ATLANTA -- State environmental officials have decided not to go forward with a plan to reduce air pollution primarily from power plants after a court order delaying a federal mandate on Georgia and 21 other states.
A federal appeals court issued a stay last week putting off a September deadline for the affected states to submit plans to cut emissions of nitrogen oxide, a key ingredient in smog, by 2003.
The stay will last until the U.S Court of Appeals in Washington holds a hearing on a lawsuit challenging the new standards and issues a ruling in the case.
"We're just going to wait until the whole thing gets straightened out," said Vince Dollard, communications director for the Georgia Environmental Protection Division, which had been expected to release its plan next week.
The EPD would have set forth a proposal for allocating 30,000 tons of nitrogen-oxide, the amount the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency had proposed allowing Georgia smokestack industries to emit each year.
Georgia Power Co. and independent power producers looking to enter the market were expected to compete for those allowances.
Environmentalists and the independent producers were miffed by EPD's decision to put off releasing the plan.
Both groups are asking the EPD to set aside some of those allowances for new power companies planning to build natural-gas-fired electric plants, which run cleaner than the old coal-fired facilities.
"Despite the ruling, Georgia and Atlanta still have significant air pollution problems that need to be addressed," said Bill Florence, Atlanta-based spokesman for Tenaska Inc., a Nebraska firm vying to build a natural-gas-fired plant in Georgia.
"We are not going to clean up our air in Georgia without doing something about coal-fired power plants," said Robert Pregulman, southern field director for the U.S. Public Interest Research Group.
The independent producers have been pushing the EPD to allocate up to 15 percent of the nitrogen-oxide allowances to their projects. Officials with Georgia Power and Savannah Electric & Power have maintained that giving allowances to the independents would force existing companies to pay for costly emissions reductions that would be passed onto their customers.
While the EPD is putting off its statewide plan for nitrogen-oxide emissions reductions, the agency is moving forward with a proposal to bring the Atlanta region into compliance with federal standards for ozone. EPD Director Harold Reheis will present that plan at a news conference today.