Legal Victory Spells Trouble for Plant Washington

Guest Blog | July 27, 2010 | Coal, Energy Policy

coal_power_plantThis week marked a major victory for clean water and a step in the right direction for clean energy in Georgia, as a judge threw out water use permits for the proposed coal-fired Plant Washington. The denial of these permits could require the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) to take another hard look at whether these permits for the 850-megawatt coal-fired power plant are in the best interest of Georgia citizens.

Power4Georgians, a company organized by Cobb Electric Membership Corporation and four other electric cooperatives,  received permits from  the EPD to withdraw river water and discharge water pollution from the plant.

However, several of SACE’s allies challenged the permits in court as they were concerned that the plant’s proposed use of up to 16 million gallons of water from the Oconee River per day, coupled with discharge of up to 1.55 million gallons of hot waste water, would harm the river and downstream communities.

Plant Washington would add to existing pollution - Altamaha Riverkeeper James Holland collecting a water sample at sewerage treatment plant outfall in Dublin Georgia on tributary stream to the Oconee River.
Plant Washington would add to existing pollution - Altamaha Riverkeeper James Holland collecting a water sample at a sewerage treatment plant outfall in Dublin, Georgia on tributary stream to the Oconee River.

GreenLaw and the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) are representing the Altamaha Riverkeeper, the Fall-line Alliance for a Clean Environment, and Sierra Club’s Georgia Chapter in this legal challenge. SACE is involved in a parallel challenge to Plant Washington’s air pollution permit.

According to GreenLaw and SELC, “On the wastewater permit, the judge ruled that EPD erred in allowing pollutants to be monitored and regulated within the facility, rather than at the point of discharge into the Oconee River as required by the Clean Water Act. Chlorine, chromium and zinc are among the pollutants of concern from the coal plant.”

The court also ruled that the permit to pipe water 30 miles from the Oconee River to the Plant Washington site, which is located in the Ogeechee River basin, did not properly consider the impacts of such an inter-basin transfer.

In order to pursue construction of Plant Washington, Power4Georgians will need to appeal within 30 days, or else re-submit its permits for withdrawing and discharging water to EPD. SACE applauds the excellent and hard work of the legal teams to expose the flaws of these water permits.

Read coverage of the decision by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the Macon Telegraph. And watch the SACE video on water issues related to the Plant Washington coal proposal.

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