On Tuesday, Oct. 6th, Georgia citizens gathered together at statewide public hearings sponsored by a coalition of organizations called Georgians for Smart Energy. Residents were there to voice opposition to the proposed coal plant – Plant Washington – in hopes of getting their message across to the GA Environmental Protection Division (EPD).
In September, the Georgia Environmental Protection Division denied over 1,000 letters requesting statewide public hearings on Plant Washington’s draft environmental permits and announced that they would host only two meetings on this topic, October 6th and October 20th, in Sandersville, GA. The purpose of the October 6th hearing was to present information and answers to any questions on the draft permits. Public comment on the draft permits will then be taken at the October 20th hearing. Written comment can be submitted until October 27th. The draft permits are for air pollutants, surface water withdrawal, groundwater withdrawal, and water discharge.
No other hearings will be held by EPD on any of the permits. Unlike many other state environmental agencies, the Georgia Environmental Protection Division is limiting the opportunity for public input by holding only one hearing on all four of these critical coal plant permits. They have also chosen to only provide a copy of the draft air permit for public viewing on their website. Given the lack of public access Southern Alliance for Clean Energy has obtained a copy of all draft permits and posted them to the take action page of our website for public viewing. We consider this lack of public accessibility a severe disservice to the citizens of Georgia and hope you do too – please make sure you join us in submitting comments. The public deserves a right to engage on this critical issue.
The permits cover a range of environmental issues including, but not limited to, toxic air pollutants that exacerbate asthma levels in Georgia, depletion of the Cretaceous Aquifer – a finite water resource, and mercury pollution in Georgia’s waterways – that can harm brain and nervous system function. If these draft permits are approved it will effect air and water quality for all Georgians for the next 50 years.
The image to the left depicts the already impaired Georgia waterways from mercury pollution and overlays the location of proposed Plant Washington, which would emit an additional 106 pounds of the potent neurotoxin every year.
Frustrated with the lack of public engagement offered by GA EPD, Georgia citizens and Georgians for Smart Energy took matters into their own hands. Court reporters were present at hearings Tuesday evening in Augusta (watch the Channel 6 WJBF News Show), Macon, and Kennesaw to capture citizens comments and submit them to EPD for the public record. In these statewide hearings, over 50 individuals chose to stand up and give oral comment on their concerns regarding the environmental impacts of Plant Washington. In addition, over 200 individuals in downtown Atlanta made comments to EPD in the form of written petitions against the coal plant.
Blog Post written by Mary Carr, edited by Ulla Reeves. For more information and sample comments to submit to EPD, please email mcarr[at]cleanenergy.org.