A Letter to the EPA: Comment on Georgia’s Coal Combustion Residuals (CCR) Permit Program

For over 15 years, Georgia Interfaith Power and Light has engaged communities of faith across the state of Georgia in the stewardship of Creation as a direct expression of what it means to be faithful. We have partnered with hundreds of churches, synagogues, mosques, temples, religious schools, and religious non-profits in pursuit of faithful environmental action, to take care of this glorious creation that God has entrusted us with.

A large part of our work for several years has been to ensure that Georgia’s coal ash is disposed of in a just and safe way. Today I urge you: do not approve of Georgia’s program and plans for coal ash storage and disposal as they stand now.

Currently, the [EPA’s] plan is to leave roughly 50 million tons of coal ash in unlined pits scattered across the state, allowing the heavy metals and toxic materials to remain dangerously close to Georgia’s rivers, lakes, and streams. In several locations, this coal ash is currently sitting in the groundwater, surely leeching these toxins every moment we delay.

Furthermore, this proposed plan offers incredibly limited mechanisms for communities to raise their voices and concerns to the Georgia Environmental Protection Division. Just as it was important for you to hold this public hearing, to allow voices from the community to plead with you, so too it is important to honor the residents of the communities in which this coal ash is going to be stored, by allowing them to raise their own concerns at a similar such hearing that should be held in their own community.

It is imperative that coal ash is stored in dry, lined facilities in order to protect our waterways for the sake of recreation, access to safe drinking water, and other such activities. However, much more than this is at stake. My training is as a minister, and my job is to work with faith communities around this state in order to protect Creation. In my Christian tradition, caring for Creation is fundamental to what it means to love God, and to love neighbor. We must protect our water because it is a holy work to do so. We must protect the health of our neighbors because it is a holy work to do so. We must elevate the voices of our communities and our neighbors because it is a holy work to do so.

To allow coal ash to continue to damage our environment and Georgia’s communities by leaving it leaking in unlined pits is a betrayal of our charge to care for God’s creation and to live a life of faithfulness, regardless of our tradition. To scar creation, is to scar the face of God. To put our neighbors in the path of potential harm, when we could now do something about it, is to forget our calling, and from a Christian perspective, to abandon our first commandment to care for this place. This proposed coal ash program condones the desecration of the glory of God as revealed in Creation.

There are, as I said, hundreds of congregations that we [GIPL] have worked with, many of whom share the perspective about coal ash that I have raised here. Thousands more sit in communities throughout the state. All of them deserve the opportunity to raise their voice in an effort to protect their communities, their families, and Creation. Not only does Georgia’s coal ash program currently stand to do further harm to our environment and our neighbors, it stands to rob communities of their voices, and of their opportunity to speak their convictions, whatever they may be. I ask you to honor the convictions of all the people in the communities in which this coal ash is going to be stored, by giving them an opportunity to speak. I ask you to honor God and the convictions of many faith communities across this state by protecting Georgia’s piece of Creation.

Do not approve of Georgia’s coal ash program unless the following changes are made:

  1. The Georgia Environmental Protection Division must hold a public hearing on every single coal ash permit application before the decision is made, and that public hearing must be held in the community where the coal ash is located.
  2. EPD must provide public notice and an opportunity to comment on every single 5-year review of issued coal ash permits.
  3. EPD must require Georgia Power to dig up all of its coal ash and store it in lined dry facilities away from waterways.

Please do this to protect Georgia’s water, to safeguard against harming our neighbors, and to protect Creation.

Codi Norred, Program Director
Georgia Interfaith Power and Light

We encourage you to submit your own comments to the EPA. The comment period closes Tuesday, August 27. Comments can be submitted here.

Nacoochee Presbyterian Church Reflects on their Four Directions Fund Grant

In spring 2019, GIPL was pleased to provide a seed grant through our Four Directions Fund to an inspiring butterfly garden project at Nacoochee Presbyterian Church.

After noting a lack of forage and habitat for butterflies, Monarchs in particular, and lack of forage for pollinators like bees, Nacoochee Presbyterian Church decided to take action. Bees sustain much of our natural food supply, therefore we must find ways to help sustain their living environment. By planting both a butterfly garden and a pollinator garden, project participants were able to provide a habitat for butterflies and bees, bring awareness to church members of all ages about the importance of these insects to the ecosystem, and provide beauty as well.

