Georgians won a victory this month when Power4Georgians (P4G), the only company trying to develop expensive new coal plants in Georgia, agreed to cancel the proposed Ben Hill coal-fired power plant.
The company also agreed to comply with critical new safeguards against mercury pollution and invest $5 million in energy efficiency and renewable projects. The Sierra Club, the Fall Line Alliance for a Clean Environment (FACE), Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE), and the Ogeechee Riverkeeper, represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center and GreenLaw, successfully challenged the permit for Plant Washington issued by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division, and the settlement agreement is pending approval by each group.
As a result of the settlement agreement, if built, Power4Georgians’ Plant Washington
will have to meet the much more protective emission standards for mercury and other air toxins.
Local citizens in Ben Hill County were thrilled with the news.
“This is a day to celebrate. Plant Ben Hill would have been deeply detrimental to Ben Hill County and south Georgia,” said Laura Norris, a founding member of the Wiregrass Energy Network, a citizens group opposing Plant Ben Hill. “It would have created very few permanent jobs while polluting water and air and harming health for many years.”
“The cancellation of Plant Ben Hill is just one more sign that coal is dead,” said Justine Thompson, attorney for GreenLaw. “Georgia has a promising future – but to be a serious player in the global economy while also ensuring that we have clean air and water, Georgia needs to embrace energy efficiency and more renewable sources of energy. We are now moving one step closer to that goal.”
Plant Washington now faces its steepest challenge yet, as EPA recently announced the carbon pollution rule for new coal-fired power plants, which will require new coal plants to reduce or capture their harmful carbon emissions. Power4Georgians had not considered carbon capture technology in the original Plant Washington proposal. In the rule, EPA identified Plant Washington as a potential “transitional” source whereby it could be exempt from the rule if there is a final permit and construction commences within a year of when the rule is published. The carbon pollution rule is expected to be published later in April.
The cancellation of Plant Ben Hill marks 168 total coal plant proposals cancelled across the US due to changing market conditions, legal challenges, and local opposition. In December 2011, New Jersey-based LS Power cancelled the Plant Longleaf coal plant proposal
, which would have been built in Early County, GA. Further, 106 coal plants across the country have been scheduled for retirement, including two units at Plant Branch near Milledgeville
that were recently approved by the Georgia Public Service Commission.