Georgia Youth Testify at EPA Hearing

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

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

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Entry filed under: coal, georgia, government, southern energy network.

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