Over the past decade, property values in the 200-person village of Cheshire, Ohio, USA, plummeted. Acid rain fallout damaged cars, odors nauseated residents and thick plumes of smoke sometimes blocked the sun. When sulfurous blue clouds periodically covered the town and caused breathing difficulties for some during summer 2001, many residents became desperate. The following spring, this centuries-old village of Cheshire made a very modern proposal: residents offered to sell their town to the source of its problems, the next-door power plant, owned and operated by American Electric Power ("AEP"). Ninety families in this small southeastern Ohio River town will divide approximately $20 million and abandon their long-time homes, if they sign confidentiality agreements and waive their rights to sue the power company for any future health claims. AEP will, in turn, acquire land for their operations and simultaneously quell the voices that have been plaguing them for years.   

"A win-win situation for all involved", reported analysts, newspapers and some members of Cheshire's village council. Unconvinced the filmmakers embark on their own journey to Cheshire to explore the unprecedented buyout proposal's consequences. Though dominated by the presence of Ohio's largest coal-fired power plant, the filmmakers find the village to be a picturesque and thriving community. Hundred year-old trees and American flags line Main Street. Families lounge and BBQ at the new park next to the Ohio River. Others linger at the post office. But when the villagers begin to express their concerns, the deal's ramifications become all too evident. "It's like the civil war," describes one resident, "there are neighbors against neighbors, families against families, and husbands and wives against each other." While a few families are anxious to escape the power plant, others only reluctantly prepare to leave behind their community. And then there are some who just plain refuse to participate in the buyout deal. These holdouts claim that the plant's emissions do not affect them, that they are too old to part with their roots and memories, or that they do not want to be susceptible to the whim of large corporations and the majority's will. This growing group of dissenters has not yet given up on the village; the deal has not yet been finalized.

From summer 2002 through the beginning of 2003, the filmmakers chronicle the buyout's developments. A feisty widow, a mellow bait shop owner, and an all-knowing postmaster are only some of the residents that share their varying viewpoints on the buyout proposal. For the out-of-towners, these villagers also paint a portrait of an American small town, a town that may be used to stockpile coal by the coming year. Through their laughter, tears, and anxiety the film raises questions about the surrendering of traditional values, the meaning of progress, and the power money has over the environment and one's health. The consequences facing Cheshire are many, but the significance of the Cheshire transaction ultimately lies in its potential to set a precedent for other communities and corporations across the country.

   
   
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