Proposed Georgia Coal Plants Raise Health Concerns

Guest Blog | April 13, 2011 | Press Releases

Covington, Ga. (April 13, 2011) – A proposal to build two new coal-fired power plants in Georgia has some worried about higher power bills – but many are also concerned about breathable air. In particular, African-Americans in Georgia are disproportionately affected by air pollution.

“Air pollution from coal already kills more than 500 people each year in Georgia, and causes more than 13,000 asthma attacks,” said Amelia Shenstone with the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.

Coal plants emit pollutants that are toxic and dangerous to public health, particularly for children and the elderly. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) continues to implement and strengthen rules to reduce heart and lung disease caused by coal plant air pollution.

The Newton County NAACP is hosting a forum this Saturday, April 16 from 10:30am to 12:30pm at the Newton County Public Library, 7116 Floyd Street in Covington, GA to educate area citizens about these risks. For more information, please go to Dr. Gwen Cattledge, president of the Newton County NAACP, pointed out that approximately 900,000 persons are affected with asthma in the state of Georgia, according to the 2010 report by the GA Division of Public Health. African-Americans with asthma are seen in hospital emergency rooms at a rate three times higher than whites; they are twice as likely to be hospitalized and 2.7 times more likely to die.

“Most coal plants are built in areas inhabited by low-income or minority populations, where the people have a limited voice in expressing how the polluted emissions can be detrimental to ones’ health. If these plants go forward, what health affects will it cause on our minority populations who are already perplexed with getting quality health care and services? In addition, how will the increased cost in electricity bills used to support these efforts affect our low-income and elderly populations when we are already in a struggling economy?” Cattledge said.

Ben Hill County, where a coal-fired facility is proposed, already ranks 141st out of 156 Georgia counties ranked for overall quality of health. Laura Norris, a Ben Hill resident, commented: “Atlanta electric co-ops need to know they can’t get away with dumping more pollution on us.”

Plant Washington, a new coal plant proposed in Sandersville, GA would annually emit:

  • 1,890 TONS of sulfur dioxide (SO2), which causes respiratory trauma; children are particularly at risk because they spend more time running around outdoors.
  • 1,345 TONS nitrogen oxides (NOx), which cause respiratory distress in healthy people and send asthmatic people to the emergency room.
  • 1,101 TONS of particulate matter so tiny it can enter the bloodstream through the lungs, causing respiratory illness, heart disease and even premature death.

Shenstone concluded: “We should be cleaning up or shutting down old coal plants in Georgia. Instead some of our co-ops, like Cobb EMC, Snapping Shoals EMC, and Central Georgia EMC, are risking our kids’ and grandparents’ health with their plans to build new coal-fired power plants.” # # # Southern Alliance for Clean Energy is a nonprofit organization that promotes responsible energy choices that create global warming solutions and ensure clean, safe, and healthy communities throughout the