Residents of Cook County and advocates of free speech everywhere won a big victory in Georgia. The Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) will begin holding public comment periods on “synthetic minor” air pollution permits. This is the first time that EPD will hold comment periods for these permits in more than 20 years.
This is a victory for basic democracy.
The Georgia public finally has a chance to comment on proposed permits. Public comments can make the permitting process more fair and democratic. Individual comments can inform agency policy choices. This may help them change course before it’s too late.
Dogwood Alliance joins our partners in Georgia to celebrate this important announcement. Dogwood Alliance, Environmental Integrity Project, Concerned Citizens of Cook County, Georgia Interfaith Power and Light, and several other close allies have been pushing the Environmental Protection Division. Since 2020, we’ve been demanding that GA EPD include comment periods for synthetic minor air pollution permits.
This is a victory for our communities and will lead to victories for our climate and forests.
The wood pellet biomass industry often needs these synthetic minor air pollution permits. In a cluster, so-called minor sources can have a large impact on air quality. In the Southeastern United States, industrial facilities set up shop in marginalized communities of color. Now communities will be able to give their own views. This brings more voices to the decision-making table. GA EPD’s response will finally take into account the public view on these types of permits.
This victory is because of the tireless work of advocates. This decision brings us closer to a vision of environmental justice.
But the fight isn’t over. In the same announcement, the GA EPD opened a comment period for the Spectrum Energy wood pellet production facility.
Spectrum Energy hopes to build a 1.32 million ton production facility in Adel, Georgia. This facility will be a disaster for forests. If built, it will be the largest wood pellet manufacturing facility ever in Georgia. It will lead to clearcutting 31,680 acres of Georgia forests per year. This clearcutting will be in a region where industrial logging is already bombarding forests.
This facility will also be a disaster for our climate. Wood pellets this facility produces will be burned in Europe for energy. That burning will add thousands of tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, equal to 472,683 cars on the road.
Residents in Cook County will face air pollution like particulates, carbon monoxide, nitrogen, and hazardous air pollutants. This sort of air pollution causes many health harms, from asthma attacks to cancer to heart attacks, resulting in emergency room visits, hospitalizations, and premature deaths. Furthermore, wood pellet producers like Spectrum Energy promise jobs and prosperity to local communities, but these promises have never panned out. Poverty rates in many areas where there are wood pellet facilities are stagnant or have even increased since these facilities came to town.
It’s time to take advantage of this new opportunity to raise our voices!