Posts filed under ‘southern energy network’
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
On Thursday, May 26, US EPA held one of three national public hearings on its proposed mercury pollution regulation, which will be the first time mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants have been regulated in the United States.
Southern Energy Network partnered with multiple organizations to help turn folks out to the event and recruit individuals to testify, and it worked! More than 100 people testified to EPA staff during the hearing, and the vast majority of those testifying were there in support of the mercury regulations.
We heard powerful testimony from Simon M., a thirteen year-old from Kentucky who is a member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee, as well as a college senior who is five months pregnant and who spoke powerfully about the health of the child in her womb and the mercury pollution from coal plants near her home.
Speaking in opposition to the regulations were the usual suspects: Georgia Power and Southern Company, as well as Benita Dodd from the Georgia Public Policy Foundation, a “market-oriented think tank,” according to Ms. Dodd’s testimony.
In my opinion, the testimonies from GA Power, Southern Company, and Ms. Dodd of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation were shameful. They claimed that mercury is not as serious a pollutant as EPA and the public fears, there are no recorded incidents of mercury poisoning from fish in Georgia, and that this regulation will be the most costly regulation on business in years. The representative from Southern Company focused especially on how his business did not have time to prepare for these regulations, in spite of these regulations being in the works for nearly twenty years.
In spite of the opposition from the utilities, Georgia Youth for Energy Solutions had a strong showing at the hearing, with more than a dozen students and young people attending the hearing. Jessica Spruill, a rising sophomore at the University of Georgia, testified in the late afternoon, expressing her support for the measure on behalf of students at UGA and GA YES.
I also testified in the evening, though I changed my testimony shortly before I spoke. I decided that I would not offer anything new from what I had already heard; I could not present any new scientific data, and the personal stories presented were extremely compelling. I did want to speak to the fact that those opposing the mercury regulations do not represent my opinion or the opinion of those I work with at SEN. Georgia Public Policy Foundation is not a grassroots or member-driven organization, so to hear Benita Dodd say, “Georgians don’t want this regulation,” doesn’t fly with me.
The main point I wanted to communicate with my testimony is that Southern Company is one of the largest energy company spenders on federal lobbying nationally; they spent $65 million lobbying Congress in 2008. They support and donate to the same Senators and Representatives who want to de-fund EPA and strip the Agency of its power to regulate pollutants under the Clean Air Act. I don’t find their arguments particularly trustworthy.
I am so thankful for the opportunity to speak to the EPA and give our student leaders the opportunity as well. We’ll need to remain alert to ensure that EPA follows through in finalizing and enforcing mercury pollution regulations.
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 – firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
Southern Energy Network joins with group of organizations in condemning Florida voter suppression bill
Students working with the Southern Energy Network registered over 2,000 young voters in Florida in 2010 – and our ability to register voters in future FL elections is under attack. SB 2086, due to be voted on today in the Florida State Senate, would limit student voting in a number of ways, including:
- Preventing students from being able to change their address at the polls;
- Reducing the early voting period; and,
- Introducing new and difficult regulations for any group working to register voters.
This bill will have a direct impact on our ability to register voters in Florida in the 2012 elections and into the future, as well as our ability to effectively turn out students to vote. This in an unacceptable and dramatic attack on the ability of young people to vote.
UPDATE: The Florida Senate passed the bill 25-13. The bill will now go back to the House, which passed a different version.
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.
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.
I never thought this blog post would get here! We are officially five days out until Power Shift 2011. SEN is hosting a conference call this Wednesday to prepare you and your friends for this epic conference.
Power Shift is going to be huge event, with over 10,000+ young people registered to attend this year. Energy Action Coalition has worked hard to design a conference that fits everyone’s needs and desires. Power Shift 2011 will have something for everyone, but I know what you are asking yourself: how can I make the most out of such a large, historical event?
To get you and your friends ready and pumped for Power Shift 2011, SEN is hosting a Navigate Power Shift conference call this Wednesday!
