Conservation Groups Urge EPA to Hold GA’s Proposed Plant Washington to New Pollution Standards
Atlanta, GA—Conservation groups are applauding a proposal by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to limit harmful emissions of greenhouse gas pollution from new coal-fired power plants. At the same time, the groups are urging EPA to apply the new standard to Plant Washington, a proposed 850 MW coal plant, in the event that stalled project proceeds.
The Southern Environmental Law Center is submitting comments on behalf of the Fall-Line Alliance for a Clean Environment, Ogeechee Riverkeeper, Sierra Club, and Southern Alliance for Clean Energy regarding the proposed Plant Washington in Sandersville, GA, which would produce the equivalent carbon pollution of about one million cars annually. The groups charge that Plant Washington has not yet started construction and therefore does not qualify as an existing source, which would make it exempt from the proposed New Source Performance Standard (NSPS) to limit carbon dioxide emissions published by EPA in January 2014.
“Across the country, plans for new coal-fired power plants have been shelved in favor of cleaner, more affordable energy alternatives,” said Kurt Ebersbach, senior attorney for SELC. “With projected costs now at $3 billion, Plant Washington remains an unnecessary, stalled project.”
Power4Georgians, the project developer, claims Plant Washington should be exempt from the proposed standard because it has already commenced construction. However, the facts show otherwise. The project has not broken ground, and the developer is currently seeking to extend by eighteen months its deadline for commencing construction under a state-issued preconstruction permit. Meanwhile, there is no indication that the developer has secured the financing to build the plant, or that it has customers for the expensive power the plant would produce.
“Power4Georgians’ claim that it has commenced construction is inconsistent with the need for a lengthy extension,” said John Suttles, senior attorney and leader of SELC's Clean Energy Litigation Team. “Without a single brick laid or any sign of construction starting in the near future, there is no reason to treat Plant Washington differently from other new sources.”
Over 170 proposed U.S. coal-fired power plants have been canceled since 2010 amid changing economics and increasing recognition of the social costs of carbon emissions. Plant Washington is one of just three proposed coal plants purportedly still under development that do not intend to employ available technology to control carbon emissions. When EPA published its initial proposed carbon pollution limits for coal plants in April 2012, Plant Washington was one of 15 “transitional sources” that EPA anticipated would be exempted from the standard. Since then, 12 of those projects have either been canceled or redesigned to meet the standard.
“More than two years later, Plant Washington is no closer to becoming a reality and should not be granted special treatment, especially since it will produce harmful levels of carbon dioxide pollution for decades to come,” said Myra Blake, staff attorney for SELC. “We urge EPA to finalize the rule to determine that all new sources, including Plant Washington, are subject to the standard.”
Southern Environmental Law Center:
The Southern Environmental Law Center is a regional nonprofit using the power of the law to protect the health and environment of the Southeast (Virginia, Tennessee, North and South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama). Founded in 1986, SELC's team of nearly 60 legal and policy experts represent more than 100 partner groups on issues of climate change and energy, air and water quality, forests, the coast and wetlands, transportation, and land use. www.SouthernEnvironment.org