Still waiting on a call from the EPD (but Georgia Power has been on the phone)

Yesterday (Wednesday, January 6) The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) asked if they could repost R&P’s post from Tuesday, January 5th about Georgia Power pumping water from their Plant Branch coal ash ponds into Lake Sinclair over the weekend.

They reposted, and Georgia Power picked up the phone and set up a conference call with SACE and Jen Hilburn, the Altamaha Riverkeeper who discovered the pumping last weekend.

SACE has added this to their reposting of my original blog:
Subsequent to our posting of this article, Georgia Power contacted us to clarify that emergency overflow pumping was taking place as part of their emergency response plans, consistent with the facility’s permit, due to unusually high rainfall. The overflow is designed to prevent water over-topping the dyke and damaging it through erosion. While overflow water comes from the surface of the pond and has less exposure to toxic ash, which settles to the bottom, we remain concerned about the risks of wet ash storage demonstrated by this episode. Georgia Power aims to publish closure plans for all its ash ponds in Spring 2016 and we look forward to reviewing those plans to ensure they keep ash in lined facilities away from waterways.

Like SACE and the Altamaha Riverkeeper, I am very concerned about both the storage of wet coal ash so close to Lake Sinclair, and the pumping of  water from their ponds into Lake Sinclair.

Georgia Power should have been proactive in sharing information with the public about their actions. The Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) should have been on site in the “emergency” situation Georgia Power is claiming (The record rains weren’t a surprise, and the proximity to Lake Sinclair isn’t new at Plant Branch either).

But that’s not all of it.

Georgia Power and the EPD told Hilburn they were testing the water.

Jen Hilburn on Lake Sinclair at Plant Branch
Jen Hilburn on Lake Sinclair at Plant Branch

But Georgia Power and the EPD don’t test for heavy metals and toxins found in coal ash waste. They test for oil and grease, pH, and sediment/particulate concentration.

If you don’t test for coal ash toxins, then you surely won’t find them.

Hilburn was told by Georgia Power that it will continue pumping water from their coal ash ponds into Lake Sinclair.

And the EPD?

As of 6:30 this evening, the Altamaha Riverkeeper says she is still waiting for phone messages to be returned from her weekend calls about Lake Sinclair and Plant Branch.

Georgia Power doesn’t seem interested in calling me, and that’s ok, but apparently they have read Rural and Progressive.

 

 

SB 401: A bill conservatives and treehuggers can love

Georgia Senate Bill 401, (SB 401) would,  in a nutshell,  deregulate solar power in Georgia and serve as an incentive for both private and commercial expansion of solar power. Between the fleet of lobbyists and influential directors at GA Power, the company has maintained a stranglehold on the amount of power that can be moved to the grid from private and commercial sources, and the way solar energy production can be financed.

In addition to removing the cap on selling solar power, SB 401 will allow companies such as MAGE, which produces solar panels at its North American headquarters just down the road from me in Dublin, to finance or lease systems to customers. Currently financing or leasing is not allowed in Georgia. Restrictions in Georgia make large scale solar energy production unattractive to investors (see paragraph above, re: GA Power lobbyists and directors).

Two doctors in Savannah. Pat Godbey and Sidney Smith, got tired of waiting on the General Assembly to loosen GA Power’s control over the grid, and in open defiance, established Tabby Power. Tabby Power sells solar produced electricity to consumers. Smith and Godbey also started Lower Rates for Customers, which helps sell solar generated electricity made in one location to consumers in other areas. You can get a taste of their solar power projects at the Driftaway Cafe in Savannah, which is a Lower Rates for Customers client.

What’s not to love in SB 401 for advocates of open and free markets? What’s not to love about maximizing clean renewable solar power, which we do have in bountiful amounts here (see paragraph above, re: MAGE solar panels decision to locate in Georgia)? Supporters of SB 401 are collecting signatures here. At the end of the day, SB 401 is the rare bill that citizens on opposite sides of the political spectrum can love.