Legal Challenges Filed to Stop Georgia’s Coal Rush

Petitions Identify Major Flaws in Coal-fired Power Plant Permits

Petitions can be found here:

On May 10, 2010, attorneys from GreenLaw and the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC), acting on behalf of seven citizens’ groups, filed petitions for hearings challenging permits for two major proposed coal-fired power plants in Georgia.  In response to an unprecedented wave of permits issued by the state Environmental Protection Division (EPD) in April, the groups are fighting back with important claims against the water and air pollution permits proposed for Plant Washington, to be built in Sandersville, and against the air pollution permit for Longleaf Energy Station, to be built in Early County.

EPD issued these permits at a time when citizens across the nation are actively questioning the safety, financial wisdom and energy efficiency of generating electric power from burning pulverized coal. Plans to construct coal-burning plants in North Carolina, South Carolina, Mississippi, and Louisiana have all recently been canceled. Georgia is moving backward with the issuance of permits for two more coal plants that will bring additional air and water pollution to the state.

Longleaf, which is being contested by Friends of the Chattahoochee and the Sierra Club of Georgia, with representation solely from GreenLaw, is a project of New Jersey-based LS Power, which anticipates selling power to the highest bidders it can find.

In the 1200 mega-watt Longleaf permit, EPD classifies Longleaf as a minor source of pollution, while the other proposed coal-fired plant, the 850 mega-watt Plant Washington (in a permit issued the day before), is classified as a major source. Listing Longleaf as a minor source allows the power plant to avoid critical requirements that would ensure that the Plant operated in compliance with the law. EPD also failed to allow the public to comment on this decision. Today attorneys objected on both grounds. EPD also granted Longleaf an extension on when it must begin construction.  This extension will allow the Plant to be built with outdated technology.    Challengers are asking that EPD ensure that the permit is up-to-date.

Plant Washington, which is being contested by the Fall-line Alliance for a Clean Environment (FACE) and Sierra Club’s Georgia Chapter, as well as Altamaha Riverkeeper (for the water permit only), and Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) and Ogeechee Riverkeeper (both organizations for the air permit only), is a project of Power4Georgians, a company composed of Cobb EMC and four other EMCs.

The Plant Washington air permit fails to set safe limits on harmful air pollutants that would be emitted by Plant Washington, including sulfuric acid mist and particulate matter. Particulate matter is linked to respiratory illnesses, heart disease and even premature death.

The state water withdrawal permit fails to set necessary limits on the amount of water the plant can take from the Oconee River for use at a proposed plant located in the Ogeechee River watershed. Without adequate limits, communities such as Dublin, area farms and other downstream users along the Oconee River would be left without sufficient water resources.

The state water discharge permit fails to limit the temperature of heated wastewater discharged by the proposed plant into the Oconee River, changing the river’s ecology, depleting available oxygen in its waters, and harming fish and other wildlife that depend on the river system.

Georgia already has 10 coal-fired power plants, one of which, just north of Macon, is Plant Scherer, often cited as the most polluting coal-fired plant in the nation. These plants would be the eleventh and twelfth to pollute Georgia’s air and waterways. The EPD has seven days to send the cases to the Office of State Administrative Hearings, where they will be assigned to administrative law judges. Court dates are expected later this summer.