Judge weighs Sandersville power plant permit

ATLANTA   - Attorneys for a coalition of environmentalists urged a state judge today to reject an air permit allowing the construction of a coal-fired power plant near Sandersville, while the plant's developer said the permit was valid.


Administrative Law Judge Ronit Walker said after closing arguments in the legal challenge over Plant Washington that she plans to issue a ruling by Dec. 20. The plant is backed by a consortium called Power4Georgians LLC, which includes six power supply cooperatives and a developer, Allied Energy Services.

The four environmental groups urged Walker to reverse an air permit issued by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division. The groups have argued that the permit does not force Plant Washington to use the best controls to protect against the creation of sulfuric acid mist and should further curb other hazardous air pollutants.

They also accused regulators of failing to adequately account for fine debris from sources other than the plant's smokestack. They said the state also relied on bad climate data when creating air pollution models.

"It's a huge pollution source," said John Suttles, an attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center, after the hearing.

Senior Assistant Attorney General Diane DeShazo told the judge that Georgia's environmental regulators acted within the bounds of the law when they approved the permits for Plant Washington. She discouraged the court from intervening in the permit and added that if the permit was flawed, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency could have taken corrective steps. It did not.

Power4Georgians attorney Les Oakes said the power plant's developers used generous estimates when considering how much pollution the plant could create. For example, Oakes said that modelers analyzing dust anticipated having far more dust-generating coal sitting on the property, higher winds and more coal offloading than would be normal or even possible.