Public interest groups today filed legal challenges to three state water and air permits for the proposed 850 mega-watt Plant Washington coal power plant in Sandersville, GA. According to documents filed in the Office of State Administrative Hearings, Georgia Environmental Protection Division permits for the proposed Plant Washington would illegally degrade water resources for users and downstream communities along the Oconee River, and allow high levels of harmful pollutants into the air residents breathe.
The state air permit fails to set safe limits on harmful air pollutants that would be emitted by Plant Washington, including sulfuric acid mist and particulate matter. Particulate matter is linked to respiratory illnesses, heart disease and even premature death.
The state water withdrawal permit fails to set necessary limits on the amount of water the plant can take from the Oconee River for use at a proposed plant located in the Ogeechee River watershed. Without adequate limits, communities such as Dublin, GA, area farms and other downstream users along the Oconee River would be left without sufficient water resources.
The state water discharge permit fails to limit the temperature of heated wastewater discharged by the proposed plant into the Oconee River, changing the river’s ecology, depleting available oxygen in its waters, and harming fish and other wildlife that depend on the river system.
Plant Washington is a project of Power4Georgians, a company organized by Cobb Electrical Membership Corporation (EMC) and four other EMCs.
In the challenges to the air permit, GreenLaw and the Southern Environmental Law Center are representing the Fall-line Alliance for a Clean Environment, Ogeechee Riverkeeper, Sierra Club’s Georgia Chapter, and the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. In the challenges to the water permits, GreenLaw and the Southern Environmental Law Center are representing the Altamaha Riverkeeper, the Fall-line Alliance for a Clean Environment, and Sierra Club’s Georgia Chapter.
“These permits as issued will not adequately protect the air we breathe or the water we drink,” said Justine Thompson, executive director of GreenLaw. “The law requires, and Georgians deserve, air permits that are based on the most modern pollution controls. These permits contain flaws for pollutants that are known to be hazardous.”
“Just how valuable our water resources are has been made clear to Georgians in past droughts and through the ongoing water wars,” said Brian Gist, senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center. “Yet in these permits for an unneeded coal plant the state has failed to adequately protect public waters crucial to local and downstream users and wildlife.”
“The Oconee River is already stressed with pollutants and chronic low flow conditions during times of even moderate drought,” according to Deborah Sheppard, executive director of the Altamaha Riverkeeper. “The potential impacts on the river from the proposed water withdrawal and hot-water discharge can only increase these problems.”
“Instead of a coal-fired power plant in Washington County, our EMCs could choose greater energy efficiency, such as customer incentives for home insulation which would create local jobs across the 43 counties in the participating EMCs,” said Schuyler Reynolds, director of the Fall-line Alliance for a Clean Environment.
“Hazardous air pollutants from the plant will compromise the Ogeechee River basin,” said Chandra Brown, executive director, Ogeechee Riverkeeper. “Our recent report, Protect Yourself and Your Family from Mercury Pollution, shows that additional mercury deposition from Plant Washington would prevent people who fish from safely eating the fish they catch.”
“Plant Washington is a dirty coal plant that is a financial risk for the community and for customers who will pay high rates due to the ever-increasing cost of coal and impending governmental regulations,” said Erin Glynn, Sierra Club regional conservation organizer.