What stinks worse than a titanium mine too near the Okefenokee Swamp? Biomass plants in north Georgia

Should we assume a titanium mine started by the same people would be any better than the stinking biomass plants they started? You can ask the Georgia government to stop the mine that would be far too close to the Okefenokee Swamp. And don’t forget to vote for people who support clean air and water!

The “clean” wood-burning biomass plants in north Georgia stink so bad a chicken CAFO operator says he can smell it. So bad people working at the plant get sick with masks on. So bad local people say they were betrayed and a local government is suing. So bad it’s caused a fish kill in a nearby creek. So bad investors are suing. So bad it’s behind in its taxes.

Photo: Franklin Locality, Problem: GRP Pollution
Photo: Franklin Locality, Problem: GRP Pollution

So bad local people say no amount of jobs is worth it. One asks, “did you have anybody investigate the two companies that run that plant; had they ever had EPD/EPA violations, had they ever been sued or had formal complaints brought against them”? Well, many people investigated Twin Pines Minerals, LLC, and found TPM is under a Florida Consent Order for multiple violations just across the GA-FL line.

Yet the Charlton County, Georgia, Board of Commissioners passed a resolution in favor of that titanium mine. Maybe they should review that decision in light of this track record of another project by the same people.

Maybe GA-EPD should take all this into account while considering TPM’s five permit applications. And then reject those applications.

You can help by asking them to do so.

And don’t forget to vote for people who will protect our waters and people.

Lee Shearer, Athens Banner-Herald, 12 September 2015, Alabama company plans wood-burning electricity plants near Athens,

The EPD’s Air Quality Branch earlier this summer approved one of the two pollution permit applications filed by GreenFuels Holding Company of Birmingham for a 79 megawatt plant near the Franklin County town of Carnesville.

The company filed its application for a 58 megawatt plant near Colbert about two weeks ago. State officials won’t begin to evaluate it for another couple of weeks, until a 30-day window has passed when the public can make formal comments, said Eric Cornwell, the Air Quality Branch’s program manager for stationary source permitting.

GreenFuels has a policy to not comment publicly to media, said GreenFuels vice president Steven Ingle.

Yes, the same Steven Ingle who is president of Twin Pines Minerals LLC that already has equipment on its mine site within a few miles of the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. But Ingle tells us that mine will be safe. Which is also what his biomass LLC told everybody.

Biomass has become the new coal, argues ecologist Mary Booth of the Partnership for Policy Integrity, an energy policy advocacy group founded by former members of the Environmental Working Group.

Biomass plants are allowed to emit twice as much pollution as an equivalent coal plant, Booth argued in a 2014 report on electricity production from biomass. The Carnesville plant will be one of the larger biomass plants in the country, she said.

Both plants would emit hundreds of tons of pollution a year, but not enough to cause significant deterioration of air quality, according to the applications.

GreenFuels executives also assured Franklin County officials that pollution from the Carnesville Plant wouldn’t harm air quality, said Franklin County Commission Chairman Thomas Bridges.

Fast-forward five years. Shane Scoggins, The Hartwell Sun, 3 January 2020, Carnesville plant served with notice,

A wood-burning power plant near Carnesville was served Dec. 18 with a notice of violation by Franklin County Manager Elizabeth Thomas.

The plant now has 30 days to meet demands set forth by Franklin County Commissioners during a meeting Dec. 10.

At that meeting, commissioners declared the Georgia Renewable Power plant a public nuisance.

The motion, approved unanimously, read:

“The Franklin County Board of Commissioners finds that the continual and ongoing noise levels and chemical emissions produced by the operation of the Georgia Renewable Power Plant located in Franklin County, Georgia, have created a public emergency where the health and safety of the residents in the immediate vicinity of the plant are in imminent danger;

“The Franklin County Board of Commissioners finds that an emergency condition exists …

MJ Kneiser, 921wlhr.com, 12 December 2019, Franklin BOC Takes Emergency Action Against Biofuel Plant For Violating County Nuisance Act, Calls Violations “Dangerous”,

At a called Board of Commissioners meeting Tuesday evening, the Board voted unanimously to pass a resolution ordering County Manager Beth Thomas to begin proceedings against the plant for violations of the County’s Nuisance Ordinance.

Commissioner Eddie Wester read the motion drawn up by the Board that states the issues with the biofuel plant on Highway 198 have now become a health and safety crisis.

