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.