Thursday, August 24, 2006

EPD Says No to Fund For Alternative Fuels

AJC editorial staffer, Lyle Harris takes the Envrironmental Protection Division (EPD) to task for "rejecting creation of a fund that would encourage investment in alternative fuels and promote energy conservation." A proposal for such a fund has been studied by EPD and the Dept. of Natural Resources (DNR) in response to the Clean Air Interstate Rule that went into effect last year. Harris goes on to call EPD's decision "pennywise, pound-foolish," and urges DNR to overule EPD and create the fund anyway.

Carol Couch of EPD offers a response below. Unfortunately it sounds more like a Perdue press release than a response to Harris' editorial. Ms. Couch offers no explanation for EPD's decision to reject the alternative fuels fund. In fact, she doesn't mention it at all. She does say that we have the potential to "use biomass from forestry and agricultural resources." But as Mr. Harris reminds us, it's only a promise of words without solid funding.

I encourage readers to look at the website for the state energy plan that Ms. Couch references in her response. To their credit, it seems to be a very user friendly site that encourages public input.

From this morning's AJC:

Energy down the drain
Lyle V. Harris - Staff
Thursday, August 24, 2006

When it comes to building a stronger economy and ensuring a healthier environment that benefits all Georgians, timing is everything. That's why state officials must endorse innovative strategies that move us closer to achieving those goals as quickly as possible.

Unfortunately, the state Environmental Protection Division is slowing our momentum. During a briefing this week before the board of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, the regulatory agency rejected creation of a fund that would encourage investment in alternative fuels and promote energy conservation.

EPD officials had been weighing the idea as part of their deliberations over new, federal clean air rules. Issued last year, the Clean Air Interstate Rule applies to 28 states, including Georgia.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency predicts CAIR will substantially reduce toxic air pollutants emitted by power plants, especially nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide, which contribute to smog and acid rain.

Affected states have been granted flexibility in how best to achieve the mandated air pollution reductions. EPD had been considering a worthwhile proposal that would require Georgia Power Co., the state's largest electric utility, to either reduce its smog-forming emissions by an additional 5 percent beyond the federal requirements or pay up to $9 million a year. The money would be used for ongoing energy efficiency programs or for grants and loans for renewable energy projects, such as wind, solar or biomass production.
Georgia Power's opposition to the fund is not surprising. The company understandably doesn't want to subsidize possible competition to its effective monopoly.

But while EPD Director Carol Couch publicly praises the potential of renewable energy and energy efficiency, the agency she runs opposes the fund, fearing its implementation may jeopardize the state's ability to meet a March 31 deadline to adopt the federal clean air rules. Couch also worries the fund may conflict with Gov. Sonny Perdue's ongoing efforts to craft a statewide energy plan.

Those arguments are spurious, at best. The EPD had plenty of opportunity to figure out how to include the fund as part of its rulemaking since the proposal was introduced two years ago, and it still does.

While Perdue's energy strategy is a good idea and long overdue, there's no guarantee it will include a reliable stream of revenue to diversify the state's portfolio of alternative energy sources beyond polluting fossil fuels.

The hard truth is that Georgians are energy hogs; on average, we consume 25 percent more energy than the national average. The quickest, cleanest and most cost-effective way to change that is to make conservation a top priority.
When the DNR board votes, it should overrule EPD's pennywise, pound-foolish recommendation and approve creation of the fund. Georgia doesn't have any more time, or energy, to waste.

--- Lyle Harris for the editorial board (

And from Ms. Couch of EPD:

State on target, studying ways to save energy
By Carol Couch
For the Journal-ConstitutionPublished on: 08/24/06

This December, a state energy plan will be presented to Gov. Sonny Perdue and will include sections to address renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Perdue officially launched Georgia's comprehensive energy plan on March 1 and directed the Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority to lead the development of the plan.

As director of the Georgia Environmental Protection Division, I am pleased to serve on the Governor's Energy Policy Council. The council will work with GEFA to oversee development of the energy plan. The plan will be organized in eight chapters on subjects including energy reliability, energy supply and demand, economic development and the environmental impact of energy production and consumption. The environmental chapter will include sections on air quality, water quality and supply, land use and waste management, and climate.

The principles being studied and evaluated as the plan is developed include:
Using renewable energy and practicing energy conservation are essential for Georgia's future.

Opportunity for renewable energy use in our state is substantial, particularly as it relates to the use of biomass from forestry and agricultural resources.
Renewable energy and energy conservation benefit air quality, lead to more efficient use of our water resources and contribute to energy independence.

The energy plan is being developed with a significant amount of public input. GEFA has created an interactive Web site at through which the public may submit recommendations and comments.

The council will also host a series of public meetings around the state in September to present the latest draft of the plan and to hear comments. More information about those meetings will be on the Web site.

Carol Couch is director of the Georgia Environmental Protection Division.

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