The gardens use plants as well as bushes that attract butterflies and bees. Because the church is surrounded by a pasture as well, they were able to establish a pollinator wild flower garden. The first wild flower area is near the playground at Nacoochee Presbyterian, and they hope to expand this wild flower garden each year in areas at the edge of the pasture to ensure there are always nectar and pollen producing flowers for bees and other pollinators. With current development and landscaping near the church campus, places that in the past were allowed to grow up in “weeds” are now nicely manicured. While they look pretty, the native plants that provide forage and shelter for butterflies, bees and other pollinators are greatly reduced. These gardens are one way we can help in this problem.

GIPL is proud to support a project that is helping sustain the ecosystem already in place, despite the challenges of development near the church. We look forward to seeing Nacoochee Presbyterian’s wild flower and pollinator gardens grow over the years. Click here to view images of the gardens.

To qualify for funding from the Four Directions Fund, you and others from your faith community can sign up for a Sacred Activism workshop offered by GIPL.  All participants that complete the workshop are eligible to apply for a seed grant of $300 which can be used to fund your special project. To learn more, visit http://www.gipl.org/four-directions-fund-workshop-grant/.

2nd Annual Green Team Summit A Success

Photo Credit: Erik Voss

GIPL held our second annual Green Team Summit on Sunday, January 27, 2019.  We are grateful to The Temple for hosting us again this year!  To celebrate the end of our 15th Anniversary year, John Anderson Lanier, Executive Director of the Ray C. Anderson Foundation offered a keynote address during dinner. Continue reading

Al Gore, Rev. Barber & Rev. Warnock to Mobilize Climate & Environmental Justice Activists at Interfaith Mass Meeting in Atlanta March 14th

Washington, DC (January 16, 2019) – The Climate Reality Project announced today that former Vice President Al Gore, Reverend Dr. William J. Barber II, and Reverend Dr. Raphael G. Warnock, and other faith leaders, will lead A Moral Call to Action on the Climate Crisis, an interfaith mass meeting on March 14. The meeting will take place at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia at 7pm, and is open to the public. Georgia Interfaith Power & Light (GIPL) is a proud partner and organizer for this interfaith dialogue.   Continue reading

Solarize Atlanta Nearly Doubles Residential Solar in Atlanta

In Less than a Year Solarize Atlanta Nearly Doubles Residential Solar in Atlanta Program will bring 143 more solar roofs to Atlanta

Atlanta, GA- The organizers of Solarize Atlanta celebrated more than just the New Year last week as the deadline to sign a residential solar contract with the program came and went. After the dust settled more than 143 homeowners had signed contracts to install over 855 kW of photovoltaic (PV) solar and 534 kWh of battery capacity that will help homeowners store their solar power and use it later. The installed solar will cut over 1.6 million pounds of global warming pollution annually.  Continue reading

Sightings from the Treehouse: Lessons from the Anthropocene

After researching and writing 20+ blogs over two years on climate change and the faith community, several themes and actions have organically emerged. They will be summarized below to pull together the threads identified through the Sightings blog series.  These suggestions hopefully will help the faith community understand the current state of creation and steps they can take to prepare and adapt to changing ecological conditions occurring across the planet now and in the coming decades.  This period is commonly referred to as the Anthropocene epoch, the age of the humans.   Continue reading

Have an Eco-Friendly Holiday

GIPL Board member and frequent guest blogger, Susan Varlamoff offers her favorite eco-friendly tricks for the holiday season:

Make Natural Decorations: Rather than buying plastic ornaments, wreaths, and decorations shipped from overseas, make your own from pine cones, holly, seashells, river stones, and evergreen branches. Christmas tree lots often will give away branches they’ve trimmed off the bottom of trees. Continue reading

St. Matthew Catholic Church Receives GIPL Grant

St. Matthew Catholic Church in Tyrone is one of 11 members the Catholic Pilot Project. This project, whose full name is the “Laudato Si’ Action Plan Pilot Project,” came to life when the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta decided to run a pilot project to support this group of parishes and schools in making environmental improvements. “Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home” is Pope Francis’ encyclical about caring for the earth and each other. Continue reading