Special to the Journal
Flint Riverkeeper and two southwest Georgia citizens who are members have filed an appeal of an extension of a construction permit to build the proposed Longleaf coal-fired power generation plant in Early County. The appeal was filed against Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division in Atlanta following an April 9th granting of the extension.
Two other conservation groups – Friends of the Chattahoochee and the Sierra Club — also have filed petitions for hearings challenging approval for Longleaf, which would be the largest coal-fired power plant in Georgia, and the proposed Plant Washington, a smaller facility.
The petitions object to the classification of the 1,200 megawatt Longleaf power plant in southwestern Georgia’s Early County as a “minor source” of pollution, while the other proposed coal-fired plant, the 850 megawatt Plant Washington in Sandersville, central Georgia, is classified as a “major source.”
Listing Longleaf as a minor source allows the power plant to avoid requirements that would ensure that the plant operates in compliance with the law. EPD also failed to allow the public to comment on this decision and granted Longleaf an extension on when it must begin construction, allowing the plant to be built with what the petitioners call “outdated technology.”
“This permit would allow construction of a plant that would employ vastly outdated technology inefficiently using the water of the Apalachicola/Chattahoochee/Flint system, would spew thousands of tons of pollutants annually into our air in Southwest Georgia, would further poison our fish, and would foreclose many of our economic activities and opportunities,” said Gordon Rogers, Flint Riverkeeper. “Better technology is available; this action by Georgia EPD would be laughable if it were not so serious”.
Longleaf is a project of New Jersey-based LS Power, which plans to sell power to the highest bidders, whether or not they are in Georgia, which means that the plant is not subject to regulation by the Public Service Commission. The Georgia Chamber of Commerce and Albany Area Chamber of Commerce are among more than 100 businesses and organizations that have been involved in promoting the plant’s construction.
“In addition to being illegal, the entire process that Georgia EPD has followed insults the citizens of Georgia. 560 comments were made during the process, and only 2 of them were in favor of this plant. Many of the comments pointed out technical and legal flaws in the process; others were simply those of citizens concerned about their families and businesses. Georgia EPD’s process is broken”, said Don Lambert of Damascus, co-appellant with Flint Riverkeeper.
The Longleaf permit allows 158 pounds of mercury, 807 tons of soot, 3,227 tons of sulfurous compounds, and 1,344 tons of nitrogen oxides to be expelled from the proposed plant each year. According to Georgia EPD documents, 27 million gallons of water per day would be needed for the plant’s operations. About 26 percent of this water would be returned to the river, with right at three quarters of withdrawn water evaporated to the sky, interrupted on its flow south to Lake Seminole and on to Apalachicola Bay.
“It insults common sense that those intent on building a coal burning plant would name it after a Southern icon and the native ecosystem it will negatively impact… ‘ Longleaf ‘ “, said Glenn Dowling, Flint Riverkeeper Board member and Executive Vice President of the Georgia Wildlife Federation. “It should be named after what it will produce, for instance, ‘Plant Mercury.’ This plant threatens the longleaf pine ecosystem and other prescribed fire-dependent landscapes in all of Southwest Georgia, southeast Alabama, and northwest Florida by consuming airshed space that we need for our existing users and forestry economy.”
“I have investments all across Southwest Georgia”, said Ted Lee, member of Flint Riverkeeper and co-appellant. “Farm, timber, residential and commercial ventures would all be limited by a single large source of pollution that hogs our water and airshed. If Atlanta and other metro areas in the south need power, they need to find a more efficient way to get it. Destroying our culture, our recreation, our economy is a very unfair way forward, and we will fight to keep it from happening”.