and “grouting” will continue for approximately six months. Basically, GPS’s construction company, Gemma, is drilling down into those coal mines in order to fill them with cement. As a result, the air is thick with silica dust and has been for over a month. Janie Moore’s family is breathing that silica dust. Janie and her family are using dust masks, but the silica dust is so prevalent that it is impossible not to breathe in. (Silica is a very common compound on Earth. The danger occurs when it is disturbed by grouting, drilling and construction. Inhaling silica dust is can cause “silicosis” which is an incurable lung disease that can lead to disability and death, lung cancer, chromic COPD, and kidney disease.) It has coated her home, her car, and, at times, it is three inches thick on her property and beyond. When it rains, the silica dust becomes solid and encases everything. The hazardous dust has penetrated her home. It is everywhere. Janie has tried to find the places where the silica dust enters her home and has plugged those places, but it still enters. Janie tries to keep up with cleaning it, but it is an almost impossible task. Even in her home, she and her family wear dust masks.
Three weeks ago, Janie had to take her three-year old daughter to the ER recently for breathing problems. She has taken her daughter out of pre-school due to the dangers of breathing the dust which is so much worse outside. Her father (who lives with Janie) has a respiratory disease (COPD) and must use oxygen 24/7. The traffic is horrific on her road, causing unbearable noise, unhealthy diesel fumes, and road dust.
A Facebook friend sent the Ohio EPA (the state environmental agency) an email in order to get some help for Janie. It is unknown if the email had an impact, but a few days later, GPS contacted her to tell her that they would pay for her family to stay at a nearby hotel because the dust emissions were going to be worse for next three days. Janie, of course, took GPS up on their offer and quickly packed up her family and went to the hotel. When she returned to her home three days later, she was horrified at what she saw. A large memorial pine tree had been cut down. It had sat on her property for 22 years. Janie was completely heartbroken and she cried for hours. There was nothing that she could do.
“Arriving home late Saturday night after GPS put my family up in a hotel for three days due to safety,” said Janie about the above photo. “Road construction was supposed to take place. Clearly, it was not. I guess they just wanted to cut my pine tree down at the end of my driveway… The tree meant a lot to me. It was just not a tree. It was a memory of my son’s first day of pre-K. He brought that tree home and walked down and planted it together. Those who know me understand my son passed on at 17 years of age… so the tree was a memory I held dear to me.”
Then the termites came – hundreds of thousands. It is believed that the drilling has disturbed their nests. The termites are everywhere! There are also hundreds of thousands of other insects that have been disturbed by the construction. Jane and her family cannot go outside – between the insect infestation and the silica dust.
“Today was so freaky,” said Janie. “I stepped outside on my dad’s porch and hundreds of bugs in a matter of minutes appeared and were covering my dad’s little deck. I started to kill them and noticed that they were all in the air coming over the fence where the destruction and construction is being done there. There are large numbers – thousands! They seem to be heading for the roof. I think they are termites and from what I’ve read they can do a lot of damage to structures. They also seem to be going into the ground.”
A week ago, the silica dust contaminated her drinking water well. She realized this after she gave her three-year-old daughter a bath and drained the bathtub. There was a thick gray mass that clogged the drain. It was silica dust. And, to make matters even worse, just a few days ago, her drinking water groundwater well has completely drained. Janie had felt a vibration from the drilling less than 100 feet from the well. She and her family have no drinking water. (And NO, it is not the pump.) It is obvious that GPS’s drilling/grouting stage of construction has compromised her well and perhaps the aquifer itself. Her father has been pouring clean drinking water from another source into the shallow well and within two hours, the water has drained. She has contacted GPS several times and she has yet to hear back from them.
“The silica dust is everywhere! It has penetrated in my house,” said Janie. “And, NOW it is in my drinking water! I am so afraid for my family… I don’t understand why no one will help me. I have called GPS and no one returns my calls.”
“Totally surrounded by pollution coming from every direction today,” said Janie. “Can’t get out.”
