State close to proposing Plant Washington permits

3 02 2009

 

S. Heather Duncan | Macon.com

A year after Power4Georgians applied for permits to build and operate a new coal-fired power plant in Washington County, the state Environmental Protection Division is still deliberating.

Originally, EPD officials had said they might have permits ready for public comment by the end of 2008, but it has taken a bit longer. The agency plans to hold a public meeting in Sandersville, probably in March or April, said Thomas Smith, public affairs coordinator for the EPD’s air protection branch.

At the meeting, the EPD would share information with the public about the permit requirements that are being considered before issuing a draft. Once draft permits are created, a public hearing and public comment period would be held before a final decision about permitting the plant.

Power4Georgians, the company behind the project, is a consortium of 10 electric cooperatives that would divvy up the 850 megawatts of power to be produced daily at Plant Washington. The company says it will bring 130 jobs to a county that has lost much of its employment base in recent years as the kaolin industry eroded.

Dean Alford, whose company, Allied Energy Services, is developing Plant Washington, said Power4Georgians has tweaked the design to accommodate EPD comments but has made no major changes.

“EPD is being very thorough, and they’re asking all the right questions,” he said. “We hope the public meeting will be in the near future.”

POWER4Georgians needs at least six environmental permits for the plant: an air pollution permit, groundwater and surface water withdrawal permits, a water discharge permit for used water that goes back into the Oconee River, a permit for the storm water running off from the plant, and a permit for storing the solid waste such as gypsum and fly ash generated by the plant.

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Washington County suddenly awash in power plant proposals

29 09 2008

Washington County could be poised to become Power Plant Central.

It already is home to two natural gas “peaker plants” that run during periods of high demand, and now two different companies are eyeing three sites for additional plants that would operate year-round.

In January, Power4GeorÂgians applied for permits to build an 850-megawatt coal-fired power plant northeast of Sandersville. This month, Oglethorpe Power announced that two Washington County sites east of Sandersville are in the running to host a 100-megawatt power plant, which would use wood chips for fuel.

If built, the plants would join those constructed in Washington County during the past five years by Progress Energy and Duke Energy Sandersville. They are also close to Georgia Power’s 1,500-megawatt Plant Branch in Putnam County.

Electricity might be “the new kaolin” for Washington County, said Tommy Walker, chairman of the Washington County Commission. The white clay, used in finishing glossy paper and making other products, was once the backbone of the local economy, but hundreds of kaolin jobs have disappeared in the past decade. Most recently, Imerys eliminated 50 jobs, Walker said.

“I’m pro-business, and I don’t think the (Environmental Protection Agency) or the state would allow us to have anything that would hurt us,” Walker said. “We want healthy industries. But certainly we need jobs.”

Oglethorpe Power estimates that the biomass plants would employ about 40 people each, which would mostly replace the recent jobs lost from Imerys, Walker noted.

While Plant Washington would be fueled by coal, which has faced broad opposition in recent years for its pollution, the Oglethorpe Power project is meant to broaden the company’s “green power” base.

Both Oglethorpe and Power4Georgians are companies made up of a conglomerate of energy cooperatives from around the state.

Oglethorpe is choosing among five sites to build two or three plants, which would be fueled by woody debris called biomass. Waste wood from logging, particle board plants and the construction industry will be burned to create steam for power. The plants will be designed to allow for mixing in other types of biomass, such as pecan hulls and peanut shells.

Read on here.





Atlanta Region to Spend Federal Funds on Diesels

28 08 2008

The Atlanta region is poised to spend $36 million of its federal transportation funds on diesel locomotives owned by private rail companies so they will pollute less.

The Atlanta Regional Commission on Wednesday approved the money. Final approval now rests with the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority, which is expected to vote on the matter Sep. 10.

State regulators said they had little choice but to request spending the money on the companies, because of the setup of federal laws and regulations. The law may punish the Atlanta region for poor air quality that some of the old locomotives help cause, but it exempts rail companies from state regulation.

