Public Health and Global Warming Concerns Prevail over Profits
Judge Halts First Coal-Fired Power Plant Proposed in over Twenty Years in Georgia
View Court Ruling (PDF)
Atlanta, GA (June 30, 2008) – Fulton County Superior Court Judge Thelma Wyatt Cummings Moore issued a decision today effectively halting construction of the first coal-fired power plant proposed in Georgia in over 20 years. The decision overturns an administrative court’s ruling that affirmed the state Environmental Protection Division’s (EPD) decision to issue an air pollution permit for Dynegy’s Longleaf plant. In practical terms, Dynegy cannot begin construction of the plant unless it can obtain a valid permit from EPD that complies with the Court’s ruling. The Judge held that EPD must limit the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from the plant, a decision that will have far-reaching implications nationwide; this is the first time since the April 2, 2007, Supreme Court decision requiring the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate CO2 that a court has applied that standard to CO2 from an industrial source rather than from motor vehicles.
“In a case that is being watched across the country, Judge Moore has sent a message that it is not acceptable for the state to put profits over public health,” said Justine Thompson, Executive Director of GreenLaw. “This ruling goes a long way toward protecting the right of Georgians to breathe clean air and sends a message to EPD that it must tighten the standards it uses to approve air pollution permits for companies seeking to build any more coal-fired power plants in this state.”
In June 2007, GreenLaw attorneys, representing the Friends of the Chattahoochee and the Sierra Club, filed suit challenging the Dynegy/Longleaf permit allowing a 1200 megawatt coal-fired power plant to be built in Early County on the banks of the Chattahoochee River south of Columbus. The groups challenged the coal-fired power plant’s permit because it failed to include any limitations for carbon dioxide, a leading cause of global warming. Coal-fired power plants are also a leading cause of smog and acid rain.
“The Clean Air Act was enacted by Congress to protect public health-and with Judge Moore’s decision that is what is finally going to happen here in Georgia. Our state can find other ways to produce cleaner, more economically beneficial energy,” said Patty Durand, Georgia Chapter Director of the Sierra Club. “Other states are doing it. Why can’t we?”
The permit was also challenged for because it failed to set safe emission limits for sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, particulate matter and sulfuric acid mist. Fine particulate matter has been known to cause such human injuries as sudden death, premature birth, lung cancer, lung disease, asthma, bronchitis, heart disease, heart attacks and chronic respiratory diseases. Georgia has experienced as many as 946 deaths in a single year attributable to pollution from its 10 existing coal-fired plants.
“I am thrilled that the Judge understands our concerns about public health and global warming here in Early County. Coal plants are a bad idea all around, they hurt our lungs, they hurt our land, and they hurt our livelihood,” said Bobby McClendon, a leader of Friends of the Chattahoochee.
Healthcare providers and patient advocacy groups around the state lined up against the proposed plant and submitted amicus curiae briefs in the case. The Medical Association of Georgia issued a strong resolution opposing any new coal-fired plants. The permit as issued by EDP would have allowed the following:
- This plant would produce 9 million tons of global warming carbon dioxide pollution annually – equal to adding 1.3 million cars on Georgia’s roads every year. A typical plant produces 3.7 million tons annually according to the Union of Concerned Scientists.
- This plant would unnecessarily emit 4,700 tons of sulfur dioxide (SO2) every year.
- This plant would violate EPA’s standards for safe air by exceeding ambient air quality standards for fine particulate matter where the plant is located.
- This plant would emit nitrogen oxide (NOx), causing smog, acid rain, and health problems (EPD is allowing Dynegy to save money by capturing only 67% of these emissions).
- This plant would be allowed to take more than 20 million gallons (net) per day from the Chattahoochee River – the permit allows intake of 27 million gallons, of which roughly 5 million are supposed to be returned.
Dynegy has the most proposed coal-fired power plants of any company in the U.S. An appeal is expected.
GreenLaw is dedicated to preventing air and water pollution that endangers human health and degrades Georgia’s natural resources. GreenLaw achieves these goals by providing free high quality legal and technical assistance to environmental organizations and community groups throughout Georgia. For more information, news releases, and legal documents, visit www.greenlaw.org.
The Sierra Club works to protect our communities and the planet. Inspired by nature to contribute and participate, our members and supporters number more than 1.3 million friends and neighbors. The Club is America's oldest and largest grassroots environmental organization. For more information, visit georgia.sierraclub.org.
Friends of the Chattahoochee seeks to protect the Chattahoochee River and the environment. A multi-state, non-profit organization that opposes any new industry that will adversely impact the Chattahoochee River watershed, it monitors existing industry to ensure that all environmental regulations and safeguards are being adhered to.
For more information about coal-fired power plants, visit www.cleanenergy4ga.org.
Patty Durand, 404-607-1262 x226
Shaz Powell, 404-885-9596 x25