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Brunswick, Georgia 31521
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EPA Fights Efforts to Protect School Children from Toxic Air Pollution in Brunswick, Georgia


The low IQ test scores by our first grade students was the first indication to the Glynn Environmental Coalition (GEC) that something was very wrong.  It was obvious that failure to get a good start in school could be a significant contributor to our unacceptably high school dropout rate in Glynn County, and the GEC set out to fix the problem.  

   Glynn County Schools’ own student test data held the information that any educator, school nurse, or local doctor would need to see that there was a serious problem at several Glynn County schools.  First grade students at Goodyear and Burroughs-Molett Elementary Schools had a reported average IQ of 87 and 89, but when children were tested in the third through fifth grades, the IQ scores rose significantly.   Since IQ remains the same throughout life, IQ should not rise.   The youngest children are the most susceptible to air-born central nervous system suppressants and toxicants since they breathe more air and their nervous systems are not well developed.  Like alcohol, a well-known central nervous system suppressant, we suspected the children were essentially “drunk” and the test scores were not an accurate measure of IQ, but rather learning and testing ability.      

   On March 16, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) removed from enforcement under the Clean Air Act the Georgia law which protects children from toxic air that "... is injurious or which unreasonably interferes with the enjoyment of life or use of property."  Since our children’s ability to learn was being harmed, the GEC felt that was an injury.   An effort was made to get the levels of the nervous system suppressing chemicals reduced through the air permits issued by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division, but they refused.  That is why we petitioned the EPA to enforce the law.   The EPA agreed the law was enforceable, but instead of doing so, the EPA eliminated oversight of the law.

   The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency decided to delete the decades-old Georgia law from federal enforcement once citizens sought protection for their children under the law.   The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals had agreed to hear the Glynn Environmental Coalition's complaint about unhealthy levels of toxic air on April 21, 2006.   In documents filed with the Court, the EPA wrote, "EPA recently signed a rule to remove the Georgia Rule at issue in this litigation from the Georgia SIP (State Implementation Plan). As a result of that action, the Georgia Rule is no longer an ‘applicable requirement’ under the Clean Air Act (CAA), and EPA can no longer object to CAA Title V permits on the basis of a failure to include the Georgia Rule and conditions necessary to assure compliance with that Rule.  As such, the action removing the Georgia Rule from the SIP renders moot Petitioner’s request that this Court vacate the challenged order so that EPA may make such an objection.  Respondent also requests that the Court delay oral argument, currently scheduled for April 21, 2006, until after the Court has ruled on this Motion to Dismiss."



The Georgia Environmental Protection Division air monitoring station found unhealthy levels of toxic chemicals in Brunswick’s air near seven schools and the local hospital.  “We see this continued pattern of the Georgia EPD allowing multiple polluters in the poorest African-American neighborhoods to release thousands of tons of toxic air pollution and then ignoring the cumulative impact that these polluters have on the areas,” said Scott Randolph, who has represented GEC throughout this case.  “Instead, they want to put blinders on and pretend that these polluters exist in a vacuum.” Brunswick’s population is 60% minority and 28% live below the poverty level.  

    The GEC’s efforts to stop unhealthy toxic air releases next to our schools has been fought by the EPA and the Georgia Environmental Protection Division.  It is shameful for agencies that are supposed to protect our children's health to protect polluting industries instead.  Our children should not have their future stolen by not getting a good start in school.  The EPA's conduct is reprehensible.

   This is a shameful continuation of the Agencies' history of doing whatever is necessary to allow unregulated toxic air releases by local industry in our community.  Before the EPA’s Title V air-permitting program was implemented in Brunswick in 2002, the Georgia EPD used loopholes in the law to allow releases of toxic chemicals into the air.  When air


permit applications were received from Brunswick industry, the Georgia EPD did not issue permits.  Under Georgia law, polluting industries can operate unregulated until the air permit is issued, which is called an “application shield”.  Georgia EPD did not issue some permits for more than 15 years, allowing them to operate unregulated.

    Georgia laws should prevent injuring people or interfering with enjoyment of life at home, school, and work, but the EPD argues otherwise.  Why the Georgia EPD continues issuing air permits that prevent Brunswick’s air from meeting minimum health-based standards has never been answered.  We suspect the Georgia EPD and EPA did not want to answer that question before the court.  

   The GEC is considering our legal options in response to the EPA’s actions.


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