Posts filed under ‘georgia’

SEN Summer Program’s First Canvass of 2011!

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!

 

Michelle Hindman

Southern Energy Network Fellow

June 7, 2011 at 7:56 pm Leave a comment

Join SEN in Atlanta on May 26 to Support EPA Regulation of Mercury & Air-Toxics

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 – jenna@climateaction.net

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.

May 25, 2011 at 4:52 pm Leave a comment

US EPA Holds Mercury Hearing in Atlanta – Join us May 26!

US EPA is holding a public hearing in Atlanta, GA on May 26, giving us the opportunity to testify in support of a new rule to regulate toxic mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants. Sign up here!

A few weeks ago, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a proposed rule to set national emissions standards for mercury pollution from coal-fired power plants. The environmental community has been waiting for nearly 20 years for this rule. It’s a necessary step toward reducing toxic mercury emissions from coal plants nationwide.

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May 4, 2011 at 3:50 pm Leave a comment

Court Rules Against LS Power’s Longleaf Coal-fired Power Plant

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.

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April 25, 2011 at 5:25 pm 1 comment

US EPA Hears from Packed House in Atlanta: Greenhouse Gas Regulation is a MUST!

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 CenterNational 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

The easiest way to submit a comment is to email it to: a-and-r-Docket@epa.gov. Please cc info@climateaction.net for the comments you submit!

 

 

 

February 18, 2011 at 4:41 pm Leave a comment

Georgia Youth Testify at EPA Hearing

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.

Stephen Feinberg and Talie Watzman giving testimony to US EPA.

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.

Talie Watzman

University of Georgia Freshman

September 13, 2010 at 4:29 pm Leave a comment

Oil continues to dump into the Gulf

<cross-posted on It’s Getting Hot in Here>

They said it was safe. BP’s environmental impact statement from February 2009 stated that it was,  “unlikely that an accidental surface or subsurface oil spill would occur from the proposed activities”, and that “due to the distance to shore (48 miles) and the response capabilities that would be implemented, no significant adverse impacts are expected [1].” Now, millions of gallons of oil have dumped into the Gulf of Mexico since April 20thand more continues to poor into the waters every day. Yesterday President Obama visited Louisiana to assess the threat posed by this growing oil spill [2].

An oil containment boom is swamped by waves along the Louisiana coast at South Pass of the Mississippi River Thursday, April 29, 2010. (AP Photo/Bill Haber) via Boston.com

The Earth is now bleeding. Unfortunately a run to the pharmacy wont supply the Band Aids needed for this injury. Five thousand feet under the sea a pipe is spilling unknown volumes of oil straight into the Gulf. Attempts to recap it have been unsuccessful. Stopping the spill now looks like it could take weeks if not months, as a giant dome is developed to capture the oil and a “relief” well is drilled [3].

Oil, bottom right, is seen approaching the Louisiana Coast, top left, in this aerial photo taken 8 miles from shore, Wednesday, April 28, 2010. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert) Via Boston.com

Oil has already covered over 3,800 square miles of ocean [4]. At risk are the fragile ecosystems of birds that are just beginning to build nests and mate, fish, shellfish, and countless threatened species are found in and around the ten wildlife preserves that are likely to fall in the path of the oil spills as it continues to disperse [5]. The economic impacts of this spill will spread far as fisherman who weathered Hurricane Katrina are seeing Gulf fisheries shut down that are America’s biggest source of seafood.

They are lighting the Gulf on fire. Burning the fuel off is one of many efforts being used to contain the spill. Rough seas for the past few days however, have stymied many efforts at burning the oil off and sending it into the atmosphere. Already 34 miles of boom have also been deployed to form a skirt around a small part of the Gulf Coast to protect the shore from oil. Dispersal agents are another method being used, though in untested ways as they are released in unprecedented volumes both underwater and above.

Dirty energy is jeopardizing human survival. This incident has cost 11 lives and comes in the wake of several other fossil fuels related disasters in the past month including, the methane explosion in West Virginia that killed 29 miners, the collapse of a mine in Kentucky that killed 2, and the wreck of a coal carrying ship that spilled oil across the Great Barrier Reef [6][7][8].

