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FEATURE: State Rep. Jeff Jones from Brunswick Continues in his Fight to Curb Coal Ash in Georgia; Bills Pending

Category: Manufacturing

PHOTO:  Georgia Power pumping coal ash into Lake Sinclair.

By Lou Phelps, Coastal Empire News

February 13, 2018 -  State Rep. Jeff Jones may have an “R” after his name, officially, but he has turned out to be an aggressive environmentalist when it comes to protecting Southeast Georgia, the Georgia Coast, and all the rivers in the state.

He is current working hard to build political support in the General Assembly to get the House’s Natural Resources & Environment Committee, and the Speaker of the House, to give several bills a committee hearing with a vote. 

If achieved, the next step will be to insure that the Chairman of the Rules Committee allows the bills to be brought to the House floor for a vote.  First step, however, is to have the bills receive a committee vote, he explains.

“Georgia Power is hard at work fighting both bills, despite that neither bill restricts GA Power's ability or authority to manage their coal ash (CCR) ponds. Further, neither bill hinders GA Power's ability to treat and then drain the coal ash infused water from their coal ash ponds or to properly dispose of coal ash they may dig up and transport to their own landfills, or to any landfill in the State of GA that is permitted to accept coal ash, states Jones.

“During the off-session, we held a series of open and frank meetings with GA Power's environmental and political managers. After the second or third meeting, I clearly heard GA Power say, in effect, "Ok, public notice! We get it!" he states.

“Neither bill restricts or hampers the Georgia Environmental Protection Division's ability or authority to manage coal ash (CCR) in our state. In fact, these bills strengthen and support EPDs authority to manage CCR,” he believes. “How can anyone argue logically against public notice?  Which is basically what these bills have become.”

One message I believe must be said loudly, clearly and repeatedly is that if GA Power opposes either of these "public notice" bills, then the only thing one can surmise is that GA Power wants to keep the public in the dark and uninformed about their handling of coal ash, and the importing and storage of coal ash in our state's solid waste landfills. The only logical reason I can think of why GA Power could possibly have for such a position is they have something to hide. I would like to believe that is not the case. Nothing I have seen, heard or read from Georgia Power suggests they are handling coal ash improperly, but why the objection to full and complete public notice and disclosure? There is no logic to Georgia Power's opposition to HB 879 or HB 880.”

And, Jones states that, “Last week, a major landfill operator's lobbyist commented favorably to me about both bills: "I don't see how can anyone be opposed to public notice." I asked him to please ask the company he represents if they will come out publicly with that position. We'll see,” says Rep. Jones.

Rep. Jones has written an Executive Summary of HB 879 that addresses Dewatering or draining coal ash ponds, and HB 880 that addresses Solid Waste Landfills that accept coal ash shortly after I filed the bills with the Clerk of the House:

"Today, I filed two common-sense coal ash bills one of which specifically establishes full public notice before our landfills begin to accept coal ash (HB 880), and secondly, how the State of Georgia (GA EPD) manages coal ash storage in our state's many solid waste landfills. Today, Georgia is one of the country's largest repositories of coal ash.  While we would like so prevent coal ash from being shipped into Georgia from out of state, we cannot stop it due to interstate commerce regs.  Believe me when I say we have tried our best.  But, we can make sure, by law, that our landfills properly store the coal ash. Very importantly, the landfill bill statutorily requires that the citizens of Georgia be given adequate advance public notice before their local landfill begins accepting coal ash.

"The second bill (HB 879) also establishes, in law, that our citizens must be publicly notified before the water from coal ash ponds is drained into our local rivers, lakes, and streams. Lake Sinclair is a great example of a place where many families swim, boat and fish, right in the shadow of a power plant that currently stores coal ash in wet ponds. For many years, wet storage of coal ash was the traditional method of coal ash storage. Now, the EPA has issued regs requiring all wet coal ash ponds be drained, dried and either capped in place, under certain and very limited, controlled conditions or the dried coal ash ponds must be dug up and the coal ash moved to landfills.  The drying process requires that the coal ash pond water, which is full of heavy metals and toxins, be drained into state waters.  While its true that the coal ash water is treated to meet all safety standards, particularly after it eventually mixes into the body of water in which it is drained and becomes diluted. However, the initial outflow of coal ash pond water still contains a relatively high concentration of coal ash toxins until dilution occurs.

"In the case of both bills, we want the public to know what is going on in their communities. In short, full public disclosure and full public notice. "

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