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Company gives up on Early coal plant

BLAKELY, Ga. — King coal put up a hard, decadelong fight in Southwest Georgia, but it has apparently finally given up.

According to Bobby McLendon, president of Friends of the Chattahoochee, the struggle to prevent LS Power Group LLC from building and operating the Longleaf Energy Station near Blakely was the country’s longest-running campaign against a new coal plant construction.

The legal battle over the plant construction made national and international news when Fulton County Superior Court Judge Thelma Wyatt Cummings Moore issued a ruling that the plant’s air quality permit was illegal because it failed to provide any limits on emissions of CO2. While Moore’s decision was later overturned, the EPA adopted much of the legal reasoning of the decision in promulgating rules to limit CO2 emissions from larger industrial facilities.

The ultimate victory came as a part of a legal agreement between LS Power and the Sierra Club, which also requires LS to abandon its proposed Plum Point 2 coal plant in Arkansas and imposes strict new limits on air pollution from the new Sandy Creek coal plant in Texas. LS will withdraw all requests for permits in Georgia and Arkansas, and any issued permits will be rescinded or revoked.

“When we found out the truth about what this plant would do to our lives, we had no choice but to oppose it,” McClendon said. “Helping to stop this plant is probably the most important thing I have ever done for my family, my community and the Earth.”

According to McClendon, there was scientific research supporting a variety of health risks to be expected from coal plant emissions, including nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide, mercury and particulate matter. McClendon said the plant, if allowed to be built, would have emitted up to 158 pounds of mercury, a powerful neurotoxin, into the atmosphere each year. Mercury is known to travel up the food chain and dissipates slowly, if at all.

McClendon said also that much of the particulate matter generated from the estimated 150 flatcar loads of coal burned each day would have been small enough to penetrate “our natural defense systems” and cause heart or respiratory problems.

Joining forces with McLendon’s group was the Sierra Club, a nationwide environmental organization. The victory marks the 160th proposed coal plant canceled since Sierra Club launched its Beyond Coal campaign in 2005, and is particularly noteworthy because of the struggle’s length, the numerous hearings and appeals involved in the fight, and the sustained local opposition by hundreds of Georgia residents in Early County and elsewhere.

Playing a smaller, yet significant roll in the fight against Longleaf was Flint Riverkeeper, a nonprofit, mostly volunteer organization dedicated to protecting the waters of the Flint River and the larger Chattahoochee, Flint, Apalachicola river basin. Gordon Rogers, the executive director of the organization, said the plant, if completed, would have pulled at least 20 million gallons of water each day from the Chattahoochee arm of the combined watershed, competed with prescribed burns on game plantations and agricultural lands, and raised mercury levels in Flint River fish. Rogers cited Riverkeeper’s contribution to the legal victory as independent “small but meaningful side actions” filed over the course of the conflict.

“This is a victory for all Georgians, who are now safe from a major new source of toxic air pollution,” said Colleen Kiernan, director of the Georgia chapter of the Sierra Club. “This victory represents our best work: combining the power of the courts, the power of the people and the power of the press.”

“Coal is in the past,” said Justine Thompson, executive director of GreenLaw, the nonprofit Atlanta legal organization that represented the Sierra Club in its fight against LS Power Group. “(Coal plants) are no longer economically or environmentally viable.”

Comments

southwestga 2 years, 4 months ago

Thank God! This plant would have brought little benefit to Early County. Most all the construction and operational jobs would have gone to outsiders. The pollution would have harmed both Early Countians and those in a large swath of south Georgia and Alabama. It would have killed other economic development locally - would you want to build a river home down from the coal plant? It's unfortunate that the officials were ever taken in by this rip-off. Thanks to all those who fought it.

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Cartman 2 years, 4 months ago

Yeah. We don't need electricity.

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Amazed2 2 years, 4 months ago

Cartman, We can get our electricity from a NUCLEAR Plant here in Georgia so don't worry. The Southern Company is currently building a NEW Addition to Plant Vogle. I think the developers of the new proposed Coal Fired Power Plant got a better offer from some folks in JAPAN. I think JAPAN is looking for new technology, I heard the NUCLEAR thing did not work out for them. Well at least Early County has a developer that is going into the house building business along the River using hand tools only. No power needed.

