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 – 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.
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❤ 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 email@example.com. Jenna is our Georgia Organizer, working with GA YES to fight the proposed coal plants.
General David Poythress (Info@poythressforgovernor.com)
Randal Mangham (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Dubose Porter (email@example.com)
Carl Camon (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Bill Bolton (email@example.com)
Roy Barnes (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Thurbert Baker (email@example.com)
Nathan Deal (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Karen Handel (info@KarenHandel.com)
Eric Johnson (email@example.com)
John Oxendine (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Ray McBerry (McBerryCampaign@GeorgiaFirst.org)
Ray Boyd (email@example.com)
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