“…exists where the dangerous noise levels and chemical emissions produced by the operation of the Georgia Renewable Power Plant located in Franklin County, Georgia, constitute a nuisance as defined in Section 18-6 of Chapter 18 of the Franklin County Code of Ordinances,” he continued.

“The Franklin County Board of Commissioners hereby refers this matter to the Franklin County Magistrate Court for further action as required in Chapter 18 of the Franklin County Code of Ordinances. The county manager is directed and authorized to begin proceedings in magistrate court and issue a notice of violation to Georgia Renewable Power that provides 30 days to achieve reasonable noise levels at or below 60-70 decibels at a two-mile radius around the plant at reasonable times of the day and a reduction in chemical emissions that have been deemed carcinogenic substances by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences to levels that are determined to be safe and non-harmful by that organization,” Wester concluded.

People attending the called meeting who live near the plant clapped after the motion was read.

After reading the resolution and before taking a vote, Commissioner Macomson noted that during all of the recent commission meetings, no GRP [Georgia Renewable Power] representative has come to address the Board of Commissioners or answer citizens’ complaints.

“For more than 15 years I’m told people have worked in County government to recruit GRP to come to Franklin County. A lot of people worked to try and help make them a success. But since the beginning of their operation we’ve had nothing but grief,” Macomson stated. “Over the past four months we’ve listened to person after person after person stand up here and tell us how miserable their lives and quality of life has become since this plant started operating due to the noise produced, the chemical emissions produced and even water pollution.”

That’s right, “even water pollution.” More on that below.

Behind on Taxes, and how many jobs would it take?

But jobs and taxes make it worthwhile, right?

Macomson also noted GRP is months behind in paying their property taxes, which WLHR News has confirmed with the County Tax Commissioner.

Also attending the called meeting were David Grove, manager of the Franklin County GRP plant, and Kieran McManus, manager of the Madison County biofuel plant.

McManus told the crowd Veolia has only recently gotten control of the plant now that the contractors have left, and he said the contractors left a lot things on their punch list not finished.

Grove added that they have ordered silencers to put on the valves causing the noise, which he said should arrive in three and half weeks from Canada.

Most attending Tuesday’s called meeting said it isn’t just the noise, it’s the pollution, the stench, and also a ground vibration coming from the plant that some said is so strong, it rattled the ornaments off their Christmas tree.

Grove said he wasn’t aware of any ground vibration.

The County has given GRP 30 days to comply with the nuisance ordinance and make the necessary changes.

OK, so the plant doesn’t pay its taxes. But what about jobs? FRANKLIN COUNTY BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS WORK SESSION MINUTES, September 24, 2019,

Donnie Gettys of Burke Road stated he lives a few hundred yards from the powerplant. He referenced statements from the American Heart Association and American Lung Association that the emissions from this type of biomass fuel plant is the worse type ofpollution there is. EPD will not allow this type of plant to be built near a school or a community that has a sensitive population. Mr. Gettys stated the 25 jobs created by GRP has not offset the lives it has destroyed and disappointed in the community. He stated there are days that he and his wife leave their home just to escape the noise and smell.

Gettys had more to say, but he was only one of many citizens complaining about that biomass plant in that meeting.

More about taxes in that same Franklin County Commission meeting:

Garvis McElroy said the Planning Commission denied the approval of allowing the power plant to purchase the 15 acres but then the Commissioners approved it. The property taxes have gone up and the values of their properties have gone down. Mr. McElroy questioned if the County will lower the property taxes because of this.

But jobs, right? Dink NeSmith, Flagpole, 18 December 2019, Biomass Plant Double-Crosses Rural Residents,

I understand why Madison and Franklin counties would want new industry and a broadened tax base. Jobs are vital to the economic health of every community. I’m sure, in the beginning, that’s what drove both sets of leaders to go pro-biomass burning. Now, you have to wonder whether this is a classic bait-and-switch scheme, where one thing was ballyhooed and another thing was delivered. A Madison County friend said that he was told the only emissions would be fast dissipating steam. He said, “We were hoodooed.”

Apparently it’s even worse on the inside. Zach Mitcham, MadisonJournalTODAY, From the inside: Former Veolia shift supervisor talks about life at GRP plant,

A new, young employee was the first fuel-yard worker at the Georgia Renewable Power (GRP) to complain to Eric Keen about the creosote burning his skin and eyes.

