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Georgia: Polluters welcome

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With the news that several states -- including New York, North Carolina, Connecticut and Massachusetts -- bypassed the Bush administration and began their own crackdown on pollution coming from power plants, you may be asking yourself, "So what're Georgia regulators doing about those nasty Southern Co. power plants all over the state?"

The answer: not much.

Under pressure from a coalition of environmental and civil rights groups, the state Environmental Protection Division held a series of public meetings to discuss why it allows Southern Co. to run three old, coal-fired power plants that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says are operating illegally.

The state EPD has refused to look into the EPA's allegations, or to even consider the evidence that the EPA has gathered against Southern Co.

The state EPD did go through the motions of holding three public meetings over the last two months -- in Savannah, home to Plant Kraft; in Cartersville, home to Plant Bowen; and in Macon, home to Plant Scherer.

"Right now, we're reviewing the information gathered to decide what, if anything, to do next," says Jimmy Johnston, the manager of EPD's permitting program in the Air Protection Branch.

Even though it's doubtful anything will come of the meetings, the last one on May 28 in Macon wasn't without fireworks.

Carl Pope, executive director of the national Sierra Club, flew in from Washington to confront the Southern Co. about its grandfathered power plants that were exempted from the Clean Air Act back in 1970.

Back then, Pope was a lobbyist for the Sierra Club working against Southern Co.'s lobbyists.

"I remember Southern Co. lobbyists saying quite explicitly during Congressional hearings that the power plants in question were old, outmoded and would be shut down in a few years in any event," Pope said.

Chris Hobson, Southern Co.'s vice president of environmental affairs, countered by saying the EPA changed the way it enforced the Clean Air Act during the Clinton administration, and that Southern Co. is upgrading pollution controls at some of its plants.

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