Posts filed under ‘coal’
Yesterday the SEN fellows kicked off the summer No Coal Campaign by going door to door in Jenkinsburg, GA to talk to Central Georgia EMC members about the coal-fired power plant proposal that will likely raise their electric rates significantly.
Central Georgia EMC has joined with five other EMCs under the name POWER4Georgians to finance and build the plant, which will ultimately be paid for by EMC members. Unlike municipal or GA Power customers, cooperative members have more of a voice in the decision-making process of the EMC. Members of the EMC have the power to elect the Board of Directors, request information, and meet with their Board Representative about matters that concern them.
It was a learning experience for both the members we spoke with and us fellows! We used the day to test our script and introduce the methodology and proven value of grassroots canvassing.
Two things quickly became apparent.
First, it’s HOT; water is a must! And second, the EMC’s lack of providing information shows its failure to live up to its stated principle of transparency, and is a huge disservice to EMC members. Almost all of the residents we spoke to had never heard of Plant Washington or POWER4Georgians, and were unaware that they have a voice as EMC members. They were glad to be informed of the costly proposal, and ready to take action by signing our postcard petition and/or calling the CGEMC Board of Directors directly.
In about 4 hours, we:
- Knocked on 60 doors
- Spoke to 22 people
- Got 18 petition signatures!
Overall, the campaign is off to a great start; we’ll keep you posted as the summer campaign rolls on!
Southern Energy Network Fellow
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently proposed a rule to set a national emissions standard for the mercury pollution from coal-fired power plants, the largest source of mercury pollution in the country. Tomorrow, the EPA is holding a public hearing in Atlanta – giving the Southeast an opportunity to testify in support of the new rule. Join SEN at the hearing to take action and support the new mercury emissions standard and stand up for the health of Georgia’s communities!
WHEN: May 26, 2011, 9:00 am – 8:00 pm
WHERE: Sam Nunn Atlanta Federal Center
61 Forsyth St. SW
Atlanta, Ga. 30303-8960
CONTACT: Jenna Garland, SEN Georgia Organizer – email@example.com
If you are unable to attend the hearing tomorrow, take action by signing the petition in support of the mercury and air toxics regulation!
Coal-fired power plants are the primary emitter of toxic mercury pollution in the US, and Georgia’s own Plant Scherer is the 7th highest emitter of mercury in the country. Mercury is a dangerous neurotoxin that has particularly harmful effects on the nervous systems of fetuses and children. It’s estimated that 20% of women in their child-bearing years have mercury levels in their hair that exceed federal health standards.
Humans are primarily exposed to mercury through consuming contaminated fish that come from polluted rivers and lakes. The mercury pollutants emitted by coal plants typically fall within a 60-mile radius, and with 12 coal-fired power plants in the state, Georgia’s rivers and lakes are at extremely high risk for mercury pollution. To learn more about the dangers of mercury and coal-fired power plants, read the 2011 report from the Environmental Defense Fund.
Join us at the EPA hearing in Atlanta to support the proposed mercury and air toxics emissions standards. In addition to mercury, other toxins emitted by coal-fired power plants stand to be regulated, like arsenic, chromium, nickel and acid gases. The EPA estimates that regulating these pollutants could prevent “as many as 17,000 premature deaths and 11,000 heart attacks a year.”
If you are unable to attend the hearing, you can take action by submitting written comments to the EPA until July 5, 2011 and by signing the petition here. For more information on how to make public comment, visit the EPA website. The EPA states that they will finalize the rule in November 2011.
From our friends in the Georgians for Smart Energy Coalition!
EPD Permit for “Minor” Source Sent Back to Agency
ATLANTA – A Georgia administrative law court handed a victory to opponents of a proposed 1200 megawatt coal-fired power plant in Blakely, Georgia. According to the ruling issued on April 19, the state permit did not sufficiently limit harmful air pollution that will be emitted by the plant.
The Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) must reconsider its permit after the court found flaws in provisions designed to make Longleaf a “minor” source of pollution for toxic air pollutants. EPD had previously determined that the plant would be a “major” source of such pollutants.
EPD’s permit would allow New Jersey-based LS Power to build the largest coal plant in the nation to be classified as a “minor” source of pollution, a strategy that would circumvent the stricter pollution controls required for a “major” source of pollution under the law. EPD defended the permit on the basis that it contained safeguards to ensure that the plant would emit at “minor” source levels. The court found, however, that the permit’s monitoring and reporting scheme could “miss” many tons of toxic air emissions each year, including emissions of known carcinogens like formaldehyde. The court also found that the permit did not account for toxic air emissions from the entire facility. The court remanded the permit to EPD to address these issues.