Keen, a shift supervisor for Veolia, the company managing GRP plants in Carnesville and Colbert, remembers being dismissive of the guy.

“I told him, put a dust mask on and whatnot,” said Keen. “I get the fact that it’s dusty, and we told them to wear dust masks. And they said, ‘Even with the dust mask, it burns my eyes, my chest.’”

Keen remembers a 60-year-old, fuel-yard worker, backing up what the young worker said. The creosote was bad.

“I’m ashamed to admit this, but when he (the older worker) told me, I finally started to listen,” said Keen. “I remember walking out there in the fuel yard, not running a dozier, not pushing it around, not mixing it up, just walking on top of it. It would take your breath away.”

… He said some biomass plants are sailing by on tax credits from the government for “green energy” and don’t have sustainable business models or efficiencies.

“They’re $400-500 million into and not getting a return on their investment, because the plants are so poorly built and mismanaged,” he said. “Left to their own devices, they’re a year away from someone coming in and buying them out at bottom. They’re past the point of recouping their losses.”

Meanwhile, he said he feels citizens around the plants are being done wrong.

“You ask why I walked away,” said Keen. “I’ve been working in this industry 30 years and I’ve never seen a managerial staff or worked for a managerial staff that had such a blatant disregard for the community around them and even employees who worked for them.”

Veolia and GRP of course deny all that.

It’s harder to deny what outside witnesses say. Beau Evans, Georgia Recorder, 20 November 2019, Rural NE Georgia wood-fired plants leave nearby residents with bad taste,

Stephen Sweatman raises chickens and cattle with his parents in Franklin’s county seat of Carnesville and said this week the stench wafting down from the plant next door burns his eyes and “turns my stomach.” That’s tough to do, he said, since the second-generation poultry farmer spends much of his time inside acrid chicken houses.

“If it’s going to make somebody sick to smell it, it can’t be healthy,” Sweatman said inside one of his family’s four chicken houses.

Private Investors are suing

But what about the private investors? Surely they profited? Lee Shearer, Athens Banner-Herald, 11 January 2020, Lawsuits target power plants in Madison, Franklin counties,

Officials behind a pair of controversial wood-burning power plants in Madison and Franklin counties allegedly misrepresented and omitted facts about the plants’ capacities and financial viability, according to a federal lawsuit.

Three companies that specialize in helping business owners attract foreign investment say they suffered more than $9 million in damage as a result.

For a year, the three companies worked exclusively for Greenfuels Energy, owned by Raymond Bean, and Greenfuels subsidiaries, including Georgia Renewable Power, GRP Franklin, GRP Madison, North Carolina Renewable Power-Lumberton and North Carolina Renewable Power-Elizabethtown, according to the lawsuit. Each company is a named defendant in the lawsuit, along with Bean and two Greenfuels corporate officers — David Shaffer and David Kuehr.

The defendants knew or should have known that information they gave to the plaintiffs — Five on Fifty, Gate Industries and Southern Film Regional Center — was wrong, according to the lawsuit.

Bean and Greenfuels own two electricity-producing biomass plants in North Carolina in addition to the plants near Colbert in Madison County and near Carnesville in Franklin County.

As the defendants sought $166 million in foreign investment, they “fraudulently misrepresented (and in some cases omitted) key facts about the project … to prove that each project was financially viable and would produce revenues necessary to fund the underlying business.”

The plaintiffs say the renewable energy companies have violated federal and state racketeering laws, which means damages can be trebled.

One name is notably missing from the list of plaintiffs Plant Carl, Energy Justice Network, accessed 29 October 2020,

3465 Hwy 198
Carnesville, GA 30521
United States
Franklin County
Latitude: 34.37955
Longitude: -83.329
Burner: Fluidized Bed – Bubbling
Cost (in millions): 61


“Green” energy marketer, Sterling Planet, has a Power Purchase Agreement to sell the energy from this plant as green energy

That does appear to be the same address as the wood biomass plant. MJ Kneiser, WLHR, 22 March 2011, S.C. company wants to build plant to turn poultry waste into energy,

The Plant Carl site is on 36 acres on Highway 198 in Carnesville. It was originally owned by Sonny Dinsmore, owner of Earth Resources. Dinsmore formed a partnership with Sterling Planet, a green company based in Atlanta. In 2009, Sterling Planet then bought out Dinsmore.

That would be the same Sterling Planet that tried that in Lowndes County, Georgia. I’m proud to say I helped stop that one.

