“I’m not sure when or if Sidra ever sleeps,” says Brockton, Massachusetts, resident Melissa Boyle. “She’s on the phone with us late into the evening and on holidays. She’s collecting data, advising us of our options, gathering expert witnesses—all the things we wouldn’t know how to begin to do ourselves.”
Boyle is talking about New England Law Fellow Sidra Vitale, ’07, who is working with Alternatives for Community & Environment (ACE) to help Boyle and her neighbors fight the placement of a 350-megawatt natural gas and diesel-fuel-fired power plant. “It’s not just local homeowners and small businesses that will be affected,” Boyle says. “There are two schools and high-rise elderly housing all within a mile of the proposed site.” Local residents contend that plant gases would spew hundreds of tons of pollutants into the air each year.
As part of her CLSR fellowship, Vitale joined forces with ACE legal counsel Gene Benson to help Boyle and her neighbors organize opposition. “The residents may not have known exactly how to fight this,” says Vitale, “but they were dead certain that the proposed site was not the right place for a fossil fuel electricity-generating plant.”
The tide has shifted since Vitale and Benson took the case. The mayor’s office in Brockton has joined the opposition—reversing its initial stance—and the city council in neighboring West Bridgewater has voiced its concern. “We’ve been told that this is a fight ordinary citizens don’t often win,” adds neighborhood resident Tina Jones, “but thanks to Sidra, we’re going into the hearings fully prepared to make our case.”