What if you saw a loved one suffering from an illness you knew could be prevented? What if the cure for that suffering would also improve the lives of everyone else around you? Wouldn’t you demand that action be taken?

These questions are the reason I’m fighting for Bridgeport every day. I’ve grown up and lived in this town my whole life, as have multiple generations of my family. There’s so much we love about this town and our history in it, but sadly the Bridgeport Harbor Station coal-fired plant isn’t one.

For more than 45 years, this power plant has polluted Fairfield County’s air and water. For more than 45 years, this coal plant has been making families like mine sick.

We know a lot about Bridgeport Harbor Station and the pollution it creates. The coal plant is a major source of dangerous air pollution including smog-causing nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, and climate-disrupting carbon dioxide. All that air pollution can trigger asthma attacks and respiratory illnesses, like the ones that have affected my family and friends.

Even though the coal-fired plant doesn’t run full-time anymore, we still suffer from the effects of it. In Bridgeport, nearly 15 percent of school-aged children suffer from asthma.

Many of my friends and family members have suffered from illnesses that can be attributed to air pollution from coal-fired power. My cousin, who lived near the plant, died of an asthma attack after years of suffering from the condition. For years, she couldn’t breathe inside her own home because the air quality was so bad.

I know too many families, too many neighbors and community friends, who have to deal with asthma pumps and costly treatments on a regular basis. I work in the school system, and I’ve also seen countless children miss days of school when they have an asthma attack or have to stay at home for treatments.

This problem has a solution, however. A current bill before the state legislature, House Bill 6616, would phase out the use of coal by 2020 and call for adopting a state transition plan to replace the coal generating capacity with clean energy generating facilities. It would also provide smooth and just transitions for workers and the community.

It’s time to build a better future for Bridgeport.

Unfortunately, the Connecticut legislature recently decided that it would likely not be holding a hearing to listen the community’s opinions on this bill that would protect thousands of lives. The community’s voice must be heard. We demand the right to fight for our clean air. We demand environmental justice.

We can clean up our air, improve our waterfront, and grow our economy by retiring this outdated plant and investing in cleaner solutions for the community. Then finally, our loved ones will be able breathe easier.

Elaine Thompson is an outreach worker for the Connecticut Coalition for Environmental Justice. She was raised in Bridgeport and still calls it home.

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