OVERVIEW: Three coal-fired power plants – with proposed emissions of carbon dioxide that could exceed 22 million tons per year – have been proposed for Georgia over the past decade. The first, proposed by New Jersey-based LS Power in 2001, was the Longleaf Energy Station, a 1200 megawatt (MW) plant to be built in southwest Georgia. It was defeated in December 2011. The second, proposed in January 2008, is for Plant Washington, an 854 MW plant to be located in middle Georgia. The third, Plant Ben Hill, was proposed in 2009 by the same company that is behind Plant Washington and is also expected to be approximately 850 MWs. The legal challenges to these coal plants are a critical part of both the local effort to shift Georgia away from coal-burning energy production and the national effort to address climate change through organized opposition to coal plants.
In January 2008, Power4Georgians, LLC, a consortium group organized by Cobb Electric Membership Corporation (EMC) and four other Electric Management Corporations (EMCs), submitted a proposal for a coal-fired power plant to EPD. Specifically, Power4Georgians seeks to construct an 854 MW coal-fired power plant in Sandersville, Georgia, 60 miles east of Macon and close to Georgia Power’s Plant Scherer. The siting of this plant is of particular concern for Georgians. The plant would require millions of gallons of water each day from a river basin that has already experienced low flows and is home to endangered species such as the robust redhorse. The plant would also be located in close proximity to major non-attainment areas such as Macon and Atlanta. Financial concerns also surround the decision to construct this plant. The “lead” EMC, Cobb EMC, is already embroiled in litigation questioning the ability of its directors to make sound financial decisions. See below for a chronology of events on efforts to stop this ill-advised proposal.
April 10, 2012: A settlement is reached in the air pollution permit appeal for Plant Washington. Power4Georgians agreed to cancel plans for a second coal-fired power plant, Plant Ben Hill, and agreed to comply with critical new safeguards against mercury pollution and invest $5 million in energy efficiency and renewable projects.
January 24, 2012: Cobb EMC backs out of Plant Washington.
December 19, 2011: GreenLaw and Southern Environmental Law Center file an appeal of the air pollution permit for Plant Washington on behalf of our clients.
November 21, 2011: Georgia EPD has reissued the air quality permit for Plant Washington. The permit was reissued despite the fact that Cobb EMC - the primary EMC behind the Power4Georgians who is developing the plant - is in turmoil. Click here to see the permit.
August 29th, 2011: Today, GreenLaw, working with SELC, submitted extensive comments on the proposed air quality permit. You can view those comments here.
August 1, 2011: EPD will hold a public hearing in Sandersville at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, August 18, to receive formal comments on the draft air pollution permit amendment for Plant Washington. Anyone may present data, make a statement, comment, offer a viewpoint or argument either orally or in writing. The location is:
Oconee Fall Line Technical College - Sandersville Campus
1189 Deepstep Road, Sandersville, GA 31082
The permit may be viewed here.
The deadline for written comments is August 29, 2011. After the comment period has expired, the EPD will consider comments, make any necessary changes resulting from comments received, and make a decision on the Permit Amendment. Copies of the Permit Amendment, comments received, EPD's responses to comments, and any other relevant information will then be made available for public review at the office of the Air Protection Branch, as well as at the internet address: email@example.com.
March 30, 2011: Today, GreenLaw, along with partner Southern Environmental Law Center, filed an amended petition on behalf of Altamaha Riverkeeper, Fall-Line Alliance for a Clean Environment and Sierra Club, in the challenge to Plant Washington's National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System orNPDES permit. Following the initial legal challenge to Plant Washington's water withdrawal and discharge permits, numerous changes were made to those permits to ensure compliance with the law, including those changes ordered by the Administrative Law Judge. Although these changes improve the permits, the NPDES permit still fails to protect the Oconee River and Georgians from the wastewater discharge from this coal plant. The permit requires the plant to monitor the heated wastewater that it discharges into the Oconee River as little as once a month. Plant Washington can easily game the system by choosing the most favorable conditions (day and time) to test and appear in compliance with the water quality standard even when it is not. This is important because river temperature changes day to day, even within the same day. Click here to view the amended petition.
