Challenge to Coal-fired Power Plant Moves to Court of Appeals

Attorneys Back Superior Court Decision

Atlanta, GA (August 13, 2008) Attorneys for GreenLaw responded decisively to the proponents of an air pollution permit in a fight over health, air quality, and Georgia’s energy future that has become increasingly antagonistic. GreenLaw attorneys, representing the Friends of the Chattahoochee and the Sierra Club of Georgia, filed a response with the Court of Appeals to the Application for Discretionary Appeal that had been filed by Dynegy and the State of Georgia challenging the decision of the Fulton County Superior Court. GreenLaw’s response addressed misstatements and distortions in the briefs filed by Dynegy, EPD, and Georgia’s Chamber of Commerce.

"The exaggerations of Georgia’s EPD, Dynegy and the Chamber are irresponsible,” said Justine Thompson, Executive Director of GreenLaw.  “For example, the Chamber says that hospitals, assisted living facilities, and small businesses would be hurt by the law. But they don’t mention that the state has the absolute authority to exclude hospitals and assisted-living facilities from this law.  And many smaller businesses than the kinds the Chamber talks about already obtain EPD pollution permits without a problem.”  

The Chamber even ignores the information on EPD’s own website about pollution permits for small businesses.  According to EPD, already “Georgia’s environmental regulations require many small businesses [those with fewer than 100 employees] to obtain permits, install pollution control equipment, and maintain required emissions records.” http://www.gasmallbiz.org/. As one of many examples, hundreds of “minor NSR permits” for businesses smaller than the ones the Chamber complains about are issued under the Clean Air Act without a problem. “Sure, an air permit for a massive polluter like the Longleaf plant is complicated, but that has nothing at all to do with what the permit process would look like for a more routine project,” Thompson pointed out. 

The Chamber also cited the possible inclusion of “bakeries” under the Act as a supposed indication that the Court’s ruling went too far, but once again, bakeries around the country already obtain air pollution permits for their emissions of “volatile organic compounds.” http://www.epa.gov/ttn/chief/eiip/techreport/volume03/bakeries.pdf. “Though the Clean Air Act already applies to Georgia’s bakeries, obtaining permits certainly has not been a problem for them. No one could say we have any shortage of bakeries,” said Thompson. 

GreenLaw also challenged their opponents’ characterization of the Superior Court’s CO2 ruling.   “Dynegy and EPD are just trying to avoid the law, and they are doing it by purposely confusing the national regulation of pollutants that are limited by general “ambient” pollution levels, with the emission limitations that apply only to a new pollution source, like the Longleaf plant,” explained Thompson.  GreenLaw’s brief points out that specific emission limitations for each massive new “source” apply to every "air pollutant" -- regardless of whether it is under a general national limit -- if it is in any way "subject to regulation under the Act. The United States Supreme Court ruled last year that CO2 is an "air pollutant," and GreenLaw maintains that there is no doubt that CO2 is "subject to regulation" under the Clean Air Act. The EPA has issued literally hundreds of CO2 regulations under that law.  

 “We should all expect the Chamber of Commerce to be looking out for the well-being of Georgia--which includes our health and keeping medical costs down--not spreading rumors and false information. The Chamber is locked in the past even by Wall Street standards. The biggest investment banks have new environmental requirements before they will finance coal-fired power plants,” said Patty Durand, Georgia Chapter President of the Sierra Club. “We desperately need new 21st century energy thinking and planning in Georgia if we are to remain healthy and prosperous.  It is a shame that the Chamber isn’t putting its efforts behind that.  Everyone else recognizes that smart, new energy is absolutely critical to the future of our State and the country.”
 

In February, J.P. Morgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, and Citigroup announced that they would begin requiring utilities to prove that plants will be economically sound even under stringent caps on carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas. For the first time, banks will be asking companies seeking financing for coal-fired power plants to report on their environmental compliance in energy efficiency options, prospective greenhouse gas allowances, and renewable energy options.
 

 “All across the world business leaders are racing to find new energy technologies and all our Chamber does is put its head in the sand-or the coal mine-and pray that they’ll emerge with some short-term profits,” said Thompson.
 

The Court of Appeals has until August 29 to decide whether or not it will exercise its discretion to accept the application for appeal. GreenLaw provides a persuasive case for the merits of the Superior Court decision in its brief, which is available from its office: 404-659-3122.
 


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 news releases and legal documents, visit www.green-law.org

Friends of the Chattahoochee seek 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.

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. http://georgia.sierraclub.org/.