Fulton Court Denies Permit for Coal Power Plant in Georgia
(APN) ATLANTA — On June 30, 2008, Fulton County Superior Court denied Greenleaf Energy Associates LLC a permit to build a coal burning power plant in Early County, Georgia, on the Florida border.
Early County has almost twice as many Black residents than the average county in Georgia, and almost twice as many residents below the federal poverty line, according to US Census Bureau data from 2006 and 2004, respectively, making this a significant environmental justice issue. Georgia has a tendency to locate its nuclear and coal plants and toxic waste dumps in poor, Black areas.
The Judge Thelma Wyatt Cummings Moore based her judgment on the company’s failure to attempt to comply with the Clean Air Act standards.
Longleaf Energy Associates LLC is owned partly by Dynegy Company out of Houston, Texas, and LS Power group in New Jersey.
“The health impact of building these plants is extraordinary. Right now there are 10 power plants powered by coal in Georgia and 900 people die in the state each year as a result of these plants. It is not true the company is proposing a clean coal plant. There is no such thing as clean running coal. People die of respiratory ailments, strokes, and heart attacks,” Justine Thompson, Director of Greenlaw, said in an interview with Atlanta Progressive News.
“I am disappointed in the ruling. The ruling did not hinge on health issues but on carbon dioxide and whether it should be regulated and part of the permit process. The perspective of the judge hinged on the carbon issue,” David Byford the Senior Director of Public Relations for Dynegy told Atlanta Progressive News.
Coal power plants are the leading emitters of CO2 gas.
The power plant as proposed would emit 8-9 million tons of carbon dioxide each year according to the court ruling. Longleaf argued carbon dioxide is not a pollutant, although it was declared so in 2007 in a court ruling.
Then they argued because specific limits were not set on its emission by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the plant could not be considered to exceed limits.
The power plant would also emit sulfur dioxide, particulate matter, and other health endangering materials.
The area of Early County has air standards which require a permit of Prevention of Significant Deterioration for any Major Emitting Facility.
The Longleaf Company chose to ignore studies saying their emissions would exceed the standards of the Clean Air Act and relied on persons without engineering degrees to calculate their levels of emissions.
The judge ruled they could not pick and choose their studies nor use persons unfamiliar with the technology to estimate these emissions.
Longleaf was seen to have made no effort to show the National Ambient Air Quality Standards would not be exceeded, according to a copy of the judgment obtained by Atlanta Progressive News.
The Clean Air Act also specifies the Best Available Control Technology be used in areas exceeding clean air standards.
Longleaf made no apparent effort to do this specifically for CO2 emissions, which the judge declared to be a violation of the Clean Air Act.
“As far as Best Available Control technologies, we are proposing a clean efficient process in a plant that would provide energy for Georgia,” Byford said.
“The company did not consider a number of technologies. They did not consider gasification. That would dramatically reduce the amount of pollution from a coal power plant. We have undisputed evidence the 2.5 millimeter particles would cause respiratory problems and cardiovascular diseases and a lot of problems,” Thompson said.
This is supported by the 12 states which have rejected power plants powered by coal. Kansas, for example, based its rejection solely on the health risks, according to Environmental News Network.
“The company was ignoring the Clean Air Act requirement to use Best Available Current Technology. They were choosing to use dirty old technologies to increase their maximum profits. That was their main motive. The plant would have produced 9 million tons of CO2 contributing to global warming and these companies would like to act as though it were not happening,” Patty Durand, President of the Sierra Club of Atlanta, told Atlanta Progressive News.
Nitrous oxides cause the smog, which results in acid rain and–in combination with the sulfur dioxide emissions from coal power plants–form microscopic particles. Breathing in these materials causes asthma and chronic bronchitis, especially in children.
These fine particles kill nearly 24,000 to 30,000 people each year, and cause 38,000 nonfatal heart attacks, exceeding the number killed by drunk driving or homicide according to the Environmental Defense Fund and Clean Energy Campaign of Nevada.
“The coal plant would have emitted 3000 tons of nitrous oxide per month which is bad for the ozone layer. It can trigger heart attacks, asthma, and strokes,” Durand said.
“By refusing to license the plant, the amount of childhood asthma has been reduced in Georgia. I am thrilled,” Durand said.
“The court ruling will improve public health and public health compliance,” Thompson said. “This ruling has a lot of implications. This will impact the viability of coal as an investment. It has had implications across the country and across the world. It is really stunning. We are in a nation producing more CO2 and the south alone produces more CO2 than many western countries including Germany. This is a step in the right direction.”
About the author:
Alice Gordon is a Staff Writer for The Atlanta Progressive News and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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