On Friday, April 15, 2011, a group of 15 young people representing the Energy Action Coalition met with Senior White House staff, and were surprised but pleased when President Barack Obama joined the group for 25 minutes to discuss the Obama Administration energy policies.
The meeting came after Energy Action Coalition contacted national media about Power Shift 2011, stating that “10,000 young, forgotten Obama voters” were coming together in Washington, DC to learn key organizing skills to move beyond dirty energy and advance the clean energy economy. After interest from several major media outlets, the Obama Administration began taking seriously Energy Action Coalition and the youth climate movement it represents.
The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and Washington Post have all covered the story, quoting Southern Energy Network Organizer Jenna Garland and Development Assistant Kelsea Norris.
After the 1-year anniversary of the BP Oil Disaster last week, which devastated the Gulf of Mexico and further devastated the lives of Gulf communities, President Obama needs to dream bigger and commit to the promises he made during the 2008 campaign.
President Obama’s message for Energy Action Coalition and the youth climate movement was that we need to lead grassroots organizing across the country, especially targeting Congress. After Congress failed to pass meaningful climate legislation and the UN Climate negotiations failed, many have turned back to their states and communities, looking to make change happen locally.
Young people are leading the movement beyond dirty energy to a clean, just energy economy. From shutting down coal plants to building clean energy infrastructure, young people have demonstrated where the future lies, and how we must act in the present to achieve our goals.
On Tuesday, the US EPA held its second of five listening sessions at the Sam Nunn Atlanta Federal Building in Atlanta, Georgia. The conference room was completely packed and the audience spilled over in to the next room. Dozens of people wore “I <3 Clean Air” stickers, and children held signs that said “EPA Protect My Future.”
This session focused on bringing stakeholders in the environmental and environmental justice movements together to speak to EPA staff, including Gina McCarthy, Assistant Administrator at the Office of Air and Radiation. In five total hearings, the EPA will hear feedback and opinions from various stakeholder groups, which will inform the rulemaking process EPA is undertaking this year.
The EPA is preparing to regulate greenhouse gas emissions through a New Source Performance Standard (NSPS). The potential impact of this rule is huge: Congress has failed to enact legislation that will address greenhouse gas emissions, and in Georgia where developers are attempting to build 3 new coal-fired power plants, this rule could prevent these proposed plants from moving forward. It could also help transition Georgia’s existing coal plants into retirement. This is one of the reasons why so many community members came to the listening session during the middle of the workday – there is a lot riding on this rule.
NSPS is a regulatory tool EPA is authorized to use under the Clean Air Act, a key piece of environmental legislation that is currently under attack from big polluters. As Seandra Rawls summarizes in her blog about speaking at the Session on Tuesday,
“The Clean Air Act requires EPA to establish a list of sources of dangerous air pollutants and to set standards for such sources. In 2007 the United States Supreme Court ruled that GHGs are air pollutants under the Clean Air Act.”
For a full summary, see Seandra’s post at Clean Energy Footprints.
Currently, House and Senate Republicans are working to defund the EPA. Challenges to EPA’s authority under the Clean Air Act were seen in the 111th Congress and are already circulating in this Congress.
EPA’s NSPS will be focused on electricity-generating power plants and refineries. In the South, we consume the most electricity per capita and emit the greatest amount of greenhouse gases in the United States. We also have a huge fleet of aging, polluting coal plants in the Southern states.
When EPA proposes its draft rule in July 2011, we can expect the rule to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through multiple strategies, including providing incentives for old and polluting coal plants to retire and increasing energy efficiency nationally and in the South.
There was some disagreement in the room around how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Kurt Waltzer with Clean Air Task Force spoke about the importance of Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS) technology, also known as clean coal technology, in reducing greenhouse gas emissions from coal plants. As many in the Power Shift generation know, there is no such thing as clean coal. Even if we were able to harness every last atom of CO2 from burning coal, we’d still need to extract it, process it, and operate inefficient plants to burn it. CCS technology doesn’t address co-pollutants, things like mercury and other toxic chemicals that are released into the air when we burn coal for power. Extracting coal to burn for electricity is also extremely destructive. In Appalachia, community members are fighting for the lives and culture as mountaintops are blown off with dynamite to expose coal seams, and what was the mountaintop is then dumped into stream and river valleys. A dynamic movement opposing Mountaintop Removal coal mining has grown in Appalachia and spread to other parts of the country.
