Let's say your neighbor decides to build a contraption on his property that would shoot dirty air in your direction and contaminate your soil and water.
And let's say when you object, your neighbor tells you to mind your own blanking business.
This is the message from Surry County to Isle of Wight County, after Isle of Wight raised concerns about potential health risks associated with Surry's prospective coal-fired power plant, urging an independent environmental study.
"They didn't do their due diligence in investigating the effects of this on the region," Isle of Wight Supervisor Stan Clark said in the Daily Press.
To which Surry County Supervisor M. Sherlock Holmes replied in the Smithfield Times: "This is Surry County business .... They have their sovereign duty over there and we have ours here."
Whoa, Sherlock. This attitude isn't just un-neighborly — it's short-sighted, selfish and willfully unconcerned with potential harmful impacts of your actions on others.
Many in Surry — dazzled by promises of jobs, tax revenue and money sprinkled like fairy dust on community projects by the utility cooperative — are well-motivated to portray this as strictly a local issue, and their neighbors as outsiders or buttinskis. But that's not true, and they know it.
Full disclosure: I live in Isle of Wight. This makes me one of the unfortunate population that would live and work downwind of your plant, and well within the 30-mile radius that health experts say is the high-risk zone for the most serious health effects of coal plants.
So not only do I applaud my supervisors for doing their job, I take great personal offense at your failure to do yours. For ignoring the wider, longer-term public health and environmental damages lurking behind the dollar signs.
Old Dominion Electric Cooperative promises the plant would use pollution controls and meet existing emission regulations. Even so, it would produce about 14 million tons of carbon dioxide, 920 pounds of lead and 118 pounds of mercury every year, making it one of the top polluters in the state.
Those pollutants won't stay in Surry.
A study commissioned by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation found that the plant would dump mercury and other pollutants in the bay and local rivers — including the James, Pamunkey, Blackwater, Nottoway and Roanoke — and the Great Dismal Swamp.
And, those state-of-the-art pollution controls in the smokestacks may capture about 99 percent of particulate matter released from burning fuel, but the captured pollutants — including heavy metals like arsenic, lead and mercury — become part of the fly ash or bottom ash that then must be disposed of — usually by landfilling it.
There's even considerable debate about what the actual community benefits might be.
ODEC claimed at Dendron's Town Council meeting Monday that the plant would bring $1.59 million in tax revenue, and employ 3,000 people during construction and about 225 for its operation.
But an economic report presented by opponents shows that only between 48 and 217 temporary jobs would go to local residents during the five-year construction, because it requires very specialized skill sets. And few current residents would get any of the permanent jobs during its operation.
But, so what if the host of jobs for locals doesn't quite pan out? At least Dendron would, as ODEC has promised, snag $600,000 to repair its water system, $65,000 for sidewalks and $100,000 for a playground and recreation center.
Thus, councilors voted Monday to approve zoning changes favoring the plant.
Meanwhile, the rest of us — as the Wise Energy for Virginia Coalition puts it — stand to get stuck with "50-plus years of dirty air, poisoned waters and blown up mountains to dig out the coal — not to mention fueling climate change ...."
Surry County supervisors were set to (likely) approve zoning changes in favor of the plant Thursday night.
I don't know about other neighbors of Surry County, but I'm relieved my local government is speaking up.
Now — is yours?
Contact Dietrich at 247-7892 or firstname.lastname@example.org.