Georgia & Coal

GA Power to close Plant Branch
February 13, 2013

GA Power submitted a 20 year energy plan to the Public Service Commission for review and approval recently, and the company's position on coal, and new coal in particular, raises yet more questions about why local EMC leaders continue to insist that Plant Washington is a good investment.

The plans include closing all units at Plant Branch on Lake Sinclair just across from Milledgeville. Two units were already slated to be closed, and now GA Power finds it can still supply customers without so much coal in their fuel mix, and without huge jumps in rates.

GA Power is required to have access to surplus energy as part of its planning, so the long and short range projections include increased demands due to weather, industrial use, etc. The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that earlier concerns about tougher emission standards are no longer a problem for GA Power.

GA Power will be closing some plants, converting others to natural gas, and increasing renewable energy use, without adding big rate increases. The company is guaranteed through state legislation to recover the costs of providing power across the state and make a profit.

Greg Roberts, Vice-President of Pricing and Planning with GA Power told the AJC,“(Energy efficiency) is kind of our first resource.”

If there is surplus cheap electricity on the market, and GA Power is planning 20 years down the road (Washington EMC buys power from GA Power), there are still more holes in the argument in support of Plant Washington.

Estimates on the project conservatively ring in at $4.2B, twice the original estimate five years ago. That estimate didn't include a pro forma business analysis, raising more concerns about the soaring costs construction along would require. No one from WEMC has released a projected rate for power if the plant is ever built.

"King Coal" knocked off throne

January 23, 2013

Georgia Power's decision to reduce its use of coal and oil for power production isn't just making headlines in our state. National media outlets are providing plenty of air time and space to cover this fundamental shift in how the company which controls the grid in our state will supply power to customers.

WBUR in Boston explored the reasons behind coal's loss of favor as a fuel source, which includes record low prices for natural gas, more stringent emission regulations for coal plants, and reduced demand for power in general.

This short film about the health threats involved with coal ash disposal highlights the dangerous practices of currently operating coal power plants in Georgia, with a focus on Plant Scherer in Juliette.





Mercury Impaired Water in Georgia

Click on the map to see a larger view








Coal and Your Health

Agency says coal ash dump must close
July 31, 2012

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has told FirstEnergy that it must close a coal ash waste dump site due to leakage inot water supplies. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that contaminents include arsenic, sulfates, and chloride. The paper also reports that FirstEnergy failed to cary out "required groundwater assessments and abaatement actions."

Regulation of coal ash waste at Plant Scherer is "minimal"

April 16, 2012

The Macon Telegraph reports today that unlined coal ash waste ponds like the one at Plant Scherer, recently ranked as #1 in greenhouse gas emissions, receive "minimal" oversight.

Local residents have begun to raise concerns about the quality of their well water, which has very high levels of uranium. Further concerns have been raised because GA Power, the operator and partial owner of the facility, has recently purchased nearby homes, bulldozed them and then sealed the wells.

Seth Gunning, a conservation advocate, said this about the problems of unlined and self-monitored coal ash waste, “Right now, families simply have no protections against toxic heavy metals that are potentially leaching from coal waste into drinking water, and because (there) is no active monitoring the community has no information about the risk these facilities pose to the health and livelihood of their families,”

UGA and local public health officials are now testing water and talking with citizens about their health problems and concerns.

CNN: Why are so many people near Plant Scherer sick and dying?
April 1, 2012

CNN Radio aired a story on the startling number of serious illness, including cancer and kidney disease, impacting residents living near Plant Scherer, a coal plant near Juliette, GA. Residents near the plant have long complained of serious and fatal illnesses.

During the winter news began to spread in Juliette that GA Power, which owns a share of the plant and manages it for other stakeholders, was buying homes near the facility and immediately sealing the household wells. Even the University of Georgia and public health officials have taken notice of the high levels of uranium in the wells.

Residents diagnosed with cancer, severe kidney disease, and sclerosis of the liver, have been told by their physicians that the cause of their illnesses is due to their local environment, not their diet or alcohol use.

Plant Scherer has an unlined coal ash pond where 900 tons of the toxic waste is stored. CNN reports that the uranium in the pond has tested higher than levels in nuclear waste in the past 30 years. Read more of the CNN feature and see photos of local residents here.

Wondering how coal impacts the health of your community?

According to the Clean Air Task Force coal plant emissions were responsible for 22 asthma attacks and 1 death last year in Washington County.

This interactive site will help you learn what type of impact coal has on your community, how much mercury is in the fish you are eating, and what you can do to reduce the damage done by coal emissions and mercury.

Find out if your community has dangerous levels of coal pollution

This interactive map will show you where coal plant pollution, which includes toxic mercury, is the worst. See how safe the air is in your community here.