Why What We Do Matters to Georgians
Currently, 154,348, or approximately 6% of Georgia's children have asthma, according to the State of the Air report by American Lung Association. The health of Georgia’s citizens is also threatened by the layer of smog that reduces visibility and creates an unpleasant haze. Ozone "continues to be the most pervasive air pollutant." Ground level ozone, also known as smog, poses serious risk to human health. It can cause acute respiratory ailments, aggravate or cause asthma, decrease lung capacity by 15 to 20 percent, weaken the immune system and cause birth defects. The inhalation of fine particles in smog has been linked to increased incidence of heartbeat irregularities and premature death. When smog is at its highest levels in the summer months, children playing outside breathe 50 percent more air per pound of body weight than adults.
The American Lung Association State of the Air Report is issued each year and ranks cities and counties in terms of air quality health. Georgia cities and counties do not fare well. For example, Georgia is home to two cities which are on the list of the country's most polluted cities (metro-Atlanta and Augusta) and many of Georgia's counties -- even in smaller cities such as Columbus and rural areas such as Chattooga -- do not receive even passing grades for air quality. Check out the full report here: http://www.stateoftheair.org/.
Global Climate Change
Georgians have a special responsibility to reduce emissions that cause global warming. Georgia's CO2 emissions are greater than the emissions of most countries. If Georgia were a nation, it would rank 21st in the world for CO2 emissions (2007). Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and Tennessee combined would rank 7th in the world in terms of CO2 emissions.
Georgia has two of the top three dirtiest fossil-fuel electric plants in the U.S. Georgia’s booming population creates increasing demand for electricity and coal-fired plants are being proposed across the country, including here in Georgia. The state continues to be lax in requiring existing and new power plants to comply with standards under the Clean Air Act. Adding insult to injury, the state has put little effort into encouraging the development of renewable sources of energy. As a result, almost all of our state electricity comes from dirty coal plants and dangerous nuclear reactors with few prospects for meaningful change.
Georgia is a lead importer of Mountaintop Removal Coal. Georgia leads the nation in Mountaintop Removal coal consumption, as one of the top two importers of this coal.
Georgia is the most coal dependent state in the country. The Union of Concerned Scientists published a report in May 2010 entitled, Burning Coal, Burning Cash: Ranking the States that Import the Most Coal. In the report they ranked states dependence on coal in six categories. They found that Georgia ranks in the top ten in all six categories and is the only state to do so. At $2.6 billion, Georgia spent the most on total net imports of coal, importing 39.4 million tons of coal in 2008.
Georgia is threatened by massive coal ash ponds. Georgia is among the top five states storing the most coal ash in liquid waste ponds. There are 28 coal ash ponds in Georgia at currently-operating coal plants with a total area of 2401 acres or 3.75 square miles. Currently, 50,094,280 cubic yards of coal ash are being stored in Georgia ponds. This is about 10.1 billion gallons. This equates to a spill capacity ten times greater than the TVA Kingston Plant spill in 2008, which originated from a 40-acre pond, reported to only have a capacity of 2.6 million cubic yards, but actually spilled 5.4 million cubic yards or 1.1 billion gallons. Georgia currently has 13 ponds that are larger than the Kingston pond.