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Clean Air Ambassador: Rachael Belz

The pollution spewing from the oldest and dirtiest parts of the coal plants in the Ohio River Valley affects people every single day.

Air pollution became a personal issue for me when I was diagnosed with asthma, allergies and significant sinus problems. When I was growing up on a farm in Nebraska, I only had some typical seasonal allergies. But, in 1997, a year after I moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, I was diagnosed with all of the above at the age of 27.

Eighty-six percent of our electricity in Ohio comes from coal. Living in Cincinnati—in the Ohio River Valley—is like living in a "bowl full of pollution" due to the high level of particulates, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and other pollutants from the many coal-fired power plants in our area, such as Duke Energy's Miami Fort and Beckjord plants.

I have to use a preventative inhaler twice a day, a "rescue" inhaler when necessary, an allergy pill once a day and two sinus sprays per nose every day. In addition, I have had emergency room and urgent care visits for severe asthma attacks. At those times, I must use a nebulizer and often am put on a dose of prednisone (steroids) for five or so days. This is not only invasive, it is also quite expensive.

We need members of Congress, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials and any applicable decision makers to understand how they can make significant changes in people's lives regarding air pollution. The pollution spewing from the oldest and dirtiest parts of the coal plants in the Ohio River Valley affects people every single day. I dread the warmest summer days because of smog alerts and asthma attacks. The decisions they make affect EVERYONE. Plus, we ratepayers get no say in what decisions the utilities make regarding these old, dirty coal plants. This is going to have to change.
 

Ambassador Group Affiliation: 
Ohio Citizen Action
Ambassador Profession: 
Director