Updated: Nov 3, 2021
Background: Madison and Franklin County governments each permitted a biomass power plant to be constructed within the last few years. Georgia Renewable Power promised to be a good neighbor, producing clean, renewable energy, and large tax revenues. However, since both plants came on line, they have produced soot and foul-smelling emissions, unbearable noise, and chemical-filled storm water discharges into our rivers and streams. They are burning wood from construction waste and chemically treated railroad ties. Naphthalene (mothballs) and coal-tar creosote are two of hundreds of chemicals in the emissions from these plants. The area residents have experienced increased among other things, cases of respiratory illnesses, massive fish kills, and beehive depopulation.
The reason why there are extreme physical reactions to these plants is, through loopholes and deregulation of EPA standards, biomass plants are legally permitted to be more polluting than coal plants. Yet the trend toward biomass plants is growing, with the industry targeting rural, cash-poor communities. The Madison County Clean Power Coalition, working with Franklin County, and the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League (BREDL) are working to stop permitting in the state of Georgia, the burning of railroad ties, other chemically preserved wood waste, and the proliferation of biomass plant construction. HB 857 addresses one part of the problem: the prohibition of burning railroad ties as fuel in biomass plants.