May 16, 2024

Where is common sense in toxic coal-ash issue?



            Hear it?


            That whirring sound.

            You thought it was just cicadas, but no.

            It’s the billing meters of Georgia Power’s attorneys and corporate lobbyists trying to figure out how to get around the latest coal-ash edict of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The noise of the invading bugs will soon be over, but the whir of the toxic coal-ash tussle is hitting high gear.

My guess is that our state’s behemoth electricity provider will spend whatever it takes to avoid doing the right thing. What’s the right thing? The very right thing to do is for Georgia Power to clean up its environmental hazards caused by leaking coal-ash ponds. Most ponds have been drained, but some have not.


Several years ago, Georgia Power and/or its parent, the Southern Company, lobbied the EPA to allow Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division (EPD) to govern coal-ash pond rules. Oklahoma and Texas did the same. I don’t know about the other two states, but Georgia Power has benefited from home-cooking governance.

The EPD, the Public Service Commission (PSC), and the General Assembly and governors have failed to challenge Georgia Power to completely clean up its environmental fiasco.

The evidence is clear that coal ash contains dangerous heavy metals including arsenic, chromium, lead, lithium, mercury, radium, selenium and others. These pollutants have been linked to cancer, heart and thyroid disease, reproductive failure, and neurological harm.

So why in thunder is there no political pressure to clean up these health and environmental threats?

It’s not called Georgia Power for naught. And the answer to the previous question could be found in one or all of these:


Since Georgia Power’s founding, the utility has a history of getting what it wants, including favorable rules and handsome profits. Therefore, the past is a good predictor of its entitlement-filled future. My question for Georgia’s leaders is: “Aren’t all Georgians entitled to clean air, water and soil?”


Not many businesses are guaranteed a profit, but Georgia Power is. That’s the way the system is set up for the state-sanctioned monopoly. Burning coal has put billions of dollars on the company’s bottom line. Does greed keep Georgia Power from using an appropriate amount of those billions to clean up its hazards?


Georgia Power is such a good company—with thousands of good people—doing so many good things. But in this debacle, why does Georgia Power balk at doing the right thing and hang onto a hardheaded public-be-damned attitude? That perceived arrogance makes its slogan, “A Citizen Wherever We Serve,” merely words with a hollow meaning.

But hold on.

Change could be forthcoming.

The EPA has finally decided to flex its muscles. New federal rules are mandating that all coal-ash ponds must be drained. The toxic industrial waste must be contained in dry, safe storage. No more coal ash leaking and poisoning Georgia’s groundwater. Good news.

But hold on, again.

Georgia Power may be counting on a “Trump” card. If elected, the former president promises to pull the EPA’s regulatory teeth. His actions and comments have proven that he doesn’t care about protecting the environment. He’s asked oil tycoons to raise a billion dollars to put him back in the White House. Enough said.

So, back to that whirring.

The cicada racket is about to end.

But the whirring of the meters of Georgia Power’s attorneys and lobbyists will never stop. They will always be trying to finagle environmental laws.

And that will keep my laptop’s keys whirring for a commitment of commonsense stewardship of our natural resources.

I believe 11 million Georgians deserve that.