So the state can’t force the companies to buy cleaner engines, and has to offer the incentive of money.

Sonny Deriso, chairman of the GRTA board, said at the board’s meeting last month that before state regulators explained the situation, “we couldn’t believe that we were going to be asked to do this.”

Deriso said Wednesday he didn’t know how the board would vote, but that regulators had made “a compelling case” for spending the money. “I think this is one of those very difficult issues,” he said.

Read on here.





Hogansville: Water Deal Not Tied to Landfill

22 08 2008

 

LaGrange Daily News – By Jennifer Shrader Staff writer

Hogansville City Council fired back Monday at U.S. Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, who last week called a water deal between the city and Meriwether County on the heels of a landfill proposal “suspicious.”

“This is not Westmoreland’s business,” said Hogansville Mayor Jimmy Jackson. “I don’t know what it’s going to take for people to stop making these statements. We did the best we could.”

Westmoreland, a Grantville Republican, lives about three miles from the proposed Turkey Run landfill in the northwest corner of Meriwether County. The site, proposed by Alabama-based Greenbow LLC, is just across Interstate 85 from Hogansville. State Sens. Mitch Seabaugh and Seth Harp say they will ask the congressman to intervene with the Environmental Protection Agency to stop the landfill’s progress.

The landfill has drawn sharp opposition from many in the area, mainly because it’s proposed site is on the Blue Creek watershed. Westmoreland said the creek is considered the headwaters for West Point Lake and flows into Yellow Jacket Creek, which is a direct tributary to the lake.

Read more here.

Longleaf appeal, CO2, Georgia, climate change.





Meriwether Landfill Appeal Follows on the Heels of Longleaf CO2 Appeal

21 08 2008

 

With the ink barely dry on the Court of Appeals acceptance, another appeal seeks to define the role of ALJs in environmental appeals. 

 

GreenLaw, Friends of the Chattahoochee, Inc. and Sierra Club sought to overturn an ALJ’s decision upholding an EPD permit for the Longleaf facility.  On appeal to Superior Court, Fulton County Superior Judge Thelma Wyatt Cummings Moore sided with environmental groups opposing the project by ruling in June that the permits are invalid because they don’t regulate CO2, which has been linked to global warming.  You can obtain a copy of Judge Moore’s decision here.  One of the issues on appeal is whether the state Environmental Protection Division should place legal limits on emissions of carbon dioxide by the planned $2 billion Longleaf Energy Station in rural southwest Georgia.  Yet, another issue was the proper standard of review to be used by an ALJ on appeal.

Right on the heels of that appeal is Zarate, et. al. v. EPD v. Greenbow, LLC, Civil Action No. 2008-CV-152006 in the Superior Court of Fulton County, preparing to be heard by a different Fulton County Superior Court Judge, Judge Ural D. Glanville.  This is an appeal from an Administrative Law Judge’s decision upholding a landfill permit in Northwest Meriwether County, Georgia, proposed by Greenbow, LLC, of Montgomery, Alabama.   Central to this appeal is the same standard of review issue.  The Superior Court oral argument is scheduled for August 25, 2008, at 8:30am in Courtroom 5F.

Standard of Review:

Though the Longleaf appeal has the bigger issue of regulation of carbon dioxide emissions, at issue in both matters is the standard of review for Administrative Law Judges.  Under Georgia law, when an ALJ reviews a challenge to a permit issued by EPD the ALJ conducts an evidentiary hearing, not an appellate review of the record.  As in other such evidentiary proceedings, the law requires application of a de novo standard of review.  OSAH Rule 21 (3) (“The hearing shall be de novo in nature[.]”)(emphasis added).  As recently ruled by Judge Cummings Moore of Fulton County Superior Court when faced with the same standard of review dispute on the part of an ALJ, there is no requirement that petitioners affirmatively prove that EPD’s decision, or its view of the facts, was “unreasonable.”