At this point, her Facebook friends emailed the Ohio EPA (state environmental agency), the Guernsey County Health Department, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, the Valley Township local government, the Federal EPA Region 5 for that region, the GPS Director of Construction, and even the Ohio Chapter of the Sierra Club. The state agencies called Janie and, basically, passed the buck to other state agencies. The only agency that offered help was the Federal EPA which understood that the lack of drinking water was an emergency. This has to repeated: It is possible that the Phase 1 Construction (drilling and grouting the abandoned coal mines) have compromised the aquifer in the whole township. And yet, no state agency has called Janie in order to investigate. What are these state agencies afraid of?
“You are getting lied to when they say power plants are clean energy,” said Janie. “Power plants are allowed to kill off so much wildlife and so much plant-life, but what got me was when human life was also listed. There’s no hiding from it [silica dust] anymore. There’s nothing you can do to keep it from seeping in the cracks of your home, cars, and clothes. We stepped out the door to grab a tiny piece of sunshine today.”
Last week, while waiting for help, Janie took her daughter to the pediatrician due to acute respiratory problems. The doctor ordered X-rays after listening to her daughter’s lungs and hearing about the power plant’s close proximity to her home and the silica dust emissions. After the X-rays were taken, the pediatrician found a “spot” on a lobe of her daughter’s lungs. The doctor has an appointment for Janie’s daughter to see a pulmonary specialist. Janie is afraid of what that spot is. She is a wreck.
“It is outrageous that my family has to wear dust masks every day,” said Janie. “We still cough and have trouble breathing. This is my three-year-old daughter in the back seat while I drove her to the pediatrician’s office. God help us!”
Janie is living a nightmare!
So, you may ask, “Why didn’t Janie Moore take GPS’s ‘buy-out’ offer two years ago when it was offered to the abutters?” She said “no” because there was still hope. At the time of GPS’s offer, it had not received the Ohio State Air Permit or the Army Corp of Engineering Wetlands Permit. Also, GPS had not received the financing to build. Janie hoped all along that GPS’s permits would be denied and that the power plant would not receive the finances. She trusted the process. Later on, in the summer of 2018, although she knew that the power plant had been approved by the Ohio Power Siting Board and that GPS’s permits had been approved, Janie still held onto hope because the power plant had not yet received its financing in order to build.
Then, in August of this year, GPS received the financing from Caithness Energy, LLC out of New York. Any hope that Janie had held on to was completed crushed. The construction began just days after the financing was final.
Janie does not have the money to pay an attorney to negotiate with GPS. (The original “buy-out””offer is no longer “on the table.”) With the help of a Facebook friend, Janie has contacted an organization that may be able to help her by negotiating a reasonable “buy-out deal.” If this is successful, Janie will be able to save her family from MORE health issues by moving out of the polluting monster’s shadow. Even if Janie and her family move, there has already been PROVED health damage to her daughter. Other health ramifications are not yet known – but will be soon. But, still, Janie is heartbroken. When and if she moves – her 100-year old farmhouse, once inhabited by her grandparents, will be demolished. Janie KNOWS that they only thing left is for her to move. It is the only way for survival.
How you can help? Frankly, there is nothing that can be done… except to pray for Janie and her family. (You can also hope that the Federal EPA Region 5 discovers that GPS has compromised the aquifer that supplies drinking water not only to Janie, but to the entire Valley Township. If that is the case, Guernsey Power Station will NOT be built.)
So please remember Janie and her family, living in the heartland of Ohio, breathing in the silica dust and living without drinking water and waiting for a miracle. They are prisoners in their home…at least for now. And remember: This horrific ordeal could be yours…
“Don’t trust the process,” said Janie. “Your local/state governments want the tax dollars. They are not concerned about residents’ health nor are they concerned about the environment. The power plant companies know the laws. Their applications will be written in order to comply with these laws whether or not the information is true – and most of the time, the information is NOT true. Don’t believe the ‘spew’ that power plant companies publish and write. Those power plant companies only want one thing – money. The most important thing is to organize and learn about the dangers of these power plants. Go to your local municipality monthly meetings. Don’t let what is happening to my precious family happen to yours. God bless you!”