How to Navigate Power Shift 2011 Conference Call
Wednesday, April 13 – 8:00 PM EST / 7:00 PM CST
- Overview of the Power Shift agenda
- Tips for how to divide and conquer within your campus or community group
- The skinny on important details not found on the Power Shift 2011 website
- And more!
RSVP here on Facebook. Invite all of your friends from your campus or community group!
Power Shift is going to be an amazing event. Everyone has worked so hard in preparing to attend – now, let us help you be as strategic as possible when you walk through the door of the convention center.
After months of supporting youth leaders across the Southeast to recruit, train, and arrange logistics, the Southern Energy Network is ready to represent. We have youth coming from every Southeastern state. Everyone is excited and ready to shift the power!
We wanted to give three highlights from the field to show how many people are truly ready to shift the power.
- Our good friends in Alabama will increase their Power Shift attendance nearly 200% from 2009.
- Florida students will be crowned the fundraising kings, collectively raising over $44,000.
- In Georgia the Atlanta University Center, made up of Spelman, Morehouse, and Clark Atlanta University will be bringing a charter bus with almost 60 students.
These are only three highlights; youth all across the South have worked hard to achieve some phenomenal Power Shift 2011 success stories. If we were able to achieve this much only to prepare for the conference, imagine what we will be capable of once we come back home from Power Shift 2011. We will be energized and empowered to return to our campus and communities to take action and cause a nationwide power shift.
Join us for the Navigate Power Shift conference call this Wednesday, April 13 at 8:00 PM EST / 7:00 PM CST, RSVP here on Facebook!
On April 15th – 18th, I will be surrounded by over 10,000 young climate activists in Washington D.C. Power Shift 2011 is going down, and, just like the two previous Power Shift conferences, this year promises to be historic. But before you attend this historic event you need to make sure you and as many young people as possible are registered. On Monday March 28th, the registration fee jumps from $65 – $80 for students and youth. We want the grassroots community to get to Power Shift as cheaply as possible. So, make sure you register by Sunday, March 27th, 11:59pm.
To give you a quick taste, here are a few people who will be there: Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson; Former Vice President Al Gore; Green Jobs Guru Van Jones; and founder of 350.org, premier climate activist and writer Bill McKibben. This in addition to the Art Fair, Jobs and Organization Fair, grassroots training supported by the New Organizing Institute, D.C. energy efficiency canvass, state break outs, toxic tours, lobbying, rallying, live music, and much more are sure to make Power Shift 2011 the best one yet!
This year’s Power Shift could not be happening at a more important time. The progressive front is in a frenzy. Young people are leading peaceful revolutions in the Middle East, states like Ohio and Wisconsin are rallying for workers rights, and most importantly our clean air and water is under attack. Currently three bills in Congress target our beloved and much needed EPA, one bill calls for slashing the EPA budget to smithereens. The other two would reverse a Supreme Court order that gives the EPA authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, which are causing global warming.
For young people who envision an economy built by green jobs and powered by clean, safe, renewable energy, Power Shift 2011 is our moment. We can no longer sit back and allow our air and water to be polluted by large corporations. We can no longer sit back and let companies like the Koch Industries buy our decision makers’ votes. Power Shift 2011 will unite the progressive grassroots community. We will come together to draw a line in the sand and take back what is ours: a government that represents people, not polluters.
I am so excited to be working with young people across the Southeast. For a year and a half I have organized student voices with Southern Energy Network and Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. I am more energized than ever about the unbridled enthusiasm I’m seeing from young people all over the country for Power Shift 2011 and I know the south will be well represented.
To give you a few highlights, Florida already has four charter buses lined up; students at the University of Georgia got their school to fully sponsor 10 students; Alabama is using Power Shift to unite, grow, and solidify their state network; Clemson University in South Carolina is on the verge of confirming 30 students; and youth in Tennessee plan on bringing a veggie-powered bus to the conference.
Make sure you join the southern forces at Power Shift 2011 and register before the regular registration period ends this Sunday at 11:59pm! Power Shift will change your life. I do this work because of Power Shift 2007. You don’t want to miss this historic moment when we will come together to let our governmental leaders and the dirty corporations know we will no longer sit back and watch our world burn.
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