The Georgia Supreme Court yesterday declined to hear arguments in the controversial case of Plant Longleaf, a coal power plant proposed in Southwest Georgia's Early County.
Tom Crawford of Capitol Impact reports:
The justices voted 6-0 this week not to consider the appeal, in effect upholding a July decision by the Georgia Court of Appeals that will allow the Environmental Protection Division (EPD) to issue a permit for the Longleaf Energy Station.
The case involves a $2 billion, 1,200-megawatt power plant that was originally proposed by two energy companies, Dynegy of Houston, Tex., and New Jersey-based LS Power Associates. It would be the first coal-fired facility in Georgia in 20 years.
After the EPD granted an air pollution permit two years ago for the power plant to operate, environmental groups went to court to have the permit tossed out. Fulton County Superior Court Judge Thelma Wyatt Cummings Moore overturned the permit last year on the grounds that the carbon dioxide the plant emits would be a pollutant subject to regulation.
Crawford says Justice David Nahmias, whose wife is a partner with the law firm that represents Longleaf, didn't vote on whether to hear the court should hear the case. (John Sepulvado of Georgia Public Broadcasting also has a report.)
Georgians for Energy, a coalition of environmental advocacy groups that includes the Sierra Club's Georgia Chapter and the Southern Environmental Law Center among others, expressed disappointment with the justices' decision. They argued that clean energy would be a wiser and safer investment to generate power and boost poverty-stricken Early County's economy. Plant Longleaf, they said, would only reduce air quality and contribute to global warming.
It is inconceivable that the Court would rule that the legal, economic, health, social justice and environmental issues posed by the proposed Longleaf coal-fired plant do not merit the attention of the Court, Midge Sweet, campaign director of Georgians for Smart Energy, said in a statement. "This is a small setback in the grand scheme of things. We're just going to take a deep breath while we still can and keep moving forward."
This fight for clean air is not over, Mark Woodall, chair of the Sierra Club's Georgia chapter, also said. The path to stopping Longleaf is long and arduous, and we are committed to overcoming all barriers in the quest for clean air."
A changing political climate and tough economy might help them in their efforts. The recent economic downturn has seen many coal power plant projects get shelved or lose investors. One of the energy companies that originally proposed the Longleaf pulled out of the project in January. In Washington County, several Georgia EMCs have backed out of a "cleaner" coal power plant.
What's next for Plant Longleaf isn't clear. Justine Thompson of GreenLaw, the environmental law firm that's fought the plant, tells GPB's Sepulvado that they might file a motion to reconsider or try to bring the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. We'll update when we hear more.
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