Longleaf Decision Postpones the Coal Plant Again

On July 7, the Court of Appeals issued its long-awaited ruling on the Longleaf coal-fired power plant air permit. There was some good news and some less than good news. We won on a key point, which stops the plant’s construction for now. We will appeal the other claims that the Court rejected.

Good News: Independent Judgment of State Action Required

The Court agreed with the Fulton County Superior Court Judge that Administrative Law Judges in Georgia must consider the facts presented in the case and reach an independent judgment of the actions of the Environmental Protection Division (EPD). This ruling will have a long-term positive impact on future environmental cases, ensuring that citizens who raise questions about state agency decisions receive a fair hearing.

Less Than Good News: Lack of Limits for CO2, PM 2.5 and Other Harmful Pollutants

The Court did not support the Fulton County Superior Court decision on several other important issues. We are particularly disappointed by the ruling on particulate matter (PM 2.5), microscopic particles that are emitted from coal-burning plants. These particles can lodge in the lungs, causing or exacerbating respiratory and heart conditions, especially in the most vulnerable part of the population, children and the elderly. A leading national expert found that the Longleaf Plant’s PM2.5 emissions would violate health-based air quality standards, putting our children at risk. While the findings of this study have never been disputed by coal plant proponents, the Court relied on an erroneous technicality and refused to consider the evidence.

The Court also rejected our claim that CO2 emissions should be limited although this plant will emit 9 million tons of CO2 each year. Instead of focusing on current laws already on the books that require one type of limit on CO2emissions, the Court was swept up by the political debate raging on how to address CO2 emissions on a comprehensive basis. While the public debate on CO2 allows our opponents to confuse the issue, the law is quite clear that CO2 emissions must have some limits. The Court also rejected the Superior Court ruling that the plant’s owners should have been required to at least consider technologies (IGCC – Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle) that would have dramatically reduced emissions from the plant.

Next Steps: Appeal to the Georgia Supreme Court

On July 27, we are filing our petition for certiorari requesting that the Supreme Court take this case. We are confident that the Court will agree to take the case due to the importance of the issues to be considered. We continue to need your support as the Supreme Court addresses these issues.

Tags: Coal-fired power plant · GreenLaw Environmental Justice