Readers of The Power Line know all about the so-called Kemptown substation that AEP/FE wanted to build in Frederick County, MD. The residents there, largely of European descent and mostly middle class, had enough information about the project to get involved and stop it.
What if a substation is planned for the poorest, largely African-American ward in Charleston, WV?
Basically, no one tells those people anything, until they start asking questions. Because local residents didn’t know anything about the project until it was being built, it is far too late to even change the design.
Here is the story from today’s Charleston Gazette about the substation AEP’s Appalachian Power dropped into the middle of one of the poorest neighborhoods in Charleston. Even though AEP had to show the plans to CURA, the city’s urban renewal authority, CURA didn’t bother to consult anyone in the community either. CURA’s only action was to get AEP to use a wood fence instead of a chain link fence. As you can see from the photo accompanying the Gazette article, that didn’t quite “hide” the industrial facility.
Two community leaders interviewed for the article describe exactly what happens to a community, especially one where people struggle with poverty and powerlessness every day, when corporations exercise absolute power:
Watts and Ealy say no one — from CURA or APCO — consulted with the neighborhood.
“In the 2000 Census, this was considered the poorest ward,” Ealy said. “To be honest, people don’t ask poor folks a lot of questions. They just impose their will.
“The folks in CURA, they didn’t sit down with the community to see what we wanted. With CURA, how many of them live here?
“I really don’t think anybody but AEP knew what they were going to do. Because of that, nobody knew what to ask. One thing is sure, nobody but AEP knew what it was going to look like.
“I’m sure they did a feasibility study, but it certainly didn’t help the appearance of the community.
“We can’t fight AEP. There’s no fighting it. We’re not trying to get them to tear it down, but try to enhance the way it looks, maybe make the fence higher.”
The project reinforces the notion that neighbors have no voice, Ealy said.
“It takes away their desire to get involved. That’s the thing we have to change. This applies to a whole lot of other things in the community. You would think people would get involved. But when community meetings are announced, people think there’s no reason to go out.”