Despite Health Concerns, Coal Plant Permit Affirmed by Judge
First Coal-Fired Power Plant Approved in over Twenty Years in Georgia
View Court Ruling (PDF)
Atlanta, GA (January 11, 2008) – Administrative Law Judge Stephanie Howells issued a ruling today upholding the state Environmental Protection Division’s (EPD) decision to issue an air pollution permit to Dynegy’s Longleaf plant, ignoring the evidence that the company did not adequately restrict health-threatening sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, sulfuric acid mist and total particulate matter emissions. The court also ignored evidence that the plant’s emissions would negatively impact crops essential to the local economy.
“We are very disappointed by the court’s ruling and we will certainly file an appeal,” said Justine Thompson, Executive Director of GreenLaw. “This is the first coal-fired power permit to be approved in Georgia in over 20 years but with this court’s ruling, I fear it will not be the last. As neighboring states stand up against coal plants, Georgia’s acquiescence will make us a target for new coal-fired power plant proposals. Building this plant as currently designed will lock this state into dirty air for the life of the plant, at least 50 or more years.”
GreenLaw will file an appeal of the court’s ruling within the thirty-day time limit. The appeal is expected to be heard in Superior Court.
During the 23-day hearing, GreenLaw revealed that EPD did not thoroughly evaluate the proposed plant’s impact on Georgia’s air quality. In his closing statement, GreenLaw attorney George Hays highlighted the fact that EPD’s own employees could not explain how permit limits for harmful soot and smog had been reached and that state employees frequently adopted conclusions proposed by Dynegy verbatim and without independent verification.
Since June, GreenLaw attorneys, representing the Friends of the Chattahoochee and the Sierra Club, have challenged 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. The emissions from coal-fired power plants are a leading cause of smog, acid rain and global warming.
“Georgia does not need yet another coal-fired power plant,” said Patty Durand, Georgia Chapter Director of the Sierra Club. “Across the country, state after state has rejected new coal plants in favor of cleaner, more economically beneficial energy alternatives.”
The permit also failed to set safe emission limits for sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, particulate matter and sulfuric acid mist. Furthermore, 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, cardiovascular diseases, 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.
“We should not have to sacrifice our health for economic development. There are ways we can encourage growth without jeopardizing our health. This decision means asthma attacks, heart attacks, and lung cancer for our community,” said Bobby McClendon, a member of Friends of the Chattahoochee.
Healthcare providers and patient advocacy groups around the state have lined up against the proposed plant. The Medical Association of Georgia issued a strong resolution opposing any new coal-fired plants. If the permit stands, the coal-fired power plant would generate the following:
- This plant will 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 will unnecessarily emit 4,700 tons of sulfur dioxide (SO2) every year, harmful to agricultural crops like peanuts and pine trees.
- This plant will violate EPA’s standards for safe air by exceeding ambient air quality standards for fine particulate matter where the plant is located.
- This plant will 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 will 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.
The Longleaf plant is one of a host of coal-fired power plants proposed by Dynegy across the county; rulings are expected on two Dynegy plants in Nevada and Iowa in the coming weeks. Dynegy has the most proposed coal-fired power plants of any company in the U.S.
For more information, news releases, and legal documents visit www.greenlaw.org (coal article contains final proceedings document as well as original public comments and filing of the case in June).
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 and background 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 questions related to the news above, contact
Shaz Powell, 404-885-9596 x25
Justine Thompson, 404-659-3122