With Another Coal Plant in Permit Stages, Citizens Urge More Input

Posted on October 1, 2009 by


Declaring that their pleas to the state Environmental Protection Division (EPD) have been ignored, Georgians across the state have planned their own public hearings to discuss the impacts of a large coal-burning power plant proposed for Washington County.
These events — Family and Environmental Health Citizens’ Hearings — will take place on Tuesday, Oct. 6, in Augusta, Macon and Kennesaw, and on Tuesday, Oct. 13, in Savannah. Court reporters will record the public testimony.

Family and Environmental Health Citizens’ Hearings:


Kennesaw State University

Social Science Room Building 3030

1000 Chastain Road

The hearing is free and open to the public. 7-8:30pm

Contact: Mary Carr Mcarr@cleanenergy.org, 404.373.5832

Joshua’s Cup, 1090 Washington Ave., Macon, 478-745-9099

The hearing is free and open to the public. 6-8pm

Deborah Sheppard, stewards@altamahariverkeeper.org,

912-437-8164; Jenette Gayer, jennette@environmentgeorgia.org,

Augusta, Ga

The Boathouse; 6-7:30pm

103 Riverfront Drive

Contact: Tonya Bonitatibus: tbonitat@savannahriverkeeper.org or (770) 598‐6814

Downtown Atlanta 4-7pm

Contact Erin Glynn: erin.glynn@sierraclub.org or 770.598.6814

EPD officials so far have received more than 1,400 written comments on Plant Washington, which would be built in Washington County, near Sandersville. Many of the comments were critical of the agency’s decision to drastically limit opportunities for the public to directly address EPD officials about the impacts of the plant.

But to date, Sandersville is the only venue where EPD will conduct any formal public proceedings on the air permit for the 850-megawatt Plant Washington. The EPD has scheduled an information-only public meeting on Oct. 6 and a hearing with public comment on Oct. 20.

“As Americans, it is our right and responsibility to remind government officials that we want them to protect our air and water from pollution,” said Chandra Brown, executive director of the Ogeechee-Canoochee Riverkeeper, one of several participating organizations and co-sponsor of a citizens’ hearing in Savannah. “The state needs to hear that, and explain why it’s keeping Georgia stuck in the past with its decision to permit another coal-burning plant.”

Midge Sweet, director of Georgians for Smart Energy (GSE), called EPD’s decision to take public input only in Sandersville “short-sighted.” GSE is a statewide coalition of more than 30 organizations working to ensure a clean and healthy future for the state. The GSE coalition is concerned about Plant Washington’s mercury emissions and its plan to use huge volumes of Georgia water.

“Plant Washington’s impacts are going to be felt in places far beyond Sandersville,” said Deborah Sheppard, mother of four, who is also the Altamaha Riverkeeper and lives near Savannah. “It’s going to emit more than mercury, lead and tons of other pollution from its smokestacks every year. That pollution spreads all over Georgia, so people throughout Georgia deserve to have EPD listen to our concerns.”

According to documents filed with EPD by Power4Georgians, the group of electric membership corporations (EMCs) proposing Plant Washington, even with pollution controls the plant would emit more than 100 pounds of mercury every year.

For Dr. O’Neal Chandler, a retired physician from Fulton County, Plant Washington’s mercury emissions pose a significant public health threat. “The Environmental Protection Division’s decision to issue a pollution permit for this plant is beyond understandable,” Chandler noted, “especially since this is the same agency that currently has issued advisories warning women of child-bearing age and children under seven years old to restrict the amount of fish they eat because of mercury contamination.”

Plant Washington would emit more than 1,100 tons of soot. About 40 percent of that would be fine microscopic particles. According to officials, these particles are so small — less than one-seventh the average width of a human hair — they can lodge deeply into the lungs and cause respiratory problems.

Annually, Plant Washington would emit almost 1,900 tons of sulfur dioxide, the main cause of acid rain; nearly 1,900 tons of nitrogen compounds that are responsible for dangerous ozone pollution; and 6.2 million tons of carbon dioxide, the equivalent emitted by 1 million cars on the road during one year.

If Plant Washington is built, it also would use 16 million gallons of water per day, drawn from the Oconee River and 16 wells.

Concerns about such potential public health and environmental impacts brought many of the 1,400 letter-writers together. Because their requests for the EPD to conduct hearings in other locations seem to have gone unattended, they were compelled to organize their own public outreach and hearings.

Citizens are urged to attend the hearing closest to them. These hearings provide the chance to get facts, ask questions, raise concerns and have those concerns documented. Transcripts from these Family and Environmental Health Public Hearings will be sent to the EPD and will also be submitted at the only public hearing the EPD has set, scheduled for Monday, Oct. 20, in Sandersville, site of the proposed coal plant.

“Georgians deserve to have their voices heard about this,” Midge Sweet added. “There’s absolutely no reason we should be poisoning our lakes and rivers, risking our children’s health and using up precious water for a project such as Plant Washington, especially when there are far cleaner ways than coal to generate electricity that also ensure long-term jobs.”

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