Appeal filed to fight coal plant

Published 1:48 pm Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Flint Riverkeeper and two southwest Georgia citizens filed an appeal of an “extension” of a construction permit to build the proposed Longleaf coal-fired power generation facility in Early County.

The appeal was filed on Dec. 8 against Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division (EPD) in Atlanta following a November granting of the extension. The appeal follows an earlier one filed by the same appellants in the spring of this year. The earlier action successfully placed Georgia EPD in a position where they elected to withdraw the permit so that they would not lose the appeal due to a defect in its public notice actions, a requirement of the law that they failed to fulfill, but corrected by “re-noticing” the permit and holding hearing in July, a news release by the Riverkeeper stated.

This “improvement” to the permit process failed to substantially alter the content of the permit’s requirements, being merely an attempt by Georgia EPD to improve their chances within legal actions they knew were sure to come, the release said

“This permit would allow construction of a plant that would employ vastly outdated technology. The plant would inefficiently using the water of the Apalachicola/Chattahoochee/Flint (ACF) 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. Fishermen, farmers, foresters, plantation owners and any users of the ACF’s waters are threatened by this action.”

The extension of the Longleaf permit is illegal because better technology is readily available, and the plaintiffs are prepared to prove this in their filings, briefings and testimony, said Chris Reeves of the Finley Firm in Atlanta, counsel to Flint Riverkeeper and two of its members.

The permit, originally issued in May 2007, then again in April of 2010, was contested by other citizen protection groups and ran through a series of appeals and remands leading up through late 2009.

The plaintiffs claim the current permit extension violates Georgia administrative law because Georgia EPD’s own permitting rules require upgraded technology and/or a new permit application after the original expires.

The procedure that EPD used did not follow this requirement, they claim.

“In addition to being illegal, the entire process that Georgia EPD has followed insults the citizens of Georgia. Over 1,000 comments were made during the process, and only three 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 88 pounds of mercury, 3,216 tons of soot, 5,647 tons of sulfurous compounds, and 2,689 tons of nitrogen oxides to be expelled from the proposed plant each year.

According to Georgia EPD documents, 23 million gallons of water per day would be needed for the plant’s operations. Less than 25 percent of this water would be returned to the river, with more than three-quarters of withdrawn water evaporated to the sky, completely interrupted on its flow south to Lake Seminole and on to Apalachicola Bay.

“I have investments all across Southwest Georgia,” said Ted Lee, member of Flint Riverkeeper, resident of Lake Seminole 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, not to mention a giant pile of coal ash sitting on the banks of the river, poised to spread downstream when their so-called protection systems fail. 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.”