Air and Water Quality Threatened by Sandersville Coal-Fired Plant

Will Sandersville be the location of the 11th coal-fired power plant in Georgia? Power4Georgians, a consortium of ten electric membership cooperatives (EMCs), has applied for an air pollution permit for an 854-megawatt power plant in Washington County, claiming that burning coal is the best option for producing the power Georgians will need over the next 50 years-the minimum “life time” of such plants.

On February 22, GreenLaw submitted comments on behalf of a number of environmental groups on the proposed permit to the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD). The proposed power plant would be 60 miles east of Macon, which is ranked 12th in the nation for worst year-round particle, or ozone, pollution and teeters on the edge of nonattainment for the health-based air quality standard for fine particulate matter.

The recent Fulton Superior Court ruling on GreenLaw’s challenge of the Dynegy/Longleaf air quality permit (for another coal-plant proposed for southwest Georgia) will force Power4Georgians to reconsider their plans because the application does not contain any limits on the amount of CO2 emissions that would come out of the smokestack. Furthermore, the Judge’s order requiring EPD to have licensed engineers oversee pollution permits will force personnel changes at the agency which may take some time to implement. Ultimately, these changes should result in more protective air permits being issued by the agency. The proposed plant in Washington County will also have a negative effect on water quality due to mercury emissions that affect fish and those who consume them. Two river basins-the Ogeechee and the Altamaha-will be tapped to cool the plant’s machinery, diverting scarce water resources.

Environmentalists believe that the $2 billion investment Power4Georgians plans for this facility could produce at least as much electric power if those funds were instead used to fund alternative energy sources and energy efficiency initiatives. Many EMC members are also beginning to wonder. If you or anyone you know is a residential or business member of one of these 10 EMCs-Cobb, Jackson, Washington, Snapping Shoals, Pataula, Upson, Excelsior, Central Georgia , Greystone Power, and Diverse Power-be sure to mention that they might want to start raising questions about this investment.