Facing 300 residents waving “NO” signs, the Gwinnett County Commission voted 3-0 to reject a special use permit that would allow Bill Head Funeral Home on Lawrenceville Highway to construct a 436-square-foot incinerator and crematory. The Commission vote follows the Planning Commission denial recommendation.
The AJC reports that the meeting drew the attention of State Senator Steven Henson who hinted at state involvement on the impacts of a crematory on surrounding communities.
After Tuesday’s hearing, state Sen. Steve Henson told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he believes the General Assembly needs to re-examine data over crematories.
“I do think there’s every cause for concern,” he said.
By a 4-3 vote the Gwinnett County Planning Commission recommended denial of a special use permit for Bill Head Funeral Home that would allow it to construct the 436-square-foot crematory incinerator at its Tucker location on Lawrenceville Highway.
The proposal has met almost unanimous opposition from the surrounding neighborhoods because the crematory would be about 100 feet from several residences and within a half-mile of 17 residential subdivisions.
The Planning Commission vote is non-binding. The application now proceeds to the Gwinnett County Commission, which could vote on it as early as November 16.
The Environmental Protection Agency now concludes that greenhouse gases pose a danger to human health and the environment, paving the way for regulation of carbon dioxide emissions from vehicles, power plants, factories refineries and other major sources.
The move gives President Obama a significant tool to combat the gases blamed for the heating of the planet even while Congress remains stalled on economy-wide global warming legislation.
The Obama administration has signaled its intent to issue a so-called endangerment finding for carbon dioxide and five other greenhouse gases since taking office in January.
Two years ago, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Thelma Wyatt Cummings Moore controversially concluded the same thing Friends of the Chattachooche, Inc. and Sierra Club v. Dr. Carol Couch, Director Environmental Protection Division, Georgia Department of Natural Resources and Longleaf Energy Associates, LLC, Superior Court of Fulton County, Georgia, Civil Action File No. 2008CV146398 in a challenge to a coal-fired power plant to be built in Early County, Georgia on the banks of the Chattahoochee River south of Columbus.
The proposed coal plant was abandoned in early 2009.
There are sixteen contaminated sites in Georgia on the Environmental Protection Agency’s National Priority List. The site of the former Woolfork Chemical Plant outside Fort Valley will receive $5 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to complete its clean-up.
Fort Valley Mayor Dr. John Stumbo:
The Woolfolk Chemical Plant started operations there in about 1924. They made agricultural pesticides that were arsenic lace. In those days, of course, there was no air conditioning and because of the heat, most of the mixing of this dry material was done in sheds that simply had a roof and no side walls. So, as the winds blew through there, it would carry this contaminated dust all over the area. The second company came in there in the 1970s, they were called Canada in Georgia, and they were doing the same thing.
The 31-acre Woolfork site sits close to downtown Fort Valley and near Fort Valley State University. This site has long been seen as the hope for revitalization of downtown Fort Valley. The Woolfork site was deemed eligible for the Superfund program in 1990. Since then more than $27 million has gone in to cleaning up the chemical contamination.
In the early 1980s, citizen complaints prompted the Georgia environmental officials to investigate Woolfolk amid allegations of discharge of waste products into a drainage corridor heading away from the site. No injuries have been reported but one lawsuit forced a former Woolfolk owner to reimburse residents for declining property values.
Today, according to the EPA, all excavation of arsenic from residential soil is complete, as well as the removal of arsennic contaminated dust from residential attics.
Fort Valley hopes this latest cash infusion will complete the cleanup of Woolfolk, fulfilling its promise of downtown revitalization.
Mayor Stumbo offers his take on Life After Superfund here.
The proposal for a new coal power plant in Early County Coal appears to be dead. Dynegy Inc., the Texas-based energy company that proposed what would’ve been Georgia’s first new coal power plant in 20 years, announced today that it has pulled out of the project.
