Six environmental and citizens organizations filed the first legal challenge Monday to the proposed Plant Washington, a new 850-megawatt coal-fired power plant slated to be built near Sandersville.
Three appeals were filed with the state Department of Natural Resources, said Justine Thompson, director of the Atlanta law firm GreenLaw and a lead attorney for opponents to Plant Washington.
Last month, the DNR granted the environmental permits that Power4Georgians, a consortium of electric cooperatives, needed before building Plant Washington.
The appeals to the air, water withdrawal and water release permits will likely be considered by an administrative law judge this summer.
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Spokesman Dean Alford said Power4Georgians is “disappointed in GreenLaw’s filing.”
“GreenLaw is not interested in trying to find a ‘clean coal’ solution. I think their strategy is ‘no coal,’’’ Alford said. “I believe their tactic is throwing as much against a wall as they possibly can, hoping something sticks to delay the project. I don’t think they’re interested in finding clean, affordable reliable means of generating electricity.”
Also Monday, the same groups appealed the air permits granted last month to another new coal-fired power plant project, Plant Longleaf in Early County.
GreenLaw, which successfully challenged aspects of an earlier version of the Longleaf permits, is representing Fall Line Alliance for a Clean Environment, Ogeechee Riverkeeper, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, Sierra Club and Altamaha Riverkeeper on the different permit appeals for Plant Washington.
Thompson said the air permit challenge relates mostly to alleged deficiencies in the modeling of how the plant contributes to fine particle pollution, which can be breathed deep into the lungs, and to the proposed permit limits for hazardous air pollutants.
“These (power plants) will be the largest new air pollution sources in Georgia in decades, at a time when we’re still trying to meet the standards now,” Thompson said.
Alford said a proposed plant near Sandersville has met the most stringent requirements at both state and federal levels, and would be “one of the cleanest coal facilities in the country.”
Plant Washington’s water withdrawal permit is being appealed on the grounds that the state didn’t consider downstream farm withdrawals enough in deciding how much water could be safely removed from the Oconee River. The water discharge permit, which allows the plant to release water that has been used as coolant, would allow the plant to release water warm enough to harm the river environment, Thompson said.
Thompson said each of the appeals is being filed separately and may be heard by different judges.
Plant Washington is expected to cost more than $2 billion to build and to provide about 125 permanent jobs.
Among its customers would be three Middle Georgia electric cooperatives: Washington EMC, Central Georgia EMC and Upson EMC.
Telegraph writer Rodney Manley contributed to this report, which includes information from The Telegraph’s archives.
To contact writer S. Heather Duncan, call 744-4225.