When you are among Friends

If someone says, “I went to UGA” or any large college or university, most people can readily identify something about that school (football, agriculture, technology, etc). When someone asks an alum of a Quaker school where they went to school, sometimes the person asking the question looks kind of lost if they follow-up and ask what type of school that is and the answer is a simple, “Quaker”. (I have on a few occasions extolled about one benefit of being an alum of a Quaker school is the lifetime supply of free oatmeal. I should not prey on the innocent.)

Quakers are not Shakers (but they can and do shake things up sometimes), or Mennonites, or Amish. Quakers are Quakers just like Methodists are Methodists. They come in all sizes, shapes, colors, and varieties. Flaming Liberals-yep. Middle of the Road-got plenty of those. Conservative- there are some of those too.

If you are wondering who Quakers are and what they do, The Huffington Post ran an article in June, “4 Things We Can All Learn from One of America’s Oldest Religious Communities” which does a good job of explaining some of the ways Quakers work together as a faith community (and as a result in their communities beyond their church).

There is a new family living in Ragsdale House, where the President lives at my Quaker college alma mater, Guilford College. The search to hire our ninth president was unusually transparent when compared to how many schools hire their administrative leaders. When the College announced that Jane K Fernandes had accepted the offer to join the Guilford community, there was a huge outpouring of genuine and heartfelt excitement. Jane said she truly felt called to Guilford, and her passion for the values of Quakers, a Quaker-based education, and Guilford are palpable.

Why am I calling Guilford’s Ninth President “Jane” instead of “Dr Fernandes” or “President Fernandes?” Rule 5 of  22 things only someone who went to a Quaker school would understand, written by a Guilford alum, explains it (slight NSFW language).

Rule 1 about bumper stickers? So true, as a Friday Photo from Rural and Progressive a few years ago demonstrates:

Guilford Alum, Class of 1961, leaves no doubt about her politics
Guilford Alum, Class of 1961, leaves no doubt about her politics

 

 

 

 

 

Didn’t you get that dress in 2008?

Dwight Brown's mug shot
Dwight Brown’s mug shot

Monday was a “Monday” in every sense of the word for Plant Washington and its developer, Power4Georgians. Before the EPA could announce a long-awaited carbon pollution rule, the Georgia State Supreme Court ruled that the 30+ indictments against former Cobb EMC CEO Dwight Brown will not be dismissed. That clears the way for Brown to have to defend himself against numerous charges of racketeering, theft, and making false statements (layman’s term is lying).

Who knows what type of complicated web might be unraveled in a trial involving federal racketeering and such? Plant Washington’s developer, Dean Alford, worked as Brown’s Vice-President at Cobb EMC when he secured the no-bid contract for Power4Georgians’ coal plant. Could he and many others be called to testify in Brown’s trial? Will co-op members across the state who found themselves obligated to a multi-billion dollar, back room deal coal plant camp outside the courthouse in order to secure a seat during the trial?

The court ruling came out hours before EPA Director Gina McCarthy could announce, and then sign, proposed carbon pollution rules for existing power plants.

McCarthy didn’t disappoint: the proposed regulations will require  a 30 percent reduction in 2005 carbon emission levels. Plant Washington wasn’t even announced until January of 2008, and Allied Energy Services CEO Dean Alford stated in community meetings since then that the plant can’t go forward if it has to control for carbon pollution.

Alford hoped for an exemption by signing a boiler contract in the spring of 2013, but there’s no magic in just signing the document. Allied Energy hasn’t yet demonstrated to the EPA that it met the stringent requirements to be placed in a special category of projects that would emit carbon.

But now it won’t matter whether Plant Washington is determined to be an “existing” or “new” source of carbon pollution because controlling carbon emissions will have to happen for all power plants emitting carbon.

Plant Washington isn’t the “It Girl” any more. It’s dress is out of style, the hem has been stepped on, and the corsage is wilted. Now everyone wants to dance with Renewable Wind and Free Sunshine. Fortunately they never seem to run out of energy.

 

 

 

Why carbon pollution is a B.F.D.

Over the weekend The New Republic posted an article, “Obama’s New Rules are a B.F.D. The Ensuing Political Fight May Be Even Bigger” about carbon pollution rules (Greenhouse Gas or GHG) the Environmental Protection Agency will release On June 2 next week. These rules will be directed toward existing sources of carbon pollution, the majority of which are coal-fired power plants.