Water Pollution and Fish Kill

Speaking of water pollution:

The EPD cited the Franklin County plant after firefighters poured more than a million gallons of fire suppression water on a burning wood pile and a following fish kill along 4.6 miles of a nearby stream in October, the Journal reported.

That “fire suppression water” probably also contained PFAS firefighting chemicals.

The EPD also said the Madison County plant was violating state wastewater disposal rules.

Twin Pines Minerals’ titanium mining application to the Corps doesn’t even say, as near as I can tell, how TPM plans to dispose of wastewater.

More about that fish kill. MJ Kneiser, 921wlhr.com, 8 October 2019, EPD/DNR Investigates Fish Kill In Indian Creek Caused by Biofuel Plant Run-off,

The Georgia Environmental Protection Division is working with the Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division to investigate reports of a major fish kill in Indian Creek.

According to complaint run off coming from the GRP Franklin Renewable Energy Facility on at 3465 Highway 198 in Carnesville has been leeching into the creek.

John Maddox, State On-Scene Coordinator with the EPD’s Emergency Response Program, said a complaint was filed Saturday.

In a statement released late Saturday to the County and forwarded to WLHR News by County Manager Beth Thomas, Maddox said Georgia DNR Wildlife Resources Division representatives are currently investigating the fish kill.

Maddox said EMA Director was called to investigate the run off. He said it was determined employees of the plant were using water canons to put out fires in tree mulch piles.

He said the amount of water used caused their retention pond to overflow and spill over into the creek.

You may recall that TPM and Chemours are still under a Florida Consent Order for, among other things, letting wastewater escape into the Suwannee River Basin near Starke, Bradford County, Florida.

Who gets left dealing with the situation? Local county governments. MJ Kneiser, 921wlhr.com, 17 January 2020, Franklin County Taking Steps to Monitor Biofuel Plant Emissions,

The Franklin County Board Commissioners is taking their won measures to ensure Georgia Renewable Power is complying with Federal and State environmental guidelines.

On Tuesday, the Board heard from County Manager Beth Thomas on the County’s efforts to continuing monitoring the GRP plant to ensure its compliance with Federal, State and local environmental laws.

Thomas recommended hiring an outside firm, Geo Hydro Engineers out of Kennessaw to do an air and noise analysis in the area surrounding the plant, and gave the Board the option to pay for extended monitoring.

“They’re a competent firm to handle the air and noise study,” Thomas said. “The total cost to do the air testing and the limited noise study is $16,625. An additional noise study, should it be needed where it lasts for a period of a week would be another $10,000.”

Thomas explained the testing would be a one-day snapshot of air and noise quality, but if the County wants a longer period of testing, that would be the extra cost of $10,000 for seven days of continuous monitoring.

How is Charlton County, Georgia, going to be able to afford to do its own monitoring of the Twin Pines titanium mining site? And seven days is just a drop in the bucket.

About that fish kill. Shane Scoggins, Franklin County Citizen Leader, 9 October 2019, Indian Creek polluted by runoff,

Stinking black water that killed fish in Indian Creek over the weekend has been linked to a new energy plant on Highway 198.

Dead fish in Indian Creek, Franklin County, Georgia, by Franklin County Citizen Leader, 2020-10-09
Photo: Franklin County Citizen Leader, 2020-10-09, Dead fish in Indian Creek, Franklin County, Georgia.

Anthony Rabern, Fisheries Biologist, GA-DNR Wildlife Resources Division, 9 October 2019, FISH KILL INVESTIGATION: Indian Creek, Franklin County, Broad, River Drainage,

Based on the findings from our water quality measurements, visual stream observations and fish counts on October 6, 2019, a total die-off of fish occurred in 4.6 miles of Indian Creek. The fish kill was caused by significant water quality changes in Indian Creek associated withrun-off from asmoldering wood pile at FBGF. The resulting black effluent that drained from FBGF into Indian Creek significantly reduced pH and dissolved oxygen concentrations in a very short time period to levels that were potentially lethal to fish in the 4.6-mile impact zone.The total number of fish mortalities in Indian Creek on October 6, 2019 was estimated to be 2,159 fish (Table 2), which included seven species of fish including those pictured in Photos 8 and 9.


