Russell Anderson Responds

Received this morning; see What is Fiery Roots? and Paulk interrogates Noll for backstory. -jsq
From: Russ Anderson
Date: Wed, 19 Jan 2011 10:18:02 -0500
Subject: Russell Anderson responses to article about Fiery Roots and Commissioner Paulk Accusations

Dear L.A.K.E.,

My name is Russell Anderson. Thank you for taking an interest in the Wiregrass LLC Biomass incinerator issue and my affiliated organization I am writing today with hopes of clarifying a few things.

First, I’m glad to see there is such an effort as L.A.K.E. in the Lowndes area. L.A.K.E appears to use strategies that could be modeled by other communities seeking a more informed population. Information sharing is critical to achieving a more just and equitable world. The objective of our organization is simply to share the narratives of community struggles, solutions, and efforts in hopes of creating better channels of communication and resource sharing between communities dealing with justice issues. Any similarities to LAKE’s efforts to “Cover the planners to connect the dots” are nothing more than pleasant coincidence.

Hopefully, as our website develops from its infancy, our mission will become more apparent in the content. We have interviewed people across the country to uncover ways that people working for justice can be more connected and,

thus, more effective. Ideally will be an effort that helps facilitate dialogue across a myriad of issues that are symptoms of larger systemic problems within our society. We seek to expose people to websites, organizations, media, and tools that will put the power into their hands to make positive impacts within their community.

We are neither politically affiliated, nor politically motivated. We are grassroots funded, and run by my partner, a couple volunteers, and myself. Despite apparent similarities between our “Firing up the Grassroots” slogan and Obama’s presidential campaign slogans, we are not in any way affiliated with, or spinning off of, the Obama campaign. The similarity is coincidental and unintended.

Many passionate people spend a lot of time and energy fighting immediate local threats because, well… that is what you have to do when dealing with things that will potentially impact your community or well-being. You will find tens of dozens of communities at any given time with very similar problems. This creates activist “burnout” and very long grassroots and legal battles. With the right networks and formulas many of these efforts could potentially be supported in more efficient and effective ways. As an organization, we want to try to help work out some of those pathways to progress.

Now, as for the email I sent to the commissioners that started Ashely Paulk’s claims of “veiled threats.” Foremost, I apologize for any perceived threats, as that was not my intent. The tone of that email stemmed from my headstrong mentality and frustrations towards the paternalistic attitudes of Mr. Lofton and Mr. Paulk’s public statements regarding this Incineration plant. So far as Mr. Paulk going on record to say “its done, move on” to the readers of the Valdosta Daily Times, as if there were absolutely no other options. When there are still many legitimate concerns about health impacts of this project, I believe that the onus should fall on them to ensure that industry brought into Lowndes County is safe and uses the best possible technology to keep toxins out of the air and water. Thousands of people in hundreds of communities share my concerns across this country and internationally.

Admittedly I am a 25 year old, idealistic, ambitious, quick to respond, white male. Like many of my breed I am still learning finesse and diplomacy. My comments are my own and are not affiliated with anyone or any entity but myself.

It was presumptuous to include the Langdales in that email. However, I stand by the decision, as they could be easily be one of the primary providers of timber for the plant. As proclaimed stewards and professionals, it is important for all potential parties to know what they are (potentially) getting into early on. This plant is projected to use 750,000 gallons of water a day and 640,000 tons of wood a year, (over a ton a minute). It is important to share that information for accurate industrial projections of cumulative resource needs and impacts as this decision will affect Lowndes Co. for decades to come.

My motives are to simply attempt to help support the health of Lowndes County residents and our environment. To compare me to the person that committed this atrocious crime [edit: see “we got off on the wrong foot.” for context] is slanderous and a defamation of my character. Such words and perceptions are what started the long legal battle and subsequent lawsuit against Dr. Zaccari that resulted from the improper expulsion of Mr. Hayden Barnes from VSU. Mr Paulk may think I have a hidden agenda, but I personally don’t have anything to gain or lose from the building of this plant.

I was rather surprised that Mr. Paulk has such a poor opinion of me even after hearing me speak at County Commissioners meeting on {12/14/10} where I told him and the rest of the commissioners about the basis of my concerns. To refresh you on my comments I have attached a typed copy of my testimony from that evening. I was more surprised when he apparently attempted to deny Dr. Michael Noll of the Wiregrass Activist for Clean Energy his first amendment rights allegedly due to my email, though we share similar concerns. I do not, nor have I ever, claimed to speak on behalf of Dr. Noll and my comments have no affiliation with him or W.A.C.E.

Lastly, I would like to share my surprise and dismay when Brad Lofton of the Industrial Authority told me on January 13th after the W.A.C.E sponsored educational meeting that the hour and fifteen minutes of testimony by experts on the human health, environmental, economic, and toxicological impacts of this plant did nothing to influence his opinion and that he did not believe any of the information that was presented, despite the credentials of the panelists, was true. Such blatant disregard for science and apparent disdain for real debate is alarming and cause for major concern. Anyone who is so set in his or her opinion is not able to make the most informed decision and motive does come into question.

Biomass plants, from all the valid reference material I have seen (EPA, American Lung Association, Energy Justice Network, and many other sources), are not healthy for communities. They appear to be yet another ploy to exploit tax loopholes and make fast money, without actually in practice benefitting the local community. The limited jobs, documented negative health impacts, and levels of water and timber consumption in our drought-plagued region all present immediate flags. With all of our concern over our health and environment, are we expected to simply accept dioxin exposure as our future? If these plants are so wonderful, then why are they battled so heavily in so many communities?

I hope you all will look to our website <> and youtube <> for the video from the community education meeting this past Thursday night. It should be posted by Friday, January 21st.

In closing, I recognize that my email to the commissioners was a poor reflection on my organization In the future, I will strive to maintain a more journalistic and tactful approach. This issue is so close to home, and really just got me riled up. I graduated from VSU and have built a strong community of allies and friends in Valdosta. I know how these industrial “dog and pony” shows go. They stick to their talking points and the bottom line always comes down to money. We have to re-think the “bottom line” to better incorporate the very tangible health and ecological impacts that are often considered “externalities” if we are to move into a cleaner, more just future.

Many thanks,

Russell Anderson

* I hope you all will post this reply to your webspace to clarify the misinformation and assumptions made about me and my affiliated organization.


The Fiery Roots U.S.A. Project

The attached document and other related items are on the LAKE site under topics, biomass, Fiery Roots. -jsq

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