Recognizing and acting on carbon pollution has been a long time coming in the United States. We’re the last car on the train of developed countries acknowledging and acting upon the mounds of scientific and economic data pointing to the damage that has been done, and continues to grow, by unfettered coal fueled carbon pollution.

There’s another story to tell about coal plants, but it isn’t be told often enough, or loudly enough. Why?

Coal plants aren’t found in gated communities, middle class neighborhoods, or private schools campuses. Coal plants aren’t problems for elected officials or businesses unless the issue is air quality or water resources, or until those who bear the weight of coal show up at government or shareholder meetings demanding action. Coal plants are stashed away in communities of color, low income, low education levels, poor health status, and rural America.

Facing South said this about who we are:

  • Number of Americans who live within three miles of a coal-fired power plant, which coal-plants-wastetypically stores toxic coal ash waste in unlined pits that aren’t currently subject to federal oversight: 6 million
  • Their average per capita income: $18,400, average per capita income for U.S. residents overall: $21,587
  • Percent of people living within three miles of a coal plant who are people of color: 39
  • Number of the nation’s 378 coal-fired power plants that received an “F” in a 2012 report because they’re responsible for a disproportionate amount of pollution in low-income and minority communities: 75
  • Average per capita income of the 4 million people who live within three miles of those failing coal plants: $17,500, percent who are people of color: 53
  • Average per-capita income of people living within three miles of Duke Energy’s Dan
    photo from Catawba Riverkeeper
    photo from Catawba Riverkeeper

    Plant near Eden, N.C., where a Feb. 2 coal ash spill has contaminated the waterway  for 80 miles downstream: $15,772

  • Percent of the residents of Danville, Va., a community downstream of the spill that draws its drinking water from the Dan, who are people of color: 53.3
  • Risk of cancer for people living within a mile of unlined coal ash pits: 1 in 50
  • Number of times that exceeds what the Environmental Protection Agency considers an acceptable risk: 2,000
  • Number of times more likely it is for someone living near a coal ash pit to develop cancer than someone who smokes a pack of cigarettes per day: 9

Coal plant communities didn’t choose to be the dumping ground for America’s dirtiest energy source.

The renewable energy revolution and putting the brakes on climate change won’t be led by industry and government alone.

We’ve had enough. And we’re making it a B.F.D.

 

 

 

Today’s EPA deadline

The Friday Photo
May 9, 2014

pine trees
mature pine trees in our front yard

I had other plans for The Friday Photo today but spent more time than I expected crafting my comments to the EPA about proposed carbon pollution rules for existing power plants and why Plant Washington isn’t an existing source of greenhouse gases. The deadline was today at 5:00 p.m.

My comments included this:

“On a sunshine soaked afternoon in September 2013 while Power4Georgians was announcing its intent to request permit extensions from the Georgia Environmental Protection Division, crews hired by the current land owners were preparing the proposed plant site for planting timber. Growing timber is an investment in time and money, as my family knows from timber management on our family farm. Growing trees requires patience as it takes several years before even a thinning of the growth is necessary, with significant harvesting sometimes requiring 20 years of patient waiting and watching.”

Just like growing timber, fighting Plant Washington has required time and patience, and some watching and waiting. The investment for those of us who steeled ourselves and stood up in our community has been worth the effort. We won’t have to wait decades for the return on our investment.

Climate, kidnapping, and GPB

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This is good Mr President but why not step up and stop Keystone XL now? We won’t get the oil, Americans and First Nations will be forced to give up their private property to a foreign company, spills are sure to happen in our backyards, and all of us will suffer the climate effects of the dirtiest oil in the world. If you truly belief what you are preaching, act now.

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Why did the world sit on its hands for over two weeks before beginning to address the 300 girls kidnapped for the purpose of being sold as child brides? It is because they are black? Because they are Nigerians? I am holding Hamatsu Abubakar in The Light until she and all her friends are returned safely to their families. Abubakar means “noble.” Bring Back Our Girls

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There are two big news items from Georgia Public Broadcasting (GPB) and we’re only three days into the week. Chip Rogers was fired for violating GPB’s employment policies for much of his stint at the public broadcasting network. While Rogers stated his $150K per year job at GPB, the network hired a radio professional with decades of experience to produce his show. Did Rogers need help with his 30 minute show because he was also busy working as the Vice-President for Government Affairs at the Asian American Hotel Owners Association?

