Judge OKs coal plant

ATLANTA --- A state administrative law judge has ruled against environmental groups trying to stop the state's first coal-fired power plant in two decades, dismissing concerns that it would harm people in Athens, Augusta, Savannah and other parts of the state.


Judge Stephanie Howells issued a 106-page ruling Friday in which she concluded that the Georgia Environmental Protection Division had properly issued a permit to Dynegy Inc. and LS Power to jointly construct a 1,200-megawatt power plant in Early County, south of Columbus.

"So long as the director's decision was consistent with law and within the reasonable bounds of her desecration, the permit should be upheld," Judge Howells wrote. Dynegy spokesman David Byford said the company was pleased with the ruling and would continue lining up customers for the plant's electrical output and doing the engineering needed to start construction.

"We see that the judge's ruling validates our state air permit. We believe this is a positive step in bringing reliable, economic, and environmentally compliant energy to Georgia," he said.

But the lawyers who filed the case said they would appeal and urge the courts to halt construction until the matter is resolved.

Justine Thompson, the director of GreenLaw, said the reason to appeal is because she feels confident of winning for her clients, the Sierra Club and Friends of the Chattahoochee, not simply to delay the plant and drive up the cost of its construction.

"This coal plant is going to have impact on everybody ... all over Georgia," she said.

Most people in Early County welcome the plant and the jobs it will bring, according to Bobby McLendon, the president of the Friends of the Chattahoochee.

"I don't like to talk about my neighbors, but they just don't fully understand the pollutants of this thing," he said.