Today Representative Mary Margaret Oliver introduced “The Appalachian Mountains Preservation” (HB 276), the first bill in Georgia that would phase out the use of coal from mountaintop removal (MTR) mines by Georgia-based power plants, and would also suspend the permitting of coal-fired power plants in Georgia for five years.
“Georgia needs to be a part of the national conversation about energy alternatives and energy solutions. We can be leaders on this issue,” stated Representative Oliver. The bill gradually reduces the use of mountaintop removal coal from Appalachia over seven years and institutes a five year moratorium on the issuance of coal-fired permits, while suspending permits issued prior to July 1, 2008.
Georgia is the nation’s largest consumer of mountaintop removal coal, and is the eighth biggest emitter of carbon dioxide from coal-burning power plants in the nation. Carbon dioxide emissions from coal total 85.3 million metric tons annually. (http://www.eia.doe.gov/oiaf/1605/ggrpt/excel/tbl_statefuel.xls)
“We are part of the cycle of coal consumption, and we must take responsibility for Georgia being the nation’s greatest consumer of mountaintop coal,” observed Representative Oliver. “We need to step back and look at how we can do things differently.”
Mountaintop removal is a form of strip mining that uses explosives to remove hundreds of feet of elevation from a mountaintop in order to uncover thin seams of coal. The waste created by the blasting is then deposited into adjacent valleys burying forests, communities, and hundreds of miles of streams. The federal Environmental Protection Agency estimates that nearly one million acres of mountains in Central Appalachia have been leveled to date, and approximately 1,200 miles of streams buried by mountaintop removal mining waste.
“We are going to see tremendous change and tremendous opportunities in our energy production and use over the next few years. Now is the time for us to focus on developing clean, smart energy options that create jobs for Georgians and do no harm to the environment,” said Representative Oliver. “Coal makes no sense in this day and age – it’s dirty, it’s expensive, it’s risky.”
“Georgia can be smart and be a leader on energy solutions,” said Midge Sweet, Campaign Director of the Georgians for Smart Energy campaign. “Renewable energy is now competitively priced with fossil fuel costs. The choice is ours. Through energy efficiency, solar, wind, and biomass, we can meet our electricity needs.”
According to Austin Hall, Field Organizer with Appalachian Voices, "Mountaintop removal threatens to wipe Central Appalachia off the map. This form of mining severely degrades the environment and poses significant threats to coal-field communities. It creates rock slides and catastrophic floods, poisons water supplies, causes constant blasting, and ruins property – threatening people's lives and livelihoods. It is imperative for states that use mountaintop removal coal to address this issue."
According to the Medical Association of Georgia, each year in Georgia power plant pollution triggers 26,442 asthma attacks, 1,362 heart attacks, 113 deaths in people with lung cancer. The Association has urged the state to adopt a comprehensive conservation and efficiency program before approving any new coal-fired power plants.
Highlights of Proposed Legislation
The proposed legislation would:
- Phase-out use of MTR (mountaintop removal) coal from Appalachia over seven years (only 50% MTR by 2011; only 25% MTR by 7/2014; no MTR by 7/1/2016)
- Place a Moratorium on issuing permits for coal-fired plants for 5 years (until 7/1/14). Permits issued prior to 7/1/09 would be suspended.