WRAS
Yesterday the Atlanta Business Chronicle announced that Georgia State University’s 100,000 watt, student-run radio station WRAS, will broadcast GPB’s programming from 5 a.m.to 7 p.m. The station’s Album 88 programming has a strong following, but those listeners will have to stream Album 88 during the day until it switches back to over-the-air broadcasting after 7 p.m.

And that’s not all. GPB is switching to a news and information format with programming piped in from National Public Radio, American Public Media, and Public Radio International.  A GPB produced talk show will debut in the fall of this year.

GSU has a license to operate the student programmed station but didn’t involve WRAS management and staff in the decision making process to fundamentally change the programming format. WRAS posted this on its Facebook page,”WRAS management and staff have had no part in the decision made by the university regarding our partnership with GPB. As a completely student-run/managed station, the administration of GSU acted unilaterally in making this decision. A statement from the staff on the matter will be made public soon.”

Enough is enough

The Friday Photo
May 2, 2014

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I posted this photo on January 25, 2012 after Cobb EMC abandoned Plant Washington and resigned itself to a likely $15M loss on the proposed coal plant it had bankrolled with co-op owner/member dollars.

Almost 6.5 years after it was announced as a “done deal,” Power4Georgians has asked for a permit extension for this because P4G chose to delay construction.

Today is the last day to tell the Georgia EPD that Power4Georgians has had plenty of time.

We’re all living on the same small spinning piece of real estate sharing the limited water and air that has to sustain all of us. Every one of us have skin in this game.

Sign and share this message to the Georgia EPD TODAY and say that after almost 6.5 years, “enough is enough.”

 

Um no, not really

This letter was submitted to newspapers sold in the Washington EMC area:

Um, no. Not really

There is a critical error of fact in a press release issued by Power 4 Georgians last week. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has NOT stated that Plant Washington is exempt from any of the proposed carbon, or greenhouse gas (GHG) rules proposed by the agency, for existing or new power plants. In fact, it has become even clearer that, if built, Plant Washington will be subject to carbon pollution standards.  The only question is how protective those standards will be.

Plant Washington’s developer Power4Georgians has requested yet another extension from Georgia’s Environmental Protection Agency for his dinosaur-fuel based project. Southern Environmental Law Center attorney John Suttles commented that, “If Power 4 Georgians commenced construction a year ago like they said, they wouldn’t need additional permit extensions.”

Power4Georgians is choosing to delay construction.

With no announced Power Purchase Agreements or billions in required financing announced, of course the project requires extensions. If the project was fully funded and coal stacks of moneycustomers were waiting for power, wouldn’t the plant already be under construction?

The arguments against Plant Washington continue to grow larger and stronger with time. More energy producers are switching to renewable fuel sources due to reduced costs. Ratepayers are demanding more power produced by sunshine and wind. Major financiers have abandoned coal projects. A similarly speculative project, the Longview Power Plant in Maidsville, West Virginia, began operations in December 2011 and filed for bankruptcy less than two years later.  Meanwhile, ratepayers for power plants like the Prairie State Energy Campus have seen their monthly bills go up by as much as 51 percent due to the soaring costs of coal plants.

We’ve never needed Plant Washington in the first place. If you don’t believe me, drive out 300px-Solar_panelsto the 10 megawatt solar farm in Davisboro and see where Cobb EMC in Marietta is buying clean, affordable electricity generated right here in our own community.

Katherine Cummings
FACE Executive Director
Washington EMC owner/member

Get some religion on Coal Ash Wednesday

coal ash waste
coal ash waste

North Carolina artist Kathy Clark is calling for the tradition of Ash Wednesday to also be Coal Ash Wednesday. She is encouraging people to reduce their use of electricity as much as possible today as a reminder of the damage coal ash continues to do in the Dan River.

Clark is urging people to use a bare minimum or no electricity from 7:00-7:30 tonight. Whether you observe Lent or not, this is an excellent opportunity to consider how you use electricity (and other fuel) and how you can reduce your consumption. It is time to get some religion about energy use in our country.

At a glance, February 21, 2014

The Atlantic covers a Brookings Institute report on income inequality in 50 of America’s cities. Atlanta leads the list.

