Best Activism

City Paper

About three years ago, Benjamin Franklin High School in Curtis Bay started a human-rights study project called Free Your Voice (FYV). This year, FYV found its voice: Having learned about a proposed trash-burning, energy-producing incinerator about a mile away from the school, slated to be built and operated by a company called Energy Answers, the group has been busily lighting a fire of public awareness about the plant, saying its pollution potential is fundamentally unfair in an already-polluted community such as theirs. But, since the project has already gotten the regulatory go-ahead, the prospect of an FYV-fueled opposition movement finding success seemed dim—until they hit on a very brass-tacks approach: attack EA’s business plan for the plant. The company’s financing depends on purchase contracts for the energy it plans to produce, so FYV has been trying to convince buyers—public entities such as school districts—that they can opt out of their contracts with EA, without penalty, if the plant doesn’t start providing energy by next spring. Whether the students’ efforts pan out remains to be seen, but this kind of savvy activism is a rare bird worth celebrating.

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