During the Listening Session, more than a dozen groups were given the opportunity to speak with Ms. McCarthy, including Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, Southern Environmental Law Center, National Wildlife Federation, The Reverend Gerald Durley from Providence Mission Baptist Church and Interfaith Power & Light, the Gulf Coast Fund, the New Jersey Environmental Justice Alliance, Sierra Club, Environmental Defense Fund, the Environmental Justice Leadership Forum on Climate Change, Environmental Justice Advocates of Minnesota, Natural Resource Defense Council, Environment Northeast, Conservation Law Foundation, WE ACT for Environmental Justice, the Clean Air Task Force, and the US Climate Action Network.
Though the panelists were knowledgeable and powerful in their statements to EPA, SEN would have liked a young leader to offer comments as well. Several students from Georgia Tech and Georgia State University came to the session between classes, but we would like to see future sessions take place at a time more convenient for students and young people.
Luckily, EPA is accepting public comments through March 18, 2011, and you don’t need time during the middle of the day to participate! Here’s how you can comment:
- Comments on the greenhouse gas NSPS for petroleum refineries must reference Docket ID: EPA-HQ-OAR-2011-0089
- Comments on the greenhouse gas NSPS for utilities must reference Docket ID: EPA-HQ-OAR-2011-0090
On Wednesday September 1st, The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) held a hearing in downtown Atlanta on a proposed rule designed to reduce ozone and particulate pollution from coal-fired power plants drifting across state lines. Because we strongly support this proposed rule, students and Southern Energy Network staff made the trek to Atlanta to offer testimony at the hearing to show our support.
Georgia Organizer Jenna Garland spoke first, sharing her recent experience at a training session held in facilities located adjacent to a coal-fired power plant in Little Village neighborhood in Chicago. After only a week spent in such close proximity to the plant, many in the group began to experience headaches, sore throats, and stuffy, sensitive sinuses. After leaving the conference, Jenna was sick with a bad sinus infection for a full week. It’s hard to imagine how distressing and detrimental to one’s health it must be to breathe those fumes everyday. Small children growing up near that and other plants are hit the hardest.
Stephen Feinberg, a student at the University of Georgia and member of the Georgia Youth for Energy Solutions Steering Committee, spoke about looking forward to a future where he can get married and have children in Georgia without worrying about the air quality adversely affecting his children’s health. He shared a scary statistic: according to some sources, 1 in 6 woman of childbearing age have enough mercury in their bloodstream to cause birth defects in children. He believes that this rule is a step in the right direction towards reducing and ultimately eliminating the coal plants in Georgia and all over the South.
Last but not least, I shared a personal anecdote about my years as a runner on my high school cross-country team. Watching my friends and teammates struggle with asthma at every practice and during races, I never realized that the poor air quality in Georgia was contributing, if not causing, their problems. I believe that the proposed rule is a good first step, but EPA should be doing even more to clean up air quality in Georgia.
Georgia has three new proposed coal-fired power plants, and building any of them will worsen air quality in our state. EPA, as well as the state regulatory authorities, needs to stop permitting new coal plants and allowing them to be built. Instead of building new coal plants, we should reducing our dependence on fossil fuels and moving towards cleaner, sustainable sources of energy.
In addition to the Clean Air Interstate Rule, EPA is also holding nationwide hearings around coal ash regulation. Coal ash is a waste product of burning coal for electricity, and is extremely toxic. When it is mixed with rainfall or other water, it becomes coal sludge. On December 22, 2008 a coal sludge pond in Kingston, TN collapsed, dumping millions of tons of coal sludge into a valley, knocking down homes and polluting water.
EPA is accepting statements around the Clean Air Interstate Rule through October 1st, and is accepting comments around coal ash through December 18. Visit the EPA website to review proposed rules and submit comments! IF you’re in the South, join us on September 14 in Charlotte, NC, for the Region IV EPA Coal Ash hearing.
University of Georgia Freshman
As a part of our strategy to fight the three proposed coal-fired power plants in Georgia, the Southern Energy Network and Georgia Youth for Energy Solutions (GA YES!), are putting the pressure on 2010 political candidates.
Last Thursday, June 24, we showed up at the Georgia Water Coalition’s Gubernatorial Forum on Water and the Environment ready to ask candidates hard-hitting questions about the future of renewable energy and green jobs in Georgia. With 12 existing coal-fired power plants, one of which is the single largest point source of CO2 in the US, and 3 new plants proposed, these water-intensive power plants are of huge concern to our drought-ridden state.
We told candidates Dubose Porter, Carl Camon, and General David Poythress that young voters will not stand for new coal in the state of Georgia and that we’re demanding clean, safe, renewable energy that will bring real green jobs to our state. And we got a pretty good response!
