For the current Speaker of the House, John Boehner (R-OH), American democracy is simpler than representing the people who vote for him. Instead of fighting for jobs and health in his district, Boehner will just spend money to polish his image in 2012. He has made a decision to collect vast sums of money from industry polluters outside his district who couldn’t care less about the 8th district of Ohio.
Boehner has always taken money from coal polluters, but very little compared to other politicians. In 2003 Boenher took only $25,000 from fossil fuel interests. That’s far less than Representative Ed Markey (D-MA) took in 2009 when he was pushing the failed Waxman-Markey climate legislation. In the last election cycle Boehner took over $300,000.
This year, Boehner has already collected over $1.5 million from the coal industry alone. He apparently takes money from any coal company that will pay, like Oxbow Corp., a mining operation owned by a William Koch in Florida.
In Boehner’s district as many people die from coal-fired power as people who work in it.
There are only two small, but very dirty, coal plants in his district. Hamilton Municipal Electric Plant in Hamilton, OH pollutes the economically-disadvantaged community of about 53 homes with heavy metals like mercury and cadmium. Hamilton employs as few as 50 people. Together with Piqua Municipal Power Plant, pollution from these two coal plants kills 27 of Boehner’s constituents per year, and costs his district $7.3 million just by causing bronchitis. Piqua employs 5-9 people.
Hutchings Station is a large coal plant surrounded by Boehner’s district. Hutching’s pollution kills 45 people per year. Hutchings causes 740 asthma attacks every year, sending 44 people to the emergency room. Hutchings Station is only 9 miles away from a John XXIIII elementary school filled with children of Boehner’s voters.
American Electric Power (AEP), on the other hand, is 60 miles from Boehner’s district. First Energy, another polluter in Ohio who has no political stake in Boehner’s district, defended Boehner receiving large contributions from American Electric Power because “AEP is based in Ohio.”
There are more jobs in wind and solar in Ohio than in coal-fired power – a ratio of 5:4. Renewable energy installers in Ohio abound, including companies in Boehner’s district like Extreme Solar in Hamilton, OH.
Speaker Boehner may argue that he has more responsibility now, as leader of the House of Representatives. But he can’t stay Speaker if the 8th district of Ohio realizes he’s forgotten them.
And what goes for the 8th district of Ohio goes for the country. Coal costs America far more than it gives, to the tune of half a trillion dollars per year. Hospital visits and lost economic opportunity are the outcome of Speaker Boehner’s quid pro quo with profiteer polluters like AEP and First Energy. Wind and solar also provide more jobs than coal, even when including mining for America as a whole.
But, for Boehner, coal pays.