A consortium of environmental groups has filed another appeal of the state air permit for a new coal-fired power plant planned near Sandersville.
Plant Washington, being built by a group of electric cooperatives called POWER4Georgians, has a price tag of about $2 billion. Company spokesman Dean Alford said the additional delay caused by the appeal, which now goes to an administrative law judge, will drive up costs. But its still within the contingency of time and expenses the company built into its project estimates.
The 850-megawatt Plant Washington had received a new state air permit last month after a previous version was appealed, too. A judges ruling on that appeal focused on limits to the plants fine particle pollution and hazardous air pollutants. The new appeal filed Monday focuses mostly on mercury and hydrogen chloride emissions.
Mercury from power plants has been shown to fall into waterways, where it accumulates in fish and people who eat them. Mercury is a neurotoxin that can harm a fetus or affect child development.
Georgia ranks 22nd among states for 2010 mercury emissions, according to a report released last week by Environment Georgia. Georgia Powers Plant Scherer north of Macon ranked No. 92 of 457 power plants in the nation for mercury emissions, and Plant Branch in Milledgeville was No. 997.
Environmental law firms Greenlaw and the Southern Environmental Law Center filed the appeal of the Plant Washington permit. Justine Thompson, executive director of Greenlaw, said state environmental officials used a draft federal air pollution rule as a guideline for some of the plants emission limits, but not for mercury.
They basically used the draft rule to make decisions when it was advantageous and not when it was disadvantageous, Thompson said. They arbitrarily chose what provisions of the draft rule they were going to rely on.
However, Alford said state regulators used the draft rule only for the portion of the permit that an administrative law judge sent back for revisions earlier this year. The judge had affirmed the rest of the permit, including portions dealing with mercury limits.
In their news release, the environmental groups also claimed that Plant Washington would be allowed to produce more mercury than many aging coal-fired power plants.
Alford said their example of Georgia Powers Plant Hammond ignores the fact that Hammond doesnt operate for portions of the year.
Theyre comparing apples to oranges, he said. I dont know if theyre being naive or just intellectually dishonest.
Environmental or economic pressures have scuppered many of the 161 coal-fired power plants that have been canceled nationwide since 2001.
As part of a legal settlement with environmental groups last week, energy developer LLS Power Development abandoned its plans to build the Plant Longleaf coal-powered plant in west Georgia.
That leaves Plant Washington as the last coal-fired power project standing in Georgia. If built, it would be the first constructed in the state in more than a quarter century.
To contact writer S. Heather Duncan, call 744-4225.