To back up our statements, we spend this past Saturday at a booth talking to folks at AthFest – a 3-day music and arts festival that takes place every summer in downtown Athens, Georgia. We gathered almost 50 new petition signatures from Georgia voters, telling gubernatorial candidates that they’ll be voting for candidates who:
- Oppose the construction of Plant Washington and support clean energy solutions such as wind and solar, NOT coal and nuclear.
- Support statewide energy efficiency programs that will cut our carbon emissions and make Georgia a leader in global warming solutions
- Invest in education to create clean energy tech jobs
E-mail all the gubernatorial candidates and let them know that you’ll also be voting on the issues, and don’t forget to vote in the Georgia primaries on July 20! If you can, copy us on your emails – use firstname.lastname@example.org. Jenna is our Georgia Organizer, working with GA YES to fight the proposed coal plants.
General David Poythress (Info@poythressforgovernor.com)
Randal Mangham (email@example.com)
Dubose Porter (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Carl Camon (email@example.com)
Bill Bolton (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Roy Barnes (email@example.com)
Thurbert Baker (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Nathan Deal (email@example.com)
Karen Handel (info@KarenHandel.com)
Eric Johnson (firstname.lastname@example.org)
John Oxendine (email@example.com)
Ray McBerry (McBerryCampaign@GeorgiaFirst.org)
Ray Boyd (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Al Bartell (http://www.albartell.com/contactme.htm)
John Monds (http://www.votemonds.com/contact.html)
Written by Kelsea Norris, student at the University of Georgia in Athens
Cinco de Mayo is all about commemorating the Mexican Army’s victory over French forces during the French intervention in Mexico. It’s a celebration of the underdog! It’s a celebration of Mexican heritage and pride! OR it’s all about going to overcrowded Mexican restaurants, dancing to Mariachi music, and if you’re of age, taking advantage of margarita specials! But instead of doing any of those things, Kathryn Hilton and I (both students at USC Aiken) started setting up our game plan for presenting our case against the South Carolina Electric and Gas Company (SCE&G) in front of the Public Service Commission (PSC).
The PSC is considering granting SCE&G’s request to raise their customers’ rates to pay for $700 million in government mandated “environmental” upgrades to its Wateree and Williams coal-fired power plants and a backup dam the utility owns near Columbia, as well as $300 million dollars to pay to cut down trees, pay shareholders, upgrade equipment, and for other expenses. Initially, the utility requested a rate increase of nearly 10%, but they’ve recently signed an agreement to reduce the rate increase request to about 7%.
The revised plan is under as much scrutiny as the initial one. This request is in addition to the rate increase that the PSC has already approved for the utility. Customers already have to pay a 2% increase in rates each year for the next decade to pay the $10 billion cost of building two new nuclear reactors at the V.C. Summer plant north of Columbia. This means that ratepayers will pay for the nuclear reactor project in advance, even if the project is cancelled or never finished.
The hearing was held at Aiken Technical College in Graniteville, SC, and I’m surprised the amphitheater wasn’t completely packed with angry ratepayers. There were dozens of people there, and several people signed up to speak before the PSC.
Kathryn and I were the only speakers who noted SCE&G’s dirty energy practices; however, all of the speakers noted SCE&G’s dirty business practices. Even though SCE&G said that they postponed the rate increase by a year due to the dire economy of 2009, we’re not even halfway through 2010, and the economy has not fully recovered. A representative from AARP spoke on behalf of all those people on social security and fixed incomes fearing that they have to choose between food, electricity, or medicine. A single mother on disability, a young woman with two sick parents, and a teacher who doesn’t have health insurance spoke about how they simply could not afford to pay the increase, and they’re barely able to pay for the current rates. The PSC has never turned down SCE&G’s rate increase requests. One man asked the PSC just for once to have a conscience, and he reminded them that they are the Public Service Commission and that they should serve the public, and the public does not want this increase. A round of cheers and applause followed his speech.
When Kathryn spoke, she said, “this increase is reinforcing the use of archaic fossil fuels and allows SCE&G to sidestep their responsibility to customers and residents alike. Ratepayers and residents cannot afford the monetary and environmental costs SCE&G demands. The PSC and SCE&G need to create a plan to for a sustainable infrastructure and conservation efforts on an industrial scale.”
We all should have the right to live in clean, healthy, sustainable communities powered by clean, safe, renewable energy that will also make our country more energy independent and secure. Instead, SCE&G is irresponsibly investing OUR money in dirty coal and expensive nuclear energy resources, and nothing positive can come from that. SCE&G is not only pillaging the environment with its coal-fired plants, but SCE&G has a coal ash pond on the Congaree River, which is just upstream from our beloved Congaree National Park. SCE&G is not taking care of its customers, and if we had any other choice, most people would take their business elsewhere. However, we’re stuck with SCE&G, and we need to make sure that the company is held accountable for its actions, and we must make our voices heard. We may be the underdog, but there is massive power in numbers!
