The Unfortunate Reality of Fighting Back

by Megan McDonough

Megan McDonough is the President of Protect ET, the citizen group that has formed to protect their community from the proposed Allegheny Energy Center gas-fired power plant.  We have partnered with Protect ET to object to the issuance of zoning variances for this plant and are pleased to feature Megan’s thoughts in this guest post.

When I was a kid I was taught to live my life with values, integrity and honesty. I truly believed that by doing so I would be rewarded in some mystical, cosmic way with good fortune and a peaceful life. As I grow older I am figuring out that reality is much harsher than I anticipated. Truth is there are people in this world who do not care about the moral and honest life you lead. They do not care about the rights that you have or the family that you hold sacred. There is only one motive, one purpose…money. Money is the seed where deception and cruelty grows. It is not empathetic, it is not honest and it is not kind.


The Youghiogheny River near Elizabeth.

I live in Elizabeth Township. We are a mixed community of rural and suburban residential housing, bordered by the beloved Youghiogheny River. Many have flocked to the area due to the peace and tranquility that is hard to find these days. My family and I have worked hard and sacrificed much in life to be able to call this little piece of the world home. It may be small, it may be average, but it is ours. The fight for my home began early this year against a company called Invenergy LLC and  has been one of the most eye opening experiences of my life. Invenergy is currently proposing to build a 550 MW Combined Cycle Power Plant in our town. Under normal circumstances people may make the assumption that “new business is good business.” However, here’s the catch…Invenergy wants to build the plant in an area zoned for residential use that borders the Yough.

As our voice grows stronger the intimidation and harassment of residents has grown as well. I cannot say for certain who is behind some of the tactics, but I can say that in the decade I have lived in this Township I have never experienced anything like it. Recently, many community members have come forward to tell me they received phone calls about a telephone survey regarding the proposed power plant. The survey questions  are riddled with clearly biased information about how great this will be for us peons, and leads into personal questions as to what political party you are affiliated with, your name, whether you are for or against the proposed plant, whether you would vote for a candidate who favors the proposal. These surveys invade the privacy of residents, lead to misinformation, and leave a bad taste in the mouth of taxpayers… and for what purpose? To somehow sway the “powers-that-be” into submitting to the “good corporation who wishes to be your neighbor”? Those are questions I cannot answer.

Elizabeth Township zoning hearing on the proposed power plant.

Elizabeth Township zoning hearing on the proposed power plant.

Some members of the community who are in opposition to this proposal have had vehicles stopping in front of their residences with pictures being taken of them, their vehicles and their homes. I personally was followed home after our last zoning hearing.  The vehicle following me not only tailgated but found it necessary and appropriate to flash their high beams until I pulled over. Once pulled over there was an eerie pause in the commotion, and I found myself in a situation that many people fear;  blocked in a driveway with nowhere to go and no way of knowing who was in the other vehicle or what may happen.  Fortunately for me, the encounter abruptly ended with the vehicle speeding off into the night. All I had at the time were questions. At what point is this acceptable? What exactly have I done to deserve this kind of treatment? The only answer I can give is that by exercising my rights and having a voice, I have become a nuisance to someone. I had become the equivalent of something you scrape off the bottom of your shoe when it keeps you from walking forward with ease. Myself and my neighbors are no longer human beings, but rather “something that needs to be handled”. In my experience, this is what happens when you question motives. This is what happens when you dare to take a stand for your community and the beloved resources it holds. This is the unfortunate reality of fighting back.

In addition to many other life lessons, I was also taught to look on the bright side. To find that silver lining in every cloud. What is the silver lining here? Simple…our voice is being heard. Harassment, threats and behavior of this kind usually stem from desperation. Desperation to hide an inconvenient truth and silence those willing to expose it. They are the tactics used to wear down their opponent and hope they submit. Fortunately for us, it has done just the opposite. It has given us the validation that we needed to continue down the path we have chosen. It has united a community against corruption and has taught us that you only have as many rights as you are willing to fight for. Most importantly, it has solidified the ideal that for our homes, our families and our future generations…we will fight.