Accordingly, in evaluating petitioners’ claims and the evidence offered regarding those claims, O.C.G.A. § 12-2-2(c)(2)(A) and OSAH Rule 21 the Meriwether citizens argue that the ALJ was prohibited from deferring to EPD’s judgment on issuance of the landfill permit. 

Background:

On December 21, 2007, The Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) in Atlanta issued a permit to Greenbow LLC of Montgomery, Alabama for the operation of the Turkey Run Municipal Solid Waste Landfill in Northwest Meriwether County.   The Landfill will be located in a municipal water supply watershed, on 1500 acres along  highway  54 near the town of Lone Oak, Georgia.

The issue became controversial approximately three years ago, when The Meriwether County Board of Commissioners approved Greenbow’s application for the landfill.  Many citizens expressed concern that the Meriwether County Commission acted in haste, and without due diligence, in approving the application, without considering the full impact of their action on the citizens who live closest to area where the proposed landfill will be operated.  

Growing concern over the landfill prompted the reinstatement of Meriwether County’s NAACP, as well as the formation of other groups who have now united in their effort to protest the landfill.   In addition, other organizations, such as Anniston based Community Against Pollution (CAP), have become involved and pledged to assist local citizens in challenging the landfill.

On May 19, 2008 at an Administrative hearing, an ALJ ruled in EPD’s favor, however Eco-Action pledged to take their fight to the next level, which will mean filing an appeal in Superior Court.  Briefs have been filed by both sides and the hearing is set for August 25, 2008, at 8:30am in Courtroom 5F, before Judge Ural D. Glanville. 

 





Longleaf CO2 Appeal Accepted by Georgia Court of Appeals

21 08 2008

On Wednesday, the Georgia Court of Appeals agreed to review a lower-court ruling that has halted plans for Longleaf coal-fired power plant, the state’s first in more than 20 years.  At issue is whether the state Environmental Protection Division should place legal limits on emissions of carbon dioxide by the planned $2 billion Longleaf Energy Station in rural southwest Georgia.  The plant is a project of Houston-based Dynegy Inc.

The project’s opponents, including an environmental group based at the proposed site of the plant in Early County, say the health impacts of coal-burning technology outweigh the plant’s potential economic benefits.  Appealing from the Administrative Law Judge’s ruling up-holding the permit, environmental groups GreenLaw, Friends of the Chattahoochee, Inc. and Sierra Club sought to overturn the ALJ’s decision.  At the Superior Court level, Fulton County Superior Judge Thelma Wyatt Cummings Moore sided with environmental groups opposing the project by ruling in June that the permits are invalid because they don’t regulate CO2, which has been linked to global warming.  You can obtain a copy of Judge Moore’s decision here.

The EPD and Dynegy sought to appeal the decision.  Late last month, the Georgia Chamber of Commerce also submitted a brief supporting the applicants.  See Longleaf Energy Associates v. Friends of the Chattahoochee, No. A08D0472 and Couch v. Friends of the Chattahoochee, No. A08D0473.  Both applicants seek the complete reversal of Judge Moore and argue that Massachusetts v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency only held that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) could, not does regulate CO2 under the CAA.  The contention is that Judge Moore jumped the gun and should have waited on the EPA to make the decision as to whether and how to regulate CO2.  Longleaf’s Application can be found here, EPD’s Application here, and the Amici Application of the Chamber, here

As the appeal has been accepted, the case awaits docketing.  Upon docketing, the appellants will have 20 days to file their briefs, the environmental groups will have 20 days thereafter to respond.  Finally, the appellants will have 20 days to file any reply brief thereafter.  We will post upon docketing.





Climate Change Summit Rescheduled

20 08 2008

The Florida summit, originally scheduled for this week but postponed because of the approaching tropical storm, will highlight the challenges facing wildlife managers, governments, industry leaders and the public in the next 50 years amid the realities of climate change.

This summit is the first of its kind in the country where experts will address difficult questions about the increasing pace of climate change.

Read more here.