This was the third of four public rate hearings, with the previous two in the Charleston area. The fourth and final hearing will be in Columbia, SC on May 24th. The Public Service Commission will make their final decision concerning the rate increase by mid-July. As citizens, it is our job to make sure that decision makers like the Public Service Commission are scrutinized for supporting questionable practices. Our safety and our futures call for it!
As I was writing this blog, my electricity flickered for a moment, and I freaked out, afraid that my computer may not recover it. Now, I’m paranoid that SCE&G is watching me! Because Kathryn and I spoke at the hearing in Aiken, we are not permitted to speak at another hearing concerning this rate increase. South Carolina youth are coming together from across the state for a summit May 21-23rd in Columbia, SC to build leadership skills and learn about state, regional, and national environmental issues. During the summit, Kathryn and I will lead a workshop on how to speak at a public hearing, and we’ll use our experience in this case to help others put together statements if they are staying for the May 24th hearing. If you’d like more information on this summit or if you’d like to come support us or make a testimony at the May 24th hearing, please contact SEN’s South Carolina Organizer, Jenna, at email@example.com. We’ll be sure to get you all the information you’ll need!
Field Hearing: May 24, 6 p.m. at the S.C. Public Service Commission, 101 Executive Center Drive, Columbia
Formal hearing: May 24-27,10:30 a.m., 101 Executive Center Drive, Columbia
Final decision: July 15
Written by Lam Le, a student at USC Aiken
I haven’t had much of an appetite lately… With the oil spill in the Gulf Coast, confirmed reports of bio-diversities continued global decline, and another delay in adoption of a National Climate Policy, my stomaches been in knots. Fortunately, I’ve been able to keep myself from sulking, and have found some inspiration through a critical political moment.
The North Carolina Primary Election kicks off tomorrow (Tuesday May 4th). Turnout for mid-term primaries is historically low, with young people being in the lowest turnout percentage. Regardless, with everything going on in the world, I feel compelled to do my part to flip that trend in 2010! I realized more than ever that we are the ones we’ve been waiting for and we will be the ones to define this decade.. Therefore it is up to us what the future looks like.
Polls are open from 7:30a.m – 6:30p.m. To find your polling place CLICK HERE
Here are 4 reasons you need to cast your vote this mid-term election
- Almost every ecosystem and resource on the planet is in a state of decline
- We’ve got to change the political tides and we need the strongest leadership to do that
- Your voice counts and now is not the time to be silent.
- Turnout in Mid-term elections is low, that means, as young people, we can have a HUGE impact!!
- Because they are just as important, if not more so, as Presidential Elections.
Please share this Facebook link with your networks to get others to vote this Mid-term Election.
Vote and Voter Early!
by Maura Friedman, UGA Student Organizer
Though Power4Georgians, a coalition of Georgia electric membership corporations, is quick to tout dirty coal, on October 20th, the real source of power was the people.
At Tuesday’s Environmental Protection Division hearing, Georgia citizens had the opportunity to publicly voice comments on the proposed coal-fired power plant to be built in Sandersville, GA. People hailing from all backgrounds and corners of the state came out in full force to represent what they wanted the future of Georgia to look like. Nearly 8 out of every 10 who spoke agreed that the future should include clean air, fresh water, healthy kids, and, subsequently, no coal.
Members of communities across the state came together to remind the EPD that coal’s pollutants and health effects don’t just stay within city limits, they’re felt upwind and downstream as well, while Sandersville residents made it clear their livelihood wasn’t up for discussion either.
Most striking about the content of the hearing was the human component. Many who spoke included stories of their personal connection to the land. Sometimes we forget that polluting streams means a granddaughter can’t play in the water or a family can’t eat the fish their son catches. Polluting the air means residents can’t enjoy their own property or a young person leaves to raise a family somewhere safer. Using 16 million gallons of water a day to run a coal fired power plant means wells go dry, but more than that, it means a specific family loses their water access.
Although the promise of jobs to accompany the construction of the coal plant glimmered like fool’s gold, many had their eye on an even more economical prize. The resounding preference at the hearing was for renewable energy and green jobs, the creation of which provides an average of 6 jobs to every 4 jobs fossil fuel-dependent industry contributes. Moreover, sustainable energy does not ask communities to make the tremendous choice between jobs and health.
On Tuesday, the people spoke and their message, one against the damage coal brings to communities, resonated clearly. Now their fate, as well as that of their land and future generations is in the hands of the EPD as Georgia waits with bated breath.