Flint Riverkeeper® and Southwest Georgia Citizens Appeal Longleaf Coal-Fired Facility Permit… again
Within the past year, we've sent you updates regarding the proposed Longleaf coal-fired power plant in Early County. Yesterday was another milestone in utilizing the public permitting process to protect our valuable Flint River's natural, cultural and economic resources.
Yesterday, December 8th was the deadline to file a legal appeal to the Georgia Environmental Protection Division's (EPD) issuance of a construction and operation permit for the Longleaf facility. Your Flint Riverkeeper, along with two local citizens (and members of FRk) filed the permit appeal.
The Longleaf permit allows the following pollutants to enter Southwest Georgia's air and water annually:
- 88 pounds of mercury
- 3,216 tons of soot (particulate matter)
- 5,647 tons of sulfur dioxides
- 2,689 tons of nitrogen oxides
In addition, the facility's permit allows 23 million gallons of water from the Chattahoochee River to be withdrawn for steam combustion cooling purposes. Less than 25% of this water would be returned to the already burdened Apalachicola/Chattahoochee/Flint basin. In effect, any less water flowing in the Chattahoochee would put a higher demand on the Flint's water levels at the GA/FL line.
"This permit would allow construction of a plant that would employ vastly outdated technology. The plant would inefficiently use the water of the Apalachicola/Chattahoochee/Flint (ACF) system, would spew thousands of tons of pollutants annually into our air in Southwest Georgia, would further poison our fish, and would foreclose many of our economic activities and opportunities", said Gordon Rogers, Flint Riverkeeper®. "Better technology is available; this action by Georgia EPD would be laughable if it were not so serious. Fishermen, farmers, foresters, plantation owners, and any users of the ACF's waters are threatened by this action". Our water use and availability is threatened by this irresponsible use in our sister river, our ability to use prescription burn in our forests and plantations, critical to wildlife management, water quality, and revenues, is put in jeopardy. Our farms and forests will have their productivity diminished by tons and tons of noxious emissions. Property values will be degraded. The giant pile of ash that will accumulate over several decades will loom as a threat to any downstreamer, including property owners and users at Lake Seminole. And, our fish and wildlife will be further dosed with toxic mercury, each and every day. This plant would be a good deal only for its developers, and a few allies. The rest of us will be harmed."
You may recall that this legal action follows an earlier one filed by the same appellants in the spring of this year. The earlier action successfully placed Georgia EPD in a position where they elected to withdraw the permit so that they would not lose the appeal due to a defect in their public notice actions, a requirement of the law that they failed to fulfill, but corrected by "re-noticing" the permit and holding hearing in July. This "improvement" to the permit process failed to substantially alter the content of the permit's requirements, being merely an attempt by Georgia EPD to improve their chances within legal challenges to this permit issuance.
"The extension of the Longleaf permit is illegal precisely because better technology is readily available, and we are prepared to prove this in our filings, briefings, and testimony", said Chris Reeves of the Finley Firm in Atlanta, counsel to Flint Riverkeeper® and two of its members. "Georgia EPD cannot blithely ignore the law concerning how they are required to issue permits; there are consequences for wrong actions".
The permit, originally issued in May 2007, then again in April of 2010, was contested by other citizen protection groups and ran through a series of appeals and remands leading up through late 2009. The current permit extension violates Georgia administrative law because Georgia EPD's own permitting rules require upgraded technology and/or a new permit application after the original expires. The procedure that EPD used did not follow this requirement.
"In addition to being illegal, the entire process that Georgia EPD has followed insults the citizens of Georgia. Over 1,000 comments were made during the process, and only 3 of them were in favor of this plant. Many of the comments pointed out technical and legal flaws in the process; others were simply those of citizens concerned about their families and businesses. Georgia EPD's process is broken", said Don Lambert of Damascus, co-appellant with Flint Riverkeeper®.
"It insults common sense that those intent on building a coal burning plant would name it after a Southern icon and the native ecosystem it will negatively impact… ' Longleaf ' ", said Glenn Dowling, Flint Riverkeeper® Board member. "It should be named after what it will produce, for instance, 'Plant Mercury'. This facility threatens the longleaf pine ecosystem and other prescribed fire-dependent landscapes in all of Southwest Georgia, southeast Alabama, and northwest Florida by consuming airshed space that we need for our existing users and forestry economy. As bad air quality currently prevents the use of prescribed fire in other parts of Georgia, pollutant discharges from this plant can threaten existing businesses, wildlife managers, timber growers and hunting operations from performing prescription burns that are critical to forest health and forest products production. Prescribed fire supports a myriad of wildlife, the ecologic service of clean water, and the hunting economy of shooting preserves and plantations. Once we, as South Georgians, allow a New Jersey based investment group to outsource their environmental damage for their profits, we will never put the genie back in the bottle. From Wall Street bailouts to the Gulf of Mexico oil blowout, the economic and ecological damages just keep spilling out our wallets and into our backyards."
"The fish in the Flint River are already heavily contaminated with mercury, from way upstream where coal plants feeding Atlanta already rain poison down on our watershed, to way down south in Muckalee, Kinchafoonee, Ichauway, and Spring Creeks", said Mark Redden, Flint Riverkeeper® Board member and President of the Shoal Bass Alliance. "We can't stand any more; we need to ratchet pollution down, not up, and this is nothing more than outsourcing urban pollution, because they can't build plants in their sprawl areas any more. We have the constitutional right to hunt and fish in Georgia, and we should have a reasonable expectation of being able to eat what we harvest without having to worry about being dosed with mercury".
"I have investments all across Southwest Georgia", said Ted Lee, member of Flint Riverkeeper, resident of Lake Seminole, and co-appellant. "Farm, timber, residential and commercial ventures would all be limited by a single large source of pollution that hogs our water and airshed, not to mention a giant pile of coal ash sitting on the banks of the river, poised to spread downstream when their so-called protection systems fail. If Atlanta and other metro areas in the south need power, they need to find a more efficient way to get it. Destroying our culture, our recreation, our economy is a very unfair way forward, and we will fight to keep it from happening".
"Flint Riverkeeper® cares about the people of Southwest Georgia. Riverkeeping is about people as much as it is about rivers", said Charles Stripling, Flint Riverkeeper® Board member and Mitchell County landowner.
"Pollution is about maximizing one investor's profits at the expense of many, many others. We will not allow an illegal act by Georgia EPD, an agency that is supposed to protect us, to endanger our families, farms, businesses, recreation, and river, permanently changing our way of life in Southwest Georgia", said Rogers. "Today, again, we stand in the breach for our culture and our economy".
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The Flint Riverkeeper's (FRk's) sole purpose is to serve as a steward for this valued waterway and to ensure the future life and health of the river and its tributaries remains certain during these uncertain times. FRK is a non-profit 501(c)3 corporation with the goal of protecting the Flint River in its most natural state for future generations to enjoy. Flint Riverkeeper ® is a fully licensed member of the Waterkeeper ® Alliance. Visit us atwww.flintriverkeeper.org. Flint RIVERKEEPER® is a fully licensed member of the WATERKEEPER® ALLIANCE, and is incorporated as FlintRIVERKEEPER®, Inc., a Georgia Corporation approved under the federal tax code as a 501(c)3 non-profit entity. 'RIVERKEEPER®' AND 'WATERKEEPER®' are registered trademarks of WATERKEEPER® and associated entities.