Housatonic River Advocates 'Occupy' Lenox Town Hall
Many county residents are skeptical of the motivations behind state lawmakers who are pushing for a lower impact and less costly method of cleaning the river.
The rally was spearheaded by the Housatonic River Initiative, which have openly opposed the current plan being presented, along with the newly formed Occupy Berkshires movement. Another Occupy Berkshires rally was held Sunday in Great Barrington, and garnered 282 supporters, according to organizers, and more are being planned throughout the county in the next few days.
Among notable progressive political figures present was Mark Miller, Green-Rainbow Party candidate for state representative for the 3rd Berkshire District, who voiced his support for the Housatonic River Initiative's position on the state's contested plan.
Also present was former state senator and 2012 U.S. House hopeful Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr., who strode into the rally boldly with a slow clap directed at the demonstrators assembled. Nuciforo, register of deeds for Central Berkshire, said he was pleased with the turnout, which he called "a very strong representation of people around the county who care about their environment.
"We want a clean river, funded by the parties responsible, we want no toxic waste in the Housatonic River."
When asked whether that goal, of removing all toxic waste from the river, is a realistic possibility for the state without the massive environmental damage feared by some, he said he believed it was.
"It's achievable, from an engineering standpoint," said Nuciforo, "It's a matter of the political will needed to see it through."
As for the contentions in the plan presented by the Department of Environmental Protection and other state environmental departments, the Housatonic River Initiative's supporters are skeptical of both the conclusions that have been reached and the motives behind them.
One group of demonstrators was avidly discussing ways in which they said GE had attempted to cloud the issue. This included mention of an extensive GE-sponsored online advertising campaign targeted toward Berkshire area residents on popular sites such as Facebook in the weeks leading up to this session, which have also been observed repeatedly by this iBerkshires correspondent. This campaign funneled visitors to the GE-based site http://www.housatonicoptions.com, featuring its widely distributed short documentary "Fate of a River."
Another woman chimed in about what she considered a worrisome "history of unholy alliances" involving GE and state politics, citing the fact that Peter Larkin, Pittsfield's former state representative, and Robert Durand, former DEP secretary, are now both GE lobbyists. She also made reference to GE campaign contributions to Massachusetts legislators.
According to statistics from the Federal Election Commission, General Electric and its employees contributed $101,450 to Massachusetts candidates in the 2010 election cycle, out of approximately $2.3 million spent nationwide.
A Lenox-wide power outage shortly before the session was to begin brought joking remarks such as "Did GE cut the power?" as the demonstrators joined more Berkshire County residents filing into the generator-lit Town Hall.
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