Got water? Centerville resident Bill Ferguson says SB 213, the Flint River bill, isn’t a good idea. He explains why in today’s Macon Telegraph.

Rep Mike Dudgeon’s HB 874, which would have made solar power much more affordable for Georgians, has just about seen the sun set on it. Dave Williams at the Atlanta Business Chronicle covers it.

Freshly sworn in to the Georgia House of Representatives, Rep Sam Moore, R-Macedonia, thinks:

Would it be a good idea to remove coal ash waste from places where there is groundwater and surface water contamination? “You don’t need to be Joe Chemist to figure that out.” says Avner Vengosh at the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University.

Where will the next one happen?

The Charlotte Observer reports that Duke Energy notified the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources on Sunday afternoon that one of their coal ash ponds at the Dan River Power Station was spilling coal ash waste and toxin contaminated water into the Dan River. The company’s early estimate was that 82,000 TONS of toxic coal ash waste and up to 27 MILLION gallons of water had poured into the river supplying municipal drinking water systems downstream.

photo Catawba Riverkeeper
photo Catawba Riverkeeper

Duke Energy officials waited until 4:03 on Monday afternoon to inform the public.

The Observer quotes power company officials saying on Tuesday that it was “definitely unexpected” that a reinforced concrete pipe would break.

Except Duke Energy didn’t use concrete pipes for two thirds of the length of the pipe where the leak continues to spill into the Dan River. The company thought it had used concrete pipes in the 1960s when they built the coal ash ponds, but now they know that only one-third of the length of the pipe work is concrete.

Ooops.

photo by  Appalachian Voices
photo by Appalachian Voices

Late yesterday Appalachian Voices reported that coal ash has reached the intake point at the Danville water works. Virginia Beach authorities have turned off the pumps at Lake Gaston until the full impact of the spill is determined.

The water problems aren’t over for West Virginians either. The News Observer reports that Dr. Rahul Gupta, health officer for Kanawha and Putnam counties  urges parents with children ages three and younger, as well as people with weakened immune systems, to avoid drinking the water. Yesterday two schools had to close when students and teachers were overwhelmed with the licorice fumes associated with the coal processing chemical that contaminated water resources last month.

There are plenty of potential coal ash spills waiting to happen. Today’s Washington Post notes that there are 207 plant sites in 37 states where coal ash contamination has violated federal air and water health standards. Georgia could be next.

Georgia is riddled with coal plants and the toxic waste they produce. Even as Georgia Power begins to shutter coal units, the coal ash remains. Middle Georgia’s Plant Branch and Plant Scherer as ranked as Significant for hazards. After the doors are locked at Plant Branch next April, the tons of coal ash and toxic-soaked water will still be there in retention ponds, right there on the banks of Lake Sinclair that feeds the Oconee River.

How can this be? Easy.

IN HARM’S WAY: Lack of Federal Coal Ash Regulations Endangers Americans and Their Environment, a report by the Environmental Integrity Project includes this on coal ash waste regulations and monitoring, “Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia either require no monitoring of their numerous ash ponds or monitoring only after the ponds have been closed, a rare event as most ponds are operated perpetually as ‘storage’ sites. Monitoring data from state files in Georgia were so minimal that no assessment of impacts could be made.”

Power companies in Georgia are allowed to self-monitor their coal waste storage sites. Not the state agency that issued their permits, not river keepers, not municipal agencies. The power companies get to make the waste and monitor the safety of its storage.

We’ve allowed corporations, lobbyists, and legislators to put us at risk for decades and we can’t afford any longer to think “it won’t happen to us”.  The “us” is everyone in the Charleston, West Virginia, Danville, and now Virginia Beach.

And the time to speak up is now.

Keeping the lights on

The Friday Photo
January 31, 2014
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Solar panels at John and Gretchen Quarterman’s farm Okra Paradise cranked out power despite a coating of sleet earlier this week. John took this photo while he and Gretchen, along with their dogs Brown Dog and Yellow Dog, surveyed their farm in southwest Georgia.

January 30, 2014

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You can watch the shouting matching here or read about it. And by the way, we don’t get paid what we’re worth and we ought to be.

that-39-s-right-but-where-39-s-my-dinner

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This piece from The Weekly Sift, The Distress of the Privileged, is worth a read too (It’s long but will be time well spent).