From a company press release:
Dynegy Inc. (NYSE:DYN) today announced that it has entered into an agreement with LS Power Associates, L.P. to dissolve the two companies’ development joint venture. Under the terms of the dissolution, Dynegy will acquire exclusive rights, ownership and developmental control of all repowering or expansion opportunities related to its existing portfolio of operating assets. LS Power will acquire full ownership and developmental rights associated with various “greenfield” projects under consideration in Arkansas, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan and Nevada, as well as other power generation and transmission development projects not related to Dynegy’s existing operating portfolio of assets.
The development landscape has changed significantly since we agreed to enter into the development joint venture with LS Power in the fall of 2006,” said Bruce A. Williamson, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of Dynegy Inc. “Today, the development of new generation is increasingly marked by barriers to entry including external credit and regulatory factors that make development much more uncertain. In light of these market circumstances, Dynegy has elected to focus development activities and investments around our own portfolio where we control the option to develop and can manage the costs being incurred more closely.
Litigation over the proposed coal plant generated national headlines and new law when a Fulton County Superior Court Judge concluded Carbon Dioxide was regulated by the Clean Air Act. That decision remains on appeal before the Georgia Court of Appeals. It is unclear how the abandonment of the coal plant proposal will impact the pending litigation.
There may be a end in sight for the continuing, continuing, continuing, and continuing crematory battle in Snellville. No deal yet and there remains division on the City Council, but the parties are exploring resolution.
The city attorney will have a recommendation within 60 days on whether to settle or “take our chances” in court.
In the fight that keeps going and going and going, the Snellville Board of Appeals revoked the City’s issuance of certificates of occupancy and development conformance. By a vote of 3-2, the Board ruled that the building plan submitted by the crematory in 2006 differed substantially from the actual operation that opened in September, including the installation of a smokestack.
The Board overruled the city planning department, which judged earlier that the crematory was not substantially different from its original plans and issued the certificates.
The matter will go back to the City Council for a vote sometime in November.
After losing the first and second rounds in the fight against the crematory, Snellville City Council member Kelly Kautz has introduced a proposed ordinance to prevent businesses such as hospitals and crematories —- one crematory in particular —- from polluting the air. The ordinance would place specific limits on mercury and dioxin/furan emissions for any incinerator of bodies, body parts or infectious wastes.
The proposed ordinance was modeled after a Pennsylvania ordinance, which was modeled after the Clean Air Act.
While the proposed ordinance excludes pre-existing facilities, but would prevent any air-polluting facilities within 300 yards of residential properties in Snellville and require businesses to self-monitor their emissions and report them to the city.
The proposal already faces opposition from within the City Council with Mayor Jerry Oberholtzer objecting to its introduction and first reading:
“The basis of the whole ordinance scares me because the person who wrote it has no experience in environmental law. She’s a trial lawyer,” Oberholtzer said. “What I understand is that she cut and pasted different ordinances together,” he added.
The proposal will be voted on at the October 13 meeting of the City Council at 7:30 p.m. in the City Council Room of Snellville City Hall.
The Georgia Court of Appeals has accepted the appeal of Fulton County Superior Court Judge Thelma Wyatt Cummings Moore’s decision that the Georgia Air Quality Act and the federal Clean Air Act (CAA) regulate emission of carbon dioxide (CO2). A decision is not likely until early 2009.
After weeks of delay, Snellville seems to have conceded that it has no legal right to stop a proposed crematorium. Faced with neighborhood opposition, the City Council had delayedissuing a business permit so it could conduct environmental studies. City Manager Russell Treadway spent two weeks researching the environmental impact of crematories and announced at the City Council meeting that he found no hard evidence that crematories are dangerous.
While conceding that the crematorium could legally open, the council did approve a new ordinance allowing city employees to regulate the emissions from crematories.
UPDATE: Here are the meeting minutes from the Council’s July 31 Meeting and August 25 Meeting. Seems the delay was not due to the environmental study. Instead, parking requirements seem to be the basis of the delay. There was a motion for an investigation regarding the crematory Certificate of Occupancy, zoning application, and subsequent permitting or any other issue was made, but failed 3-3. The city has the authority to call for an investigation into the “affairs of the city or conduct of any department, office, or agency”.