State close to proposing Plant Washington permits

3 02 2009


S. Heather Duncan |

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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Hearing draws a crowd

2 02 2009

Ross Blair | Bryan County News

Hundreds of Bryan and Liberty residents filled the Midway Civic Center on Jan. 27 for the Georgia Environmental Protection Division’s public meeting and hearing about a proposed wastewater treatment plant near the Laurel View River, which runs through both counties.

A large number of phone calls and 236 letters written to the EPD expressing concern about the project prompted the hearing, which started with an informational meeting.

Officials manned the tables and interacted with residents, answering questions and explaining their viewpoint.

The EPD viewpoint seemed to be the same as the Liberty County Development Authority – that the plant will not harm the ecosystem along the Bryan and Liberty coastline.

“It is environmentally sound,” said Bob Scott with the EPD. “We would not have issued a draft permit if we hadn’t reviewed the design and felt confident that the plant can meet the limits that are protective of the environment.”

Scott said he has heard the many arguments against the creation of the facility, but he does not agree with them.

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Georgia Power: Nuclear critics’ data is flawed

28 01 2009


MARGARET NEWKIRK | The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Georgia Power fired back at critics this week, saying dire warnings about the cost of its proposal to collect fees upfront for nuclear power expansion were mistaken.

In testimony filed with the state Public Service Commission late Monday, the utility said critics including the PSC’s public advocacy staff had mixed accounting apples and oranges to come up with their estimates. Those critics will have an opportunity to cross-examine the company in two weeks.

The company also blasted a cost-control mechanism proposed by the state PSC staff.

Under that plan, the PSC could roll back Georgia Power’s allowed return on its $6.4 billion nuclear investment if the construction project ran too far over budget.

Georgia Power said no dice.

“We must start by emphatically stating that we cannot and will not agree to the staff’s proposed ‘incentive’ plan,” the company said in the testimony.

“We will not accept a certificate that includes those regulatory conditions,” it said.

The company said its business depends on offering low rates, which is cost-control incentive enough.

Georgia Power’s rebuttal came on the eve of a state Senate committee hearing about a bill that would give the company the early funding it wants, bypassing the PSC.

The Senate Regulated Industry and Utility Committee will hear testimony on Senate Bill 31 Wednesday afternoon.

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Meeting set for proposed sewage treatment plant

27 01 2009


Tim Guidera | WTOC 11

Questions, concerns and information will be on the agenda in a town meeting at Port Wentworth City Hall tonight as a proposed sewage treatment plant in the city is discussed.

Residents are invited to meet with representatives of Georgia Environmental Protection Division and discuss the project slated for a 22-acre site on O’Leary Road off Highway 21.

“EPD’s coming in from Atlanta,” said Port Wentworth mayor Glenn Jones. “And they’re going to open their doors, our city hall doors, to anybody who wants to speak to basically listen to what we’re going to be doing for our wastewater treatment facility.”

The courtroom at Port Wentworth City Hall will be set up with seven tables where people can get information and ask questions about the project for an hour, beginning at 7pm. Then, at 8pm, there will be a public hearing where people can put their comments on the record.

“People will be able to write your comments in letter form and they will take them home, back to Atlanta and respond to them,” said Jones.

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UGA loses bid for bio lab

4 12 2008

The University of Georgia has apparently lost its bid for a $450 million laboratory to research biological threats posed by animals, including anthrax.

The National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility will be constructed at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas, a staffer in a congressman’s office confirmed on Wednesday.  UGA says that if it had won the research center, it would have employed as many as 1,500 construction workers, provided permanent jobs to at least 250 people and had an economic impact of $1.5 billion over 20 years. Supporters of the Georgia bid said the facility would have also significantly raised the state’s profile as home for scientific research.

Amy Kudwa, a Homeland Security department spokeswoman, said the agency would not comment on the matter until the department officially announces its selection. It’s not clear when the announcement will come, but Homeland Security’s website notes a decision is expected in early December.

The new complex will replace an existing research facility on Plum Island, a few miles off Long Island, N.Y. That location has enabled the federal government, for more than a half-century, to prevent its research on foot-and-mouth disease from accidentally infecting American livestock.

Some critics fear that moving the facility to the U.S. mainland would raise the risk of an outbreak of potentially fatal diseases among animals and humans. Federal officials insist that a new facility will be safe.

The Kansas site was identified as Homeland Security’s top choice in an environmental impact statement dated December 2008. Lanier Avant, an aide to U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), who is chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, said agency officials informed the congressman of the decision on Monday. U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kansas) also released a statement Wednesday hailing the decision.

Public-private partnerships from Kansas and competing bidders from Texas and Mississippi offered generous financial incentives totalling $100 million from each bidder. Georgia offered $25 million in incentives.

