Plant Washington air permit doesn’t meet public health standards
The state air quality permit for Plant Washington, a proposed 850 mega-watt coal-fired power plant in Sandersville, GA, does not meet national public health standards that even 50 year old coal-fired power plants already meet, according to a court challenge filed today by public interest groups.
The Southern Environmental Law Center and GreenLaw challenged the Georgia Environmental Protection Division’s air quality permit in the Georgia Office of State Administrative Hearings on behalf of the Fall-line Alliance for a Clean Environment, Ogeechee Riverkeeper, Sierra Club’s Georgia Chapter, and Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.
As expected for over the past year, the Environmental Protection Agency recently set national standards to limit hazardous air pollutants from coal-fired power plants. The state permit does not meet the national standards for limits on harmful emissions from the plant, including dozens of hazardous air pollutants that can cause cancer, birth defects, heart disease, developmental disorders, and other serious injuries.
Under its permit, the state would allow Plant Washington to emit 36 times more mercury and 11-45 times more hydrogen chloride than the draft EPA standard would allow. Georgia Power’s Plant Hammond has achieved lower emission levels of these pollutants. Three of Plant Hammond’s four units were built in the 1950s; the fourth was built in 1970.
Around the country, 117 units emit less mercury and 99-168 units emit less hydrogen chloride than what the state permit allows.
In December 2010, a state court found the initial state air quality permit for the Plant Washington violated Clean Air Act safeguards to limit harmful air pollution and directed the Georgia Environmental Protection Division to reconsider its permit.
Plant Washington is a project of Power4Georgians, a company organized by Cobb Electric Membership Corporation (EMC) and four other EMCs.
Quotes from the attorney and client groups represented in the legal challenge follow:
“It’s déjà vu all over again,” said Justine Thompson, Executive Director of GreenLaw. “The state has again issued a permit that fails to afford its citizens the maximum degree of protection against toxic air pollution.”
“The state isn’t even requiring Plant Washington to meet national public health standards that a 50 year old plant already meets,” said Brian Gist, an attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center. “If the state won’t protect its residents—including the most vulnerable infants, pregnant women and the elderly—from hazardous air pollution and require this plant to meet national standards, we’ll ask the courts to enforce the law.”
“The EPD is supposed to protect the health of the citizens of Georgia and our natural resources. This air permit for Plant Washington does neither of those things,” said Katherine Helms Cummings, director of the Fall-line Alliance for a Clean Environment.
“Plant Longleaf was cancelled just as the EPA announced new tougher standards for mercury emissions,” said Dianna Wedincamp, the Ogeechee Riverkeeper. “Common sense indicates that the state should not issue a permit for Plant Washington that adds 36 times more mercury to the environment than the new EPA standards allow when mercury levels have been a problem in our rivers for decades.”
“Since Power4Georgians has no experience developing coal-plants, it’s not surprising that this glaring oversight happened,” said Colleen Kiernan Director of the Georgia Chapter of the Sierra Club. “Failing to meet major federal health protections isn’t their first major mistake, and won’t be their last. Georgians cannot trust Power4Georgians with billions of ratepayer dollars.”
“Power4Georgian’s lack of compliance in the air permit with the new mercury standard is a notable omission,” stated Ulla Reeves regional program director for Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. “Claims by Dean Alford that Plant Washington would be among the nation’s cleanest coal plants are flat out mistruths and the excess mercury currently permitted is clear indication of this falsehood.”
GreenLaw is dedicated to preventing air and water pollution that endangers human health and degrades Georgia’s natural resources. GreenLaw achieves these goals by providing free high quality legal and technical assistance to environmental organizations and community groups throughout Georgia. www.greenlaw.org
About Fall-line Alliance for a Clean Environment
The Fall-line Alliance for a Clean Environment (FACE) is a grassroots organization in the Middle Georgia area working to protect the air and water resources across the Fall Line.
About Ogeechee Riverkeeper
Ogeechee Riverkeeper (ORK) works with their members and supporters to protect the Ogeechee, Canoochee and coastal Georgia Rivers. www.ogeecheeriverkeeper.org
About Sierra Club
Sierra Club, the oldest and largest grassroots environmental organization in the United States, has over 20,000 members and supporters in the state of Georgia. www.sierraclub.org/coal
About the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy
Southern Alliance for Clean Energy is a not-for-profit, non-partisan organization working to promote responsible energy choices that solve global warming problems and ensure clean, safe, healthy communities throughout the Southeast. www.cleanenergy.org