The sight of smoke coming out of the power plant’s smokestacks in January startled the locals. The corruption-plagued CPV in Wawayanda, NY remained unconnected to the pipeline that would be its fuel source. The company was trucking in diesel, it turned out, to run start-up tests. As tests continued through spring, neighbors felt the full force of what it means to live next to a 650-megawatt power plant. Erica LeBow, claims adjuster and Alexander LeBow Middletown, NYAlexander: First it smelled like burnt.Erica: We didn’t know what the smell was. About six months ago, one of our neighbors in the building over, somebody fell asleep with a cigarette and burned the building down. So that is a fear in a complex like that. I thought the place was on fire. I love Middletown. That city saved me, personally. I love being there, I love what they have to offer. I grew up here, all my friends are here, I’ve maintained friendships for 25 years. The people here are unlike anybody else I’ve ever met. It’s beautiful. I want to raise my family here. I’m afraid of getting sick, afraid of getting cancer, afraid of my child getting cancer. I’m scared of mutations, you know when you’re exposed to radon, things mutate. Alexander: I’m mostly afraid of poisonous things, poisonous berries or snake venom or that power plant. And mosquito bites. You know what I do? I just itch around them. Erica: I’m scared to breathe this stuff in. I just don’t want to breathe it in. I go for walks, I run, I’m training for a marathon. My first full marathon is in 13 days, and I have not been able to go outside for the last two months because of this, I don’t want to breathe it in. I’m scared to breathe in what’s in the air, and that’s a horrible way to live. And I don’t want to leave, I can’t move. I can’t afford to just… and for that to be people’s response to our concerns? If you don’t like it just leave? I care about this place. It’s just been mind-blowing the last three weeks. Melissa Toomey-Martens, momMiddletown, NYWe trusted our elected officials to put our health and safety first, but the short term profits of special interests became more important than the wellbeing of the public. Everybody is passing the buck. How was the little Town Board of Wawayanda given the power to affect the lives of people in a 50-mile radius? What about our right to clean air and water? Do our lives and safety not matter? It is a terrible betrayal.Alison Echevarria, music teacher Middletown, NYWe love where we live but CPV has definitely made us question if this is where we want to stay. The potential environmental risks from it aren’t worth it. And it could lower our property value once word gets out.Bonnie Gaspar, retired teacher, beekeeper-artist-soapmakerSlate Hill, NYOn the way here to the [Warwick winter famers] market, I drove from Slate Hill to Pine Island and saw nothing but barns and farms and horses and cows. It’s just so exciting. I’m from Bergen County, NJ where it’s so congested. I’m used to driving down the New Jersey Turnpike and seeing these horrific incinerators that are disgusting, and when I drive down Route 6 right now I feel like I’m in Edison, NJ or on the turnpike. I came here to be in the country, not to see these scenes, this monstrosity. And on top of it, to know that the pipeline is going to be roughly three acres behind my property is really heartbreaking to me. When I investigated coming, because we’ve only lived here for four years, I looked at the fracking industry in Orange County because we were thinking of moving to Sullivan County, and there were signs all over that they wanted fracking. And I didn’t want any part of it. We were interested in a place, we backed out of it, and we decided to buy his place because that wasn’t the issue here. I looked online, I googled fracking in NY. I found one thing referring to protesters as “coots,” but there was ntohign about this pipeline, this power plant. So we felt safe, and we bought the place, and now we’re just heartbroken. I’m certainly not going to go outside as much. We love where we live and have worked hard on our house and property. We don’t want to leave but we’ll have to play that one by ear. We’ve already lost one of our dear next door neighbors who moved out of the state directly because of the plant and the pipeline.Pramilla Malick, activist & state senate candidateMinisink NY Our fight is not against Millennium Pipeline itself, our fight is against Big Gas. We’re standing on the precipice of not only a public health catastrophe but a climate catastrophe as well. There are these massive expansions underway. Our community is critical because we are in between the extraction fields and the big market, which is New York City, and there are very powerful forces behind this. Those powerful forces have influence over every single level of government, over every single political party, and also over our quote unquote public interest organizations. I realized that this community is just going to have no chance whatsoever. I said look, all right, we’re not going to get help? We’ll do this ourselves. My priority had always been my kids, and I haven’t been there for them. This fight has not been convenient. It’s come at enormous cost to our family, their academics. They were all musicians; my oldest son went to Juilliard. They were all preparing to go to Juilliard; I had to give all of that up for this fight. Sometimes I think about whether it was worth it, but I think I know in my heart of hearts it is worth it. Because it was a choice of their future and the future of all the children in this community, and something which is great for their individual lives, but what good is it if they don’t have clean air, clean water? If they don’t have safe food to eat, then they have no future. I’m very lucky right now that three of my four kids are in college, because I would have a real hard time allowing them to be exposed to this stuff.I wish I could go to sleep at night and say oh somebody’s going to come and save us and don’t worry because something else is going to work out, and somebody will come around and realize how wrong this all is, but it’s just not happening. The same people who got us into this mess, they can’t be trusted to get us out of it. After the Percoco verdict now, a lot of people are talking the talk, but at this point we need action. When CPV fired up, we got hundreds of calls from miles away: Montgomery, Port Jervis, Warwick, from all over our county saying what is that smell? I can’t breathe, I’m choking. People waking up with their throat burning, eyes burning, gums burning in the middle of the night. I was like, how is this possible? Have we become that broken? Is our democracy that broken that people can be so blatantly poisoned and nobody seems to want to do anything about it?We’re becoming a fascist society, we really are. The kind of control corporations have over our country today, I’m very comfortable saying publically that we are encroaching upon fascism. Because that is the definition of fascism, the collusion between corporate interests and government. Cancer is the alarm. Cancer rates are rising. The number of children getting cancer is rising rapidly. Children are born with strong immunity, strong resistance. Children should not be getting cancer. Everyone runs for cures: I want to know the cause. I don’t want people to have to go through this, and I don’t accept that our communities and our children are going to be used as guinea pigs either. Don’t come to me 15 years from now and say oh we’re sorry we exposed you to this but here’s some compensation, and we’re sorry for all your suffering, you either lost your child or your child has lost a leg – that’s not acceptable.