People hold the solutions. Hair salons with the organization, Matter of Trust are beginning to collect hair clipping, that can be made into mat to soak up oil [9]. People are submitting ideas for ways to clean up oil spills that can be readily implemented to the website InnoCentive [10]. Fishermen are signing up to lend their boats and time to the clean up effort as the oil begins to come ashore. The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, the Sierra Club and a number of other organizations are calling on people everywhere to call the White House and their Congressmen to put an end to offshore drilling, fossil fuel subsidies, and move to clean energy options [11]. If we don’t move away from our dependence on fossil fuels these accidents will continue to occur.

Let’s stop being fuelish and get to work building a clean energy future.

—————-

[1] Burdeau, Cain; Holbrook Mohr (2010-04-30). “Document: BP didn’t plan for major oil spill”. Associated Press. Retrieved 2010-04-30.  http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5g5gnWbqZ9SqBHvSYqJeE2AT5KebwD9FDNQR00

[2] http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/may/02/obama-visits-louisiana-oil-spill

[3] BP (2010-04-30). “BP Steps Up Shoreline Protection Plans on US Gulf Coas”. Press release. Retrieved 2010-04-30.  http://www.bp.com/genericarticle.do?categoryId=2012968&contentId=7061565

[4] “Gulf Oil Spill, by the Numbers”. CBS News. 2010-04-30. Retrieved 2010-04-30. http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2010/04/30/national/main6447428.shtml

[5] http://www.deccanherald.com/content/66822/oil-spill-reaches-us-coast.html

[6] http://itsgettinghotinhere.org/2010/04/23/preventing-the-next-mine-disaster-unionize/

[7] http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/30/us/30mine.html

[8] http://itsgettinghotinhere.org/2010/04/05/coal-and-oil-destroying-great-barrier-reef/

[9] http://www.matteroftrust.org/

[10] https://gw.innocentive.com/ar/challenge/overview/9383447

[11] http://www.cleanenergy.org/www.sierraclub.org/oilspill

May 3, 2010 at 1:00 pm 2 comments

On World Water Day, Recognizing the Water and Energy Nexus

Growing up in Florida, I probably spent 75% of my childhood in and around water. Be it swimming in clear cool springs, fishing along black bottom creeks, playing in the crashing waves of the Atlantic Ocean or just running through the sprinkler in the backyard, water played a huge role in my childhood.

I didn’t really think much about water beyond how fun it was to go to Kingsley Lake or tube down the Ichetucknee River. As I got older, I became more aware of the impacts we have on our local waterways and how much our lives depend on them -not just for staying cool in the summer time, but for our overall survival and livelihood.

It wasn’t until my family moved to Georgia when I was in middle school that I realized the threats facing Southern water resources. As I have grown older, I’ve become increasingly aware of how important, yet fragile our waters truly are. I remember all too well driving back home for a visit in the summer of 2007 (I was living and working in New Orleans at the time).  It was surreal to see the impacts of the drought – to witness what were once floating dock sitting on the mud flats of a shrinking Lake Lanier. That same summer, the Browns Ferry nuclear power plant in Alabama had to be temporarily shut down because water in the Tennessee River was too hot to cool the reactors. And then in the fall the University of Georgia had official “flushers” in bathrooms at football games in order conserve limited water supplies in Athens.

Today, on World Water Day, it’s important to look at the full impacts dirty energy and global warming have on our lives. Across the world and particularly here in the South, global warming is shifting rain patterns and temperatures. Creating an interesting mix of increased rain (except in South Florida) as well as prolonged and more severe droughts.

Not only is our region one of the largest contributors to the problem of global warming, our power is extremely water intensive. For example, here in Georgia the energy sector is the largest consumer of water statewide. It’s troubling to think that one day flipping on the lights could compete with turning on the faucet.

For the future of our region, it’s critical to begin the transition away from dirty, water intensive power sources and towards a cleaner, more sustainable energy future.

In celebration of World Water Day, take time to support the Define Our Decade campaign, and vote for a clean, renewable, water-responsible energy future.

March 22, 2010 at 8:27 pm 3 comments

Georgians Raise Concerns Over New Nuclear Reactors – Taking the Message Direct to Obama

The fight to prevent new nuclear reactors from being built in the Southeast was in Georgia this week with lots of excitement around President Obama’s tour of Savannah Technical College where he discussed jobs, economic recovery, and the $8.3 billion in conditional loan guarantees he has allocated to Southern Company for the expansion at Plant Vogtle.  I joined Georgia Women’s Action for New Directions (WAND), Friends of the Earth (FoE), Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) colleagues and local activists to advocate for a carbon free and nuclear free future and against a taxpayer-financed future riddled with more radioactive nuclear waste.

