Republic Services, a massive nationwide waste management company owned in part by billionaire Microsoft founder Bill Gates, has withdrawn its application for permits to build a rail spur that would have allowed around 10,000 tons of coal ash per day to its Broadhurst landfill in Wayne County.
The company said in a statement this week the move was in an effort to be a “good neighbor” and to “work cooperatively with local officials and community leaders.”
Opposition to the plan has been overwhelming. Groups like No Ash at All popped up to push back against the plan and to let the Army Corps of Engineers folks in Jesup know they just plain didn’t want residuals from coal-fired energy production dumped in their backyard near sensitive wetlands and the Altamaha River. The Center for a Sustainable Coast helped start a legal fund to fight the plan. Other environmental groups like One Hundred Miles and the Altamaha and Satilla Riverkeepers spoke out against it. State Rep. Jeff Jones, R-St. Simons Island, even pushed three separate bills in the Georgia legislature that essentially sought to make the process of creating new landfills for coal ash under new state and federal rules more transparent after Wayne County residents said they felt blindsided by Republic’s plan.
It was made very clear, piling up a bunch of potentially harmful and toxic coal ash near wetlands and rivers is not anything coastal residents want. So Republic decided to be a “good neighbor” and back off, at least for now.
Whether the company truly has being a “good neighbor” on its mind, or if it simply saw the public relations writing on the wall, it doesn’t really matter.
We understand Republic has to do business and the new rules allowing municipal landfills to store the nasty stuff in lined “ponds” opened the door for coal ash storage at Broadhurst. It wouldn’t surprise us to see Republic try again. It is a reality with which we all must live. Regardless, the withdrawal is great news.
Coal ash has to go somewhere, but it does not belong so close to one of the most important waterways in the state.