Fulton Judge Considers Coal-Fired Power Plant Permit Case

Decision Could Save Georgians from Thousands of Tons of Dangerous Pollutants

On Tuesday, June 3rd, at 9:30AM, Judge Thelma Wyatt Cummings Moore heard arguments in Fulton County Superior Court as to whether new coal-fired plants, like the proposed Longleaf plant, must regulate carbon dioxide (CO2) pollution. The court is reconsidering the state Environmental Protection Division’s (EPD) decision to issue an air pollution permit to Dynegy for its Longleaf plant in Early County, near Albany. The permit failed to address CO2, which is the leading cause of global warming.

According to GreenLaw attorneys, representing the Sierra Club and the Friends of the Chattahoochee, a 2007 Supreme Court ruling requires that EPD impose limits on CO2 emissions that contribute to global warming; the permit for the Longleaf Energy Station does not have any limits on CO2. The permit issued by EPD also failed to comply with other aspects of state and federal air quality laws that protect public health.

“EPD’s decision to issue this permit was a serious mistake with far-reaching consequences,” said Justine Thompson, Executive Director of GreenLaw. “The health of people throughout Georgia, especially those who live near the proposed site of the coal-fired power plant, will be negatively affected for the next 50 years if this investment proceeds with the coal-burning technology Dynegy proposes to use. EPD’s permit only protects the interests of large corporations, not Georgia’s citizens.”

A broad swath of national and local organizations agrees that the pollution permit EPD issued was deeply flawed. Five Amicus Curie briefs signed by 23 local, state and national organizations have been filed in the case. The organizations represent a range of interests including civil rights, faith-based initiatives, environmental concerns and public health.

A 23-day administrative hearing this past fall revealed that EPD did not thoroughly evaluate the proposed plant’s impact on Georgia’s air quality. EPD’s own employees could not explain how permit limits for harmful soot and smog had been reached, and state employees frequently adopted conclusions proposed by Dynegy without independent verification.

“EPD needs to be held accountable for failing to protect our air, our water, and ultimately, our lives,” said Patty Durand, Director of the Georgia Chapter of the Sierra Club. “We need clean, renewable energy for Georgia, from sources that don’t harm people and their natural environment.”

Georgia has experienced as many as 946 deaths in a single year attributable to pollution from its 10 existing coal-fired plants operated by Georgia Power. Particulate matter, such as sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide, is emitted by coal-fired power plants and has been known to cause premature birth, lung cancer, asthma, bronchitis, heart disease, and more. Healthcare providers and patient advocacy groups around the state have lined up against the proposed plant, including The Medical Association of Georgia which issued a strong resolution opposing any new coal-fired plants.

“We should not have to trade our health for economic development. There are ways we can encourage growth in our area without sacrificing our health and protecting our well-being for future generations. I am proud to call our community home, for my children, my grandchildren and their children,” said Bobby McClendon, a member of Friends of the Chattahoochee.

The permit, which failed to set safe emission limits for harmful pollutants, was issued in May 2007. The Longleaf plant is only one of many coal-fired power plants proposed by Dynegy, the largest coal plant developer in the country, as the industry struggles to find states that will accept the environmental degradation and huge economic costs that are caused by burning coal.

The hearing will be held in the courtroom of Judge Moore at the Fulton County Superior Court located at 185 Central Avenue, Atlanta, GA. Directions can be found at http://sca.fultoncourt.org/superiorcourt/pdf/AreaMap.pdf. Permission for television cameras in the courtroom must be obtained in advance by contacting the office of the Clerk of the Court or by contacting GreenLaw.

The judge’s ruling is expected by July 3, 2008, and could postpone or halt the construction of the proposed 1200-megawatt coal-fired power plant slated to be built near the banks of the Chattahoochee River south of Columbus.

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 legal documents regarding the case, visit: www.green-law.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: http://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.

Learn the full story of Dynegy’s Longleaf Energy Station in an article written by Rick Sine, “One More Plant, One Too Many.” Read Article

For more information about coal-fired power plants, visit www.CleanEnergy4GA.org.

Shaz Powell, 404-885-9596 x25
Justine Thompson, 404-659-3122