Because coal ash and its toxins are forever, the work to protect the health of communities, water and air, natural resources, and recreational places, is never done. The Georgia Recorder has an op/ed I wrote about the challenges we face in Georgia concerning coal ash waste clean up and storage. Spoiler alert- ratepayers shouldn’t have to pay for it.
Rural Georgians deserve safe drinking water too
Have you ever sat down to a home-cooked meal and heard the cook say, “You may not be able to taste it, but the pasta was cooked in water that may very well be contaminated with a plethora of cancer-causing toxins. Enjoy!” For Georgians who live near a coal plant in Georgia and rely on a well for every drop of water their family uses, there’s a chance that every morsel which came in contact with water from their faucet has been exposed to those contaminants.
Families who rely on a well don’t have other options. In Georgia, 1.5 Million households serve as their own public works department for clean water in their faucets and a properly maintained septic tank field. If the pump breaks or the well goes dry, the expenses are theirs, not the city or county. Counting on a well is a fine art, making families and farmers excellent water conservationists.
What families across rural Georgia do not control is the contamination of their water source from coal ash waste. The landfill where their household garbage is piled up must have a liner that prevents seepage of any waste into groundwater aquifers, nearby streams, and rivers. Those same families are not afforded anything close to that same protection when it comes to coal ash waste.
Georgia’s Democrats in the General Assembly, led by Rep. Robert Trammell of rural Meriwether County, and joined his rural neighbor Rep. Debbie Buckner in Talbot County, and four metro Atlanta legislators, are working together to help protect families and farmers relying on wells for their water. The wide-lens view of HB756 adds a significant measure of protection to municipalities drawing water from rivers and aquifers at risk for coal ash waste contamination.
In short, this bill will serve to better protect all of us from serious health problems resulting from exposure to mercury, lead, arsenic, and a laundry list of other life-threatening toxins that are the end waste of burning coal. This legislation will put an end to Georgia Power’s proposal to leave approximately 50 Million tons of their coal ash waste submerged as deep as 80 feet in groundwater at Plants Hammond, Scherer, Wansley, Yates, and McDonough. Allowing the waste to remain there in unlined disposal pits and ponds will permanently convert Georgia’s water resources into toxic dumping sites benefitting only the company’s shareholders.
Putting coal ash waste in lined landfills, a much safer and secure option for coal ash waste storage, is what Duke Energy in North Carolina is pursuing, as are all utilities in South Carolina. Virginia lawmakers passed a law last year requiring lined disposal of Dominion Energy’s coal as as well. To date, Georgia Power has easily secured the weakest possible standards for storing and monitoring coal ash waste, and expects ratepayers to foot the bill for anything more stringent. As recent news reports confirm, the way coal ash waste has been regulated in our state has been at the detriment of our citizens.
HB756 goes a long way towards putting the health of our water, air, wildlife, and communities, ahead, at last, of Georgia Power’s bottom line. Shareholders have profited mightily from lax oversight of the company’s waste for decades, and long past the time when they should have known better than to simply dump this waste in unlined holes in the ground. It should be their responsibility to clean up the messes they have made across our state, while being held to the highest standards for ensuring that our water and air are not threatened by the toxic residue their plants produce.
Legalizing hate in Georgia
It only took three days before the Georgia General Assembly saw a bill filed that, if passed and signed by Governor Deal, will mark us a state that allows discrimination based on religious faith. Filed by Republican Representative Kevin Tanner of Dawsonville, HB756 allows business owners the right to deny services or the selling of goods to a “religious organization” or for a “religious or matrimonial ceremony” if the business owner says the organization or ceremony conflicts with his/her right to exercise their religious freedom.
That means HB756 legalizes discrimination by florists, bakers, bridal shops, caterers, wedding sites, and other businesses connected to the wedding industry, simply because the business owner personally opposes the marriage. That’s legislative code for opposing same-sex marriage.That also means the business owner can do the same if they don’t like the tenants of a religious organization.
In other words, if you don’t worship where I worship, I don’t have to treat you like I would the members of my church when you come into my place of business.
I used the word “church” because HB756 specifies churches for protection under this law. Temples, mosques, and other places of worship are not described at all, just churches.
HB756 reads, “the term ‘religious organization’ means a church, a religious school, an association or convention of churches, a convention mission agency, or an integrated auxiliary of a church or convention or association of churches…”
Christians go to church, Jews attend synagogues or temples, and Hindus and Muslims worship in temples. Tanner and Hb756 co-sponsors Tom Rice, R-Norcross, Randy Nix, R-LaGrange, and Paul Battles, R-Cartersville, know this, and their choice of words is telling. They want to make sure churchgoers are afforded the right to discriminate.
Speaker of the House David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, is only supporting Tanner’s other bill, HB757, called the “Pastor Protection Bill,” a bill that allows a minister to decline a request to perform a marriage ceremony if it conflicts with his/her beliefs.
Of course there shouldn’t be legislation allowing a person who is licensed by the state to perform legal ceremonies, to deny services to anyone, but this move to “protect” pastors pales in comparison to Tanner’s HB756.
The wedding industry is huge, and state coffers benefit greatly from them. Hotel rooms are booked, gas tanks filled, gifts sent, clothing bought, and bouquets tossed to guests. Legalizing hate in HB756 doesn’t make legal sense or good economic sense.