System cannot afford plant

Published 8:03 pm Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Your fine publication gave very generous coverage to a recent public meeting addressing the proposed coal-fired energy plant in Early County. We are very grateful. There is no substitute for a free, probing press, and you certainly represent that fine American tradition very well.

We would also like to thank Suzanne Brandt of Keep Decatur County Beautiful for hosting and publicizing the meeting.  Clearly, the viewpoint and conclusions that we brought forward were potentially controversial as viewed from some quarters, and Ms. Brandt handled the situation as a completely nonpartisan broker. Decatur County should be proud to house such an organization, one so interested in not only cleanliness and recycling issues, but in fostering a broader discussion about what it means to protect and improve Decatur County’s economy and culture by paying close attention to God-given infrastructure comprised of water, land and air.

Our gratitude also extends to the several Decatur County commissioners, Planning Commission members, and the county attorney who took their valuable time to attend the meeting, asking good, probing questions on the materials presented.

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I am compelled to offer one minor correction to your otherwise accurate coverage,  a point that is major to the developers of another plant, the one in Ben Hill County off to the northeast: my comments and power point presentation did not state that the proposed plant in Ben Hill County has been applied for, or granted. The situation in Ben Hill is in a much more preliminary posture than either the one in Early or Washington counties. (Editor’s Note: The original story was published on Aug. 14, and there was a correction that ran in the following edition.)

Again, thank you for your coverage of the coal-fired plant in Early County. Flint Riverkeeper’s position is clear: there are no “clean” coal-fired plants. They all require too much water, pollute too much airshed, and pose too much risk integral to ash disposal. The effects on our economy and culture are too broad and penetrating in a negative way to allocate the water, air, and land needed for such ventures.

We cannot afford the evaporation of 20 million gallons per day from the ‘Hooch portion of the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint system. We cannot afford the competition for our Southwest Georgia airshed against our timber and agricultural interests that are highly dependent upon prescription burn.

We cannot afford the risk of a Tennessee-scale belching of coal ash into the river, downstream toward Lake Seminole. These threats are real, and nontrivial. They are not a fair trade for a handful of new jobs and the increase of the tax base in Early County, just to enrich some investors from New Jersey and ship our water and clean air, via some electrons over wires, to densely populated areas on the southeastern United States’ electric grid. We are collectively smart enough to bring cleaner, more efficient economic development to Southwest Georgia that put all of our water, air and land eggs in one basket.

Concerning these points, your readers deserve to read and discuss both our side, and the counter arguments. Your service and coverage are critical to that conversation, and we highly value the space in your publication.

Thank you,
S. Gordon Rogers,
Riverkeeper and executive director
Flint Riverkeeper