UGA and Emory journalism professor Rebecca Burns has a keen piece in Politico on why Tuesday’s snow was such a disaster. Burn’s points here also hold true for the multitude of problems that will occur when the Braves move to Cobb County (add heat and humidity to the picture then).

Jay Bookman  writes about Georgia’s bare bones budgeting, and what it means for our state.

Gonna be tough to top that

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He’s back! President Obama has his feet back under him and the State of the Union address he just delivered made it clear that he and the Democrats are on their game.

The President isn’t going to wait around for the Republicans to hold who knows how many pointless votes on policies and programs they can’t overturn. Instead, he will work with Democrats and any willing Republicans, and he’ll use Executive Orders to move our country forward on minimum wage increases, equal pay for equal work, world-class education for our country’s children, peace in the Middle East, keeping our troops at home, making the voting booth easily accessible for legal voters, and immigration reform.

Obama said we are building a stronger economy using renewable energy fuel resources. The President also told climate deniers to get out of the way.

Come on Mr President, put a cherry on top of tonight’s speech and say No to Keystone XL now.

I listened to Rep Cathy McMorris Rodgers deliver one of four responses to be offered up by the Republicans tonight (Tea Party darlings Sen Rand Paul and Mike Lee are responding too while Rep Ileana Ros-Lehtinen R-Florida will deliver remarks much like McMorris Rodger’s but in Spanish).

McMorris Rodgers touched on some of the points Obama raised like access to health care, jobs, and education, but she didn’t do much more than share some personal examples about how important those things are to her and her family.

And really, did the Republicans and McMorris Rodgers think they need to pander to women by asking a woman who just had a baby two months ago to deliver their flimsy response?

Women and people of color will be wooed and courted by Republicans and Democrats from now until the November elections are over. The President and Democrats came to the front door tonight with a huge bouquet of long stem roses, jewelry, and heated seats on the 50 yard line of this Sunday’s Super Bowl. The Republicans can’t decide on a team captain.

A year’s worth of happiness

The Friday Photo
January 24, 2014

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I don’t keep a diary or journal. As 2012 was winding down a friend suggested collecting the high points throughout the course of the year, writing them down, and keeping them in a container. At the end of the year it could serve as a reminder of happy moments that were worth writing down. This is what my 2013 container looked like.

On January 3rd I recorded my first contribution for 2014: New Year’s Day with Brenda, Diana, Maia, and Karrie (close in my heart).

Chevrolet gets it all wrong

I like to watch a good football game. Sunday I caught the end of the Broncos-Patriot game (go Peyton Manning) and then watched the entire 49ers-Seahawks game. My husband went to bed but I stuck with it until the trophy was presented (including that horrible interview between Pam Oliver and Jim Harbaugh).

The online world lit up after Chevrolet ran an ad several times during the games touting their High Country pickup truck. The truck looks like it is a thing of beauty, comfort, and performance.

The High Country isn’t built to appeal to people who like tofu, veggie burgers, and kale (and quinoa, based on the Chevy Trucks Facebook page).

Chevrolet said so.

Chevrolet thinks tofu is for women, as the macho truck driving man hands an attractive woman a recyclable  grocery bag while the voiceover says “tofu” (nice touch adding the eco-friendly bag). Ridiculing veggie burgers and kale salad were next on the menu.

But enough of that girly stuff. Chevrolet switches to football jersey wearing men tearing into the food Chevrolet thinks their truck owners eat: beef burgers and grilled chicken cooked over a fire. They close with a visual of the large covered smoker the truck pulled to the cookout, and say of tofu, veggie burgers, and kale, “be damned” (whew-that set off a firestorm of criticism).

The number of American farms owned and operated by women doubled between 1982-2007. The USDA reported in April of last year that 1 Million women are the primary and secondary operators of farms in our country, boosting our ranks to 30 percent of the farm owners in our country. The United Soybean Producers “Farmer Profiles” page includes two women among the five growers featured there.

I’ll bet somewhere on their farms those women have a pickup truck. Maybe a couple of them. I wonder if these women know High Country pickup truck drivers are not the kind of people who eat soybean based foods like tofu or veggie burgers, you know, “girl” foods.

Maybe during the Super Bowl in a couple of weeks Chevrolet will introduce a full size pickup truck that is only powered by renewable energy. In pink. With cup holders designed for yogurt containers and hummus. Because women deserve a “special for us” choice in pickup trucks too.