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Engineer 2 years, 4 months ago

This is a sad thing to hear for the southwest GA and Southeast Alabama. Early County just lost potential a major employer for it's citizens and the country gets more energy insecurity. Well, how about nuclear power?

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hometowngirl 2 years, 4 months ago

I think it's pretty sad that Early County seems to fight every effort to bring growth to the area.

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Cartman 2 years, 4 months ago

"This is a victory for all Georgians." Give me a break. It is obvious the Sierra Club doesn't speak for me. These tree commies need to stay in California and mind their own business. We don't want to be like them. They just don't get it. We've been getting coal generated electricity from Plant Mitchell for quite a while. I don't recall McLendon or any of the other "anti-low energy price" do-gooders ever protesting there. It's all about being smug; controlling others; and knowing what's better for us; than we know. It's bad enough to impose their will to our detriment; but to try and justify it as a "victory for all Georgians" adds insult to injury.

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Amazed2 2 years, 4 months ago

Well, "southwestga" at least now you won't have to worry about the power plant and all those local people burning fossil fuel driving to work in day. At least now you can corner the market and build houses all along the river all the way to Florida. Hopefully, your grandfather left you his old carpenter tools like a tree AXE, hand saw and a block plane, etc. Those don't need any ELECTRICITY to operate. But at least you can build truly green houses but be sure to check with the Sierra Club to see if they will permit you to use a tree in your new house business.

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Amazed2 2 years, 4 months ago

Seriously everyone if we want to get away from being dependent on Nuclear Power now and in the future then what technology would you suggest that we use?? Maybe we could cut back on electric usage by turning off the power to all the air conditioners in June, July and August. Tell you what lets do this in the upcoming summer of 2012 and lets vote on a power plant in September and see how the vote turns out.

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southwestga 2 years, 4 months ago

A few facts. Coal plants require a huge amount of water. Building one in south Georgia is like letting Atlanta hold onto the Chattahoochee's water. You're against that, right? Plant Mitchell is a great comparison. Georgia Power is converting it away from coal to biomass, which is much cleaner. Coal is up to 50% rock other than carbon. So half of what is brought in for the plant would end up in the water, or the air, or in huge piles near the river. This was not a modern 'clean coal " plant, but a pretty dirty one. New federal regulations probably did the most to stop the project. The developers admitted at the hearings that their construction crews come from out of state. The operating crew would be primarily highly skilled technicians, people who are probably not from Early. Then, of course, the power was never meant for local use. Longleaf had not found a buyer for the energy, another factor in its failure.

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PumpkinEater 2 years, 4 months ago

Particularly because this plant was to use an inefficient, but 20% cheaper to install, coal gassification process (trying to burn and contain the coal dust before it is spewed), the discharge of toxic particulate matter into the environment was unnecessarily high. Florida bans this plant's process altogether, although it does permit coal plants with a more efficient method...and they get built in Florida. The design should never have gotten past the Georgia regulators. Albany would be right in the usual path of this bad air. Much of the environmental objections might have been avoided right from the start with an acceptable design and some better scrutiny by the Georgia EPA and the (substitute) administrative judge who gave the initial approval.

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troxellm 2 years, 2 months ago

Plant Mitchell does not run on a regular basis. It only runs peak hours during summer months. What ever harm could come from Plant MItchell is already done. The Biomass project for this plant has been approved for about 5 years now, since the plant rarely runs they are not going to make any changes until they are forced to do so. I don't feel like Plant Mitchell is a comparison tool for any Coal fire plant due to it's inactivty. Anyone who is an outdoorsmen should be happy about the Early County plant not being build. If you dont agree with this do some reasearch about eating fish out of the Lower Flint. Call DNR based in Albany Talk to Travis, he is a wildlife biologist and avid fisherman. Because of the two coal fire plants on the Lower Flint (Crisp Co and Mitchell), the fish have a very high concetration on mercury. Eating too many fish from this area will cause heath problems. It's ok if you dont belive me, I didn't do the studies the GA DNR did. BTW I was in line to make a good name for myself had the Plant been built, I sell Industrial pipe and valves, I'm glad it did not go through!

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