David Lee, UGA’s vice president of research, said, “I can’t fault (the Department of Homeland Security) for choosing the Manhattan site. I felt all along that Manhattan was probably our strongest competitor.

“I also happen to think Athens is the better site,” Lee said. “We’re disappointed. I feel the disappointment of a lot of people at the University of Athens and across the state.”

In bidding for the facility, Georgia noted that UGA has other facilities that could enhance the research. Among them are the university’s school for veterinary medicine and its animal research center.

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Route 133 project ending environmental phase

3 12 2008

Susan McCord | Albany Herald

ALBANY — State funds may still be scarce for widening State Route 133 to four lanes from Albany to Valdosta, but the environmental phase of the project is nearly complete.

Guests at Georgia Department of Transportation open house events Tuesday in Albany, Doerun and Moultrie viewed aerial maps of the project’s 32-mile route from Albany to Moultrie, learned more about right-of-way acquisition and examined results of an environmental study required by federal law.

Wetlands are common throughout the project and there is one federally protected endangered species, the Coulley’s Meadow Rue, a plant found primarily on a power line right-of-way and on lands owned by the Nature Conservancy along the route, said Ron Johnson, a biologist with Aecom, which conducted the study.

The environmental document is “essentially done,” said Johnson, who also surveyed for animals possibly impacted by the project, such as the gopher tortoise, and found none.

Plans displayed Tuesday showed Highway 133 enlarged to four lanes, with a 44-foot grass median along most of the route from Albany to Moultrie. The road deviates from the current route in five places between the two cities, including a new bypass that skirts the northern city limits of Doerun. The speed limit will be 65 mph where the median is 32 feet or wider.

DOT recently held similar meetings on the Moultrie to Valdosta section of the project, said Manager Michael Haithcock, who has been involved since its 2001 start.

Though the environmental document must be cleared by federal officials before construction can start, the entire corridor lacks state funding, Haithcock said.

While preliminary engineering for the project has been funded, right-of-way acquisition and construction never has.

“We’ll have a better idea in about a year,” he said. “We want to be ready, so if we do get the funding, these projects are ready to go.”

DOT and most state agencies have announced large budget shortfalls and cuts this year, and public estimates of the project’s cost has ranged from $300 million to $1.3 billion.

“I would love to see it happen,” said Haithcock. “The thing I like about this corridor is that we’ve gotten a tremendous amount of public support.”

Recently retired state Transportation Board member Billy Langdale was always a “big supporter” of the corridor project, he said, and Langdale is “one of the greatest Americans I’ve ever met in my life.”

The project bypasses Doerun to the north, an idea that gained favor with residents once they learned the entire town qualified for the National Historic Register, said Larry Cook, project manager with Hatch Mott MacDonald, which did surveying, design and bridge design for DOT.

The corridor spans 9.1 miles in Dougherty County, 10.6 miles in Worth County and 13.3 miles in Colquitt County.

But the open house was bittersweet for Dougherty residents Eddie and Marjorie Cox, whose brick home for 30 years is one of several in the way of the widening road.

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‘We are the pay toilet of the nation’

17 11 2008



Three years ago, Tom Wood, a widower, former teacher and Navy veteran, moved to a remote spot in Marlboro County, hoping to live out his days in peace.

Now, he’s smack in the middle of a fight over what would be one of the state’s largest landfills ever — just a few miles from his home.

“This is a crying shame. It’ll hurt property values and stink things up,” said Wood, 68. The retiree is one of hundreds of people across the state fighting a little-noticed trend: the creation of giant landfills for household waste, much of it from other states.  Huge landfills are on the rise in South Carolina. The nation’s three largest garbage haulers — Waste Management Inc., Republic Services and Allied Waste Industries — have moved in, often under other names.

The Legislature never approved a policy allowing the state to become a garbage mecca.

But, with the approval of the state Department of Health and Environmental Control, South Carolina has become an East Coast destination dump.

The state buries far more garbage than it produces and is reserving space for even more.

South Carolina last year buried 4.8 million tons of its own garbage and an additional 1.7 million tons of out-of-state garbage. It could have buried more: DHEC has authorized state landfills to accept 9.9 million tons per year.

But if garbage landfills were to grow to the maximum allowed by law, they could bury 42 million tons per year — almost nine times what South Carolinians now put in the ground.

The state doesn’t earmark specific space for S.C. garbage. But landfill representatives say their excess capacity, authorized by DHEC, is for the state’s future.

The companies’ futures also are assured. They make millions importing other states’ household garbage. And if built, three landfills proposed in the past two years — in Marlboro, Williamsburg and Cherokee counties — could considerably increase what South Carolina buries.

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