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This opinion piece was written for Earthjustice and is reprinted here with permission.

Bokoshe, Okla., has a population of 450 residents. It’s a small town carrying a heavy toxic burden. The nearby AES Shady Point power plant dumps its toxic coal ash waste into a mine pit just on the outskirts of town. Local residents have developed cancer, asthma and other illnesses, and many point to the coal ash dump as the cause. As one activist noted, “You have to look for somebody that’s not sick.”

March 29, Diane Sawyer and her crew from ABC World News Tonight told the stories of these residents battling cancer and AES in a fight to clean up one of the most dangerous coal ash dumps in the country.

Coal ash from AES is mixed with water and dumped into the mine owned by the company, “Making Money Having Fun LLC.” Seriously. It’s called “Making Money Having Fun,” and it’s poisoning residents with toxic levels of arsenic, mercury, lead and other dangerous heavy metals. There really couldn’t be a more inappropriately named company in America, and I’d bet that the folks forced to breathe in this coal ash dust or drink it from their local water supplies aren’t having too much fun, or making any money either.

State and federal politicians have done nothing to help Bokoshe residents, but plenty to help Making Money Having Fun LLC. Oklahoma senator and outspoken climate change denier James Inhofe responded to a community appeal for help by suggesting that the mine pit is only a temporary inconvenience, and that one day it will be converted into a pasture. After the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency temporarily closed dumping into the MMHF site, Sen. Inhofe and Rep. Dan Boren pressured the EPA to find out when dumping could resume.

Tr-Ash talk: Making money, having fun
The story of an Oklahoma town's fight against cancer, asthma and toxic coal ash.