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GA Group Mobilizes against World's Largest Wood-Pellet Plant


Friday, September 2, 2022   

Residents of Adel, a predominantly Black and Hispanic town in South Georgia, are fighting plans to build the world's largest wood-pellet plant in their backyard, citing serious health risks.

The group Concerned Citizens of Cook County ("4-C") opposes plans by Georgia-based Spectrum Energy, the latest company to propose a plant capable of producing 1.3 million tons of wood pellets annually.

Dr. Treva Gear, a founding member of 4-C, said she's appalled that Georgia's Environmental Protection Division approved a permit without studying the health and environmental effects on local residents.

"When they over-emit or over-pollute the community, who's there to know that they've done it? And nobody's listening," she said. "And so, it's going to be a constant issue that we have to watch while we watch our community get sicker. We don't even have an emergency room in our community."

About a mile from the Spectrum site, Georgia EPD, which hasn't responded to a request for comment, approved another air-quality permit to Renewable Biomass Group, which plans to produce 450,000 tons of wood pellets annually.

Gear shared her views of the situation in a documentary called "Abandoned: Greed, Neglect and Environmental Injustice in Adel."

In its petition, 4-C and the Southern Environmental Law Center outline a list of grievances, including admissions by Georgia EPD of not having enough information about Spectrum's plans and its failure to comply with state and federal law that protects historically harmed communities from disproportionate environmental burden.

"We want an administrative law judge to hear our concerns that EPD doesn't really understand how much these wood-pellet mills are polluting the air, how much they are disturbing the environment and the individuals in the neighborhoods where they operate," said Jennifer Whitfield, a senior attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center.

Whitfield said they're asking the judge to invalidate the permit. This would force Spectrum to refile its request under stricter guidelines that Georgia EPD would have to follow. It means taking the nearby population into consideration, which EPD currently has said it doesn't have to do. All parties are waiting on the next steps from the Georgia Office of State Administrative Hearings.

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