Just because it has permits doesn’t mean it’s going to do what those permits say. Ethan Jordan, WNEG, 11 October 2019, Citizens Clamor for Action from County on Tainted Creek Water,

Sheila Baker lives on Culpepper Road and told the Board Indian Creek runs through her property.

Baker questioned whether the County ever did any background checks on the company before approving their operation.

“My question to the Board is that when they applied to put that plant in, did you have anybody investigate the two companies that run that plant; had they ever had EPD/EPA violations, had they ever been sued or had formal complaints brought against them ….because we were told they would just be burning wood chips and now they’re burning creosoted railroad ties,” Baker asked.

Mark Gibson brought a jar filled with water from Indian Creek after the contamination.

The water had a yellowish brown tint with a black substance floating on top.

Gibson said Maddox told him Saturday that GRP has been cited for environmental violations in the past at other plants they operate.

“This facility does have EPD discharge permits for clean water discharge and clean air discharge,” Gibson said. “This is not clean water discharge to start with. He says that the EPD has issued an administrative order at this facility for water quality violations. So, this is not the first time this company has polluted our environment, according to the EPD Director.”

Gibson said he cows used to drink out of Indian Creek but won’t now because of the polluted water.

Ken Davis also lives on Culpepper Road and said he now fears his well water will become tainted because of the run-off.

There are many more media articles about the Carnesville biomass plant. See for example this list by GRP Fallout Group.

State government action

Zach Mitcham, MadisonJournalTODAY, 29 July 2020, What next? GRP talks about plans; all eyes on Governor,

What’s the official word? Can GRP burn creosote? Legislators unanimously said, “No.” Both House and Senate passed HB857 to outlaw the creosote-treated wood at electricity-generating facilities, such as at GRP plants in Colbert in Madison County and Carnesville in Franklin County.

…The paper received word from Rep. Alan Powell that he was notified by the Governor’s office that Gov. Brian Kemp will sign HB857 at 2 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 4.

GRP claims their biomass plant will be in operation or 30 years because it has permits. Not even that is or sure. Jill Neimark, Energy News Network, 16 June 2017, Why biomass remains a challenge, even in timber-rich Georgia, about the 50 Megawatt Albany Green biomass plant,

Even at 13 cents a kilowatt, says [Tim] Echols [vice-chair of the Georgia Public Service Commission], the project had trouble securing financing. Now, with 1,600 megawatts of new renewables approved by the PSC last summer, much of it likely to be solar, Echols expects the solar price to be “in the 6 cent per kilowatt ballpark, and obviously you can’t build a biomass plant for that.”

Sure, white paint from titanium dioxide may be in more continued demand than electricity from burning trees. But what should be around for far more than 30 years is the Okefenokee Swamp, the Suwannee and St. Marys Rivers, and the Floridan Aquifer.

Now it’s time for Georgia Governor Brian Kemp and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources to reject the five permit applications by Twin Pines Minerals, LLC, to mine titanium too near the Okefenokee Swamp.

How to comment

For the requested state permit regarding Section 401 of the Clean Water Act, you can send a comment or request for public hearing to
Stephen Wiedl, Wetlands Unit, stephen.wiedl@dnr.ga.gov
Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Environmental Protection Division, Water Protection Branch, 7 Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive, Atlanta, Georgia 30334.

For the Georgia Coastal Management Program certification, you can send a comment to
Federal Consistency Coordinator, Ecological Services Section, Coastal Resources Division,
Georgia Department of Natural Resources, One Conservation Way, Brunswick, Georgia 31523-9600
Telephone 912-264-7218.

The public announcement says: “The applicant may also require assent from the State of Georgia, which may be in the form of a license, easement, lease, permit, or other appropriate instrument.”

You can write to your Georgia state representative or senator or governor or lieutenant governor and ask them to refuse any such instrument.
To find your legislator you can type in your ZIP code here: http://openstates.org/find_your_legislator/

The Okefenokee Protection Alliance has a convenient form for writing to the Georgia Governor.

You can also write to your U.S. Representative or Senator and ask them to urge the Corps to reject this mine or at least require an EIS, like Rep. Al Lawson (FL-05) already did.

You can also write to the Georgia DNR board, asking them to refuse any such instrument.
Georgia Board of Natural Resources
2 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, SE, Suite 1252, Atlanta, GA 30334

To submit a letter to the editor of the Charlton County Herald, you can email editor@charltonherald.com.
Or write to your local newspaper.
You can also contact radio, TV, and of course post on social media.

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

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