Winter 2002 Newsletter
Center Joins in Filing Legal Petition to Review Air Pollution Permits

In November, the Center joined environmental and health advocates from across the state in filing a legal petition with the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (Georgia EPD).

The petition asks the agency to review permits it issued to three of Georgiaís dirtiest coal-fired power plants, including Plant Kraft near Savannah. Additionally, the petition requests that Georgia EPD hold public hearings in Savannah, Cartersville and Macon within 90 days.

The plantsóKraft, Bowen (Cartersville) and Scherer (Macon)ówere sued by the US EPA and the Department of Justice for polluting at levels that violate the Clean Air Act. The three coal plants were ìgrandfathered,î or exempted from meeting modern air pollution standards, when the Act passed in 1970. However, the federal government determined that the plants have since expanded or significantly modified their facilities, but plant operators have not installed proper pollution control technology, in violation of federal clean air regulations.

According to federal and state law, plants that make major modifications to their facilities in effect revoke the pollution exemption for older plants and must clean up to meet the modern standards. The US EPA sued the three Southern Company plants in 1999 to compel them to comply with the law, and to install the pollution controls necessary to meet the more protective standardsówhich protect public health and our air and water resources.

Also in 1999, Georgia EPD issued these plants their operating permits. The permits do not recognize the US EPA's evidence or determination and do not require the plants to reduce their pollution. The permits should have included "schedules of compliance," which are timelines with milestones that the plants would follow to gradually reduce emissions. Officials with Georgia EPD claim that they did not have the resources necessary to review US EPAís evidence or join in the lawsuit at the time of the filing.

The petition before Georgia EPD requests that the State review the permits for Plants Kraft, Bowen and Scherer in light of the federal evidence to ensure that they were issued properly and comply with state and federal law. At stake are hundreds of thousands of tons of air pollution known to trigger asthma attacks and contribute to the development of respiratory disease.

Coal-fired power plants account for eighty percent of the stateís sulfur dioxide, and almost one-third of the smog-forming nitrogen oxide pollution. Power plants are also the largest industrial source of airborne mercury, which collects in rivers, lakes and streams. Marine life, such as fish and shellfish, becomes contaminated with mercury and when ingested poses a serious health threat, especially for prospective mothers and their offspring.

Other petitioners joining the Center in the action include:

  • African-American Environmental Justice Action Network

  • Bellevue Concerned Citizens Community Organization

  • CAUTION Macon

  • Citizens for Clean Air and Water

  • Citizens for Environmental Justice

  • Coosa River Basin Initiative

  • Friends of the Chattahoochee

  • Georgia ForestWatch

  • Georgia Public Interest Research Group (Georgia PIRG)

  • Macon Environmental Justice Organization

  • Sierra Club

  • Southern Organizing Committee for Social and Economic Justice
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