Alec MacGillis has been doing stellar work about some of America’s neglected places, and this piece about a town in Ohio grappling with the imminent closure of a coal-fired power plant is no different:
Lee Anderson, director of governmental affairs at the national Utility Workers Union, has spent years trying to get elected officials around the country to grapple with what’s happening in places such as Adams County. But there’s just no political will, he says. There’s support on the left for public investment in struggling areas, but less so, he says, when it comes to communities that are increasingly voting Republican — Adams County among them — and whose decline is linked to fossil fuels. On the right, he says, there’s no appetite for public investment, period. Not to mention that the scale of the challenge is so huge and the potential solutions so expensive.
But this doesn’t mean inaction is excusable or that it’s enough to tell people to find work elsewhere, Anderson says. “The problem here is trying to treat people like interchangeable widgets,” he says. “They’re not. They’re human beings embedded in communities. We’re forcing cultural and social change on people, and people don’t like that. They don’t move three states away for a hypothetical job. They want to live where they are because their parents are in the same town, and their grandmother is in the next town, and they go to church there. Just picking people up and relocating them, it doesn’t work like that. And on the flip side, even if it did work out for an individual, consider what you left behind: What is the ramification for your family and community, now that you’re gone for good?”