Can I get my future Carbon Free and Nuclear Free, please?

I was energized for the rally, having just spent time with members of the Shell Bluff Community in Waynesboro (where Plant Vogtle is located) to hear their concerns, answer their questions, and discuss real solutions for their impoverished rural community. Their main concerns centered around jobs, health, and their lack of faith in the industry to provide the former or protect the latter. It was so inspirational to meet a few of the folks who remain strong in their faith and sense of community, despite hard economic times and experiencing a high incidence of recent cancer deaths in their families.

Southern Company wants to add another 2 reactors to this site.

I joined members of groups like Savannah River Keepers, WAND, FoE, SACE and others who are involved in the legal interventions to the proposals for two new reactors at the existing Plant Vogtle site. President Obama justifies the $8.3 billion in loan guarantees for this plant with promises of jobs, but the community has heard this before. They cite stories of a boon and bust that surrounded the construction of the first two reactors in 1980′s, pointing to closed businesses and rotting trailer homes scattered about the county. These folks need real, lasting, sustainable solutions and their skepticism of the nuclear industry’s role is well founded by their experience.

No Nuclear Pork! Without our money, nukes don't stand a chance...


March 9, 2010 at 6:51 pm 1 comment

The University of Georgia Energy Scoop

So, where is UGA now as far as renewable energy goes?  In an hour long interview with our very own Ken Crowe, Director of Energy Services, Stanley Dieleman, a Southern Energy Network Efficiency Fellow, and Garrett Brewer, a UGA Graduate student with energy policy experience, were all able to get several ideas, policies, and future initiatives on paper. The main point of this meeting was to collect information and cold hard facts about our energy use. The information will be used to educate many new students who don’t have a clue as to what is being done on campus, and show them what we are doing, as a university, to fulfill our commitment to excellence here at UGA.

UGA_Northwest Corner_18x24

New centralized cooling plant for northwest precinct of UGA campus

So lets start with the big question, which seems to be on most people’s minds. How much is The University of Georgia actually spending on energy? Well, according to Crowe, somewhere in the ballpark of $28 million per year. Sound huge? The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill generates a bill of around $83 million per year. With this being said, it may sound like UGA is already leading the way in energy efficiency, but what I failed to mention before is that none of UGA’s energy comes from renewable sources. The University of North Carolina gets almost 25 percent from renewable sources. With a price tag of 3.4 additional cents per kilowatt-hour for renewable energy, the University of Georgia just cannot afford it. Instead, says Crowe, the University plans to invest money in its own renewable energy sources, such as photovoltaic panels, which could be easily applied onto many university facility roofs. UGA has not fully committed to this yet, but plans are being made.

The big project this year, and into 2010, is the construction of a brand new centralized cooling plant for the new northwest precinct of campus. The plant will centralize the cooling process, leading to a huge reduction in energy usage. According to Crowe, the more efficient coolant units, in addition to the plant’s centralized location, will reduce UGA’s energy use by as much as 25 percent for the buildings served by the plant.

Besides implementing these projects, UGA and the physical plant will continue urging the university to reduce energy by passing numerous policies focusing on basic student and faculty lifestyles. This includes simple things, such as turning off lights, to more extensive measures such as not using certain steam facilities in the summer due to a decrease of facility usage. Campus energy use has decreased 5% over its level three years ago and is well on its way to achieving the Governor’s Energy Challenge. This means reducing energy use, per square foot of building space, to 15% by the year 2020.

I will add one last thought that has been brought up many times by students and faculty interested in our energy future. Will UGA hire a head figure to tackle our energy issues and establish new policies and initiatives? This figure would be commonly known as a Director of Sustainability. When asked what UGA plans to do as far as establishing an Office of Sustainability on campus, Crowe replies that President Adams will probably reveal his plans in January as he addresses the recommendations of the Sustainability Working Group’s report.  This group has compiled a catalog of existing sustainable programs and activities on campus and has recommended actions to further the practice of sustainability on campus.

The University of Georgia is starting to make headway with its energy conservation and policy, but it still lags behind many schools, which have invested much more into sustainability. Hopefully with new economic times and more funds to work with, UGA will finally make energy efficiency a priority.

Stanley Dieleman, Southern Energy Network Efficiency Fellow

November 9, 2009 at 3:56 pm Leave a comment

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