Call me paranoid.
After September 11, I became active in the efforts to close the two Indian Point nuclear reactors in Westchester County, NY. Having seen the impossible two blocks from my office in lower Manhattan, I imagined the unthinkable at the plant, near my home, just 40 miles from Ground Zero in the most densely populated region of the country (20 million people within 50-mile radius of the plant).
Others were paranoid too, realistic even. The Indian Point Safe Energy Coalition (IPSEC), a coalition of more than 70 groups, formed to close the plant and promote safe and renewable energy. In his State of the Union address in January 2002, President Bush said that diagrams of U.S. nuclear plants had been found with terrorists in Afganistan. IPSEC rallied support from citizens and officials in the Hudson Valley, NYC, Connecticut, and New Jersey; 52 municipalities, 13 community boards, and over 400 public officials (including 11 members of Congress), have called for the closure of Indian Point. A report commissioned by NY State in 2002 and conducted by former FEMA head James Lee Witt and Associates concluded that the Evacution Plan's "system and capabilities . . .are not adequate to . . .protect the people from an unacceptable dose of radiation in the event of a release from Indian Point." Hardly a suprise to anyone who's tried to escape from Westchester during rush hour, even without a radiation release.
Entergy, the owners of the plant, felt threatened. Their income -- reportedly $2.3 million per day -- was at risk. What do large corporations do when their core business is at risk from political and public pressure? They turn on the public relations machine, and Entergy has used all the tricks. They:
1) Hired PR powerhouse Burson-Marstellar, best known for defending Union Carbide after Bhopal, as well as human rights violations by totalitarian regimes around the world;
2)Spent millions on campaign contributions and lobbying (see this report by Common Cause and this article,"Radioactive Money 2005," by Daniel Wolff);
3) Hired 9/11 hero Rudy Giuliani as a security consultant even though he had no expertise in nuclear reactor security;
4) Sponsored forums, contributed to various charities, and began massive advertising campaign including NY Yankees radio targeting general public -- even though consumers do not buy directly from Entergy;
5) Created a phony "grass roots" campaign using a front group that was targeted at black, hispanic and low-income communities;
6) Removed "nuclear" from the plant's name and began calling it the "Indian Point Energy Center" (not suprising from an industry that calls nuclear power "clean" even though it creates perhaps the most toxic waste on the planet); and
7) Claimed the plant was "safe" even though it has been plagued with safety issues since it went online in the 70's, and it currently has radioactive leaks from unknown sources.
(For more details on Entergy's public relations efforts on Indian Point, see this excellent article by Riverkeeper's Lisa Rainwater van Suntum)
* * *
So last week, I blogged a story about a new solar panels on Town Hall and a Green Energy Fair in the Town of Greenburgh, where I live. The Town and people of Greenburgh have been extremely supportive of the efforts to close the plant. I posted the story also last Tuesday to the several listservs for people interested in closing the nuclear plant (which apparently have some Entergy molelurkers). On Wednesday, I looked at my web tracking software and I noticed a curious notation:
Arkansas, Russellville, United States, 0 returning visits
10th May 2006 09:58:37 AM nylawline.typepad.com/greencounsel/
[Arriving From:] www.alltheweb.com/search?advanced=1&cat=web&jsact=&_stype=norm&type=phrase&q=stephen filler&itag=crv&_b_query=&l=en&ics=utf-8&cs=utf8&wf%5Bn%5D
Hmmm, apparently someone from an Entergy Corporation office in Arkansas (their headquaters are there) had used my name as search parameters from the "Alltheweb.com" search engine.
I also had sent my post about the Greenburgh Energy Fair as a letter to the editor to the Journal News, the local Gannett paper that has devoted a large amount of coverage, editorials, and letters on Indian Point over the years. I was told that on Thursday my letter would run, and so it did. The Journal News posts letters on line, and when I found mine, in small print on the left part of the screen, I smiled. But then I saw it, the large lumbering animated gif to right (you can see it to the right and above, on this page right now) drawing it's attention away from my words, just telling me, assuring me, italically insisting how safe I feel (if you visit the site, you may have to "refresh" a few times to see it, the ads alternate).
Coincidence? Well, I don't think Entergy targeted my specific letter to the editor, but they know that the letters to the editor section has had dozens, maybe hundreds, of letters from people who want the plant closed. Clearly Entergy is placing their ads in places that might negate the sentiment of the writers.
So how about it, now that you know more, do you feel safer? Or is really time to renew the xanax prescription?
IPSEC is gathering forces to stop Entergy’s anticipated bid to re-license Indian Point for an additional 20 years. To contribute, write letters, or join the efforts, go here.