Final Decision of Dismissal
March 2, 2011: EPD has issued final water withdrawal and water discharge permits. Attorneys are now reviewing the permits and EPD's response to comments to determine next steps. The relevant documents can be found here:
Water Withdrawal Permit
Water Discharge Permit (NPDES)
Reponse to Comments
InterBasin Transfer Considerations
January 7, 2011: Dwight Brown, the Chief Executive of Cobb EMC and the organizer of Power4Georgians, has been indicted by the Cobb County District Attorney for theft and racketeering. Cobb EMC is behind both Plant Washington and Plant Ben Hill. See press release here. See the indictment here.
For an article with photo of Dwight Brown, see here.
December 2010 Update:
AIR PERMIT: December 16—A Georgia state court rejected Georgia’s air quality permit for Plant Washington, a proposed 850 mega-watt coal-fired power plant in Sandersville, GA. According to the ruling, which can be viewed here, the state permit for the Plant Washington violated Clean Air Act safeguards to limit harmful air pollution.
The Georgia Environmental Protection Division must reconsider its permit after the court found it failed to set safe limits on harmful emissions from the plant, including dozens of hazardous air pollutants that can cause cancer, birth defects, heart disease, developmental disorders, and other serious injuries.
GreenLaw and the Southern Environmental Law Center challenged the state air quality permit in court on behalf of the Fall-line Alliance for a Clean Environment, Ogeechee Riverkeeper, Sierra Club’s Georgia Chapter, and Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.
On Thursday, November 18th, Judge Ronit Walker heard oral argument on the Plant Washington air permit appeal. Each party submitted briefs and Petitioners' brief can be viewed here.
WATER PERMIT: EPD sent the water permits back out for public comment. Following Judge Ronit Walker's remand, EPD modifed the NPDES permit and that permit along with the public notice can be found here. EPD did not modify the surface withdrawal permit but is holding an additional public hearing. That permit can be viewed here. GreenLaw and SELC submitted comments on December 10th. Those comments can be viewed here. The comment period closed on December 10th.
Update September 30, 2010: The air permit hearing ended September 29. Closing oral arguments will be held a date TBD at the Office of State Administrative Hearings, 230 Peachtree Street, Atlanta. Directions to the OSAH location of the hearings are here: http://www.osah.ga.gov/directions.html The hearings are open to the public.
Listen here for a press conference on the permit hearing.
Update July 26, 2010: Administrative Law Judge Ronit Walker ruled on Plant Washington's water withdrawal and water discharge permits late Friday, July 23. The Judge heard informal arguments as to whether the state is allowing an interbasin transfer without following proper procedures, and whether the location for measuring the discharge into the Oconee was adequate on July 20. The judge's ruling can be viewed here.
Update May 2010: On May 10, 2010, attorneys from GreenLaw filed petitions for hearings challenging three permits for Plant Washington.
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. TheSouthern Environmental Law Center (SELC) is co-counseling with GreenLaw on this project,
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.
Petitions can be found here:
PLANT WASHINGTON WATER WITHDRAWL PETITION
PLANT WASHINGTON WATER DISCHARGE PETITION
PLANT WASHINGTON AIR QUALITY PETITION
Update April 2010: On April 8, EPD issued final permits for air emissions, surface water withdrawal, groundwater withdrawal and surface water discharge. GreenLaw is currently revieweing these permits. Citizens have 30 days in which to file an appeal.
All of the permits issued by EPD can be found here.
Update February 2010: In 2009, Power4Georgians submitted an application to Environmental Protection Division (EPD) to build a coal-fired power plant at a time when citizens in every state across the nation are questioning the safety and efficiency of generating electric energy from burning pulverized coal. In August 2009 EPD released draft permits for several of the permits that will be required to operate and construct the coal-fired power plant in Sandersville. The permits include a Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) permit, which will address the air emissions of such pollutants as mercury, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide and more. The permit can be found on EPD's website here.
EPD also released a draft National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit, a water withdrawal permit, and a groundwater withdrawal permit which are not available on EPD's website, but can be obtained by visiting EPD in Atlanta.
A public hearing was held in at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, October 20 in Sandersville. The hearing was attended by 321 people; 51 spoke against the plant, 14 in favor of it.
Working in partnership with SELC, GreenLaw sent detailed comments on the plant's air, water, and solid waste permits to EPD on October 27.
The comments on the permits can be viewed here:
Air Quality Permit Comments
Solid Waste Permit Comments
Water Discharge Permit Comments
Groundwater Withdrawal Permit Comments
Surface Water Withdrawal Permit Comments
To add your name to those opposing new coal plants in Georgia, click here.
Final permits are expected to be issued in Spring 2010.