Ga. Judge Remands 1,200-MW Coal Plant Permit to Regulators

A Georgia administrative law judge has remanded an air permit for LS Power’s proposed 1,200-MW Longleaf coal-fired power plant to the state Environmental Protection Division (EPD). The judge found that the permit did not sufficiently limit pollution and ordered the regulatory body to amend the permit to include federally approved tests for five air pollutants.

The decision by Administrative Law Judge Stephanie Howells last week finds in favor of Friends of the Chattahoochee and the Georgia Chapter of the Sierra Club. The citizen groups had contended that the EPD’s permit would allow the New Jersey–based company’s coal plant to be classified as a “minor” source of pollution—a strategy they said “would circumvent the stricter pollution controls required for a “major” source of pollution under the law.”

The EPD defended the permit on the basis that it contained safeguards to ensure that the plant would emit at “minor” source levels. “The court found, however, that the permit’s monitoring and reporting scheme could ‘miss’ many tons of toxic air emissions each year, including emissions of known carcinogens like formaldehyde,” environmental law group GreenLaw, which represented the citizen groups in court, said. “The court also found that the permit did not account for toxic air emissions from the entire facility.”

Judge Howells sent back the permit, asking the EPD to amend the permit to provide for tests approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) designated for acetaldehyde, acrolein, formaldehyde, methyl chloride (chloromethane), and dioxins/furans.

The court disagreed with the petitioner’s core contention that the “facility remained a ‘major’ source of toxic air pollutants despite the provisions designed to make it ‘minor,’” GreenLaw said. As the group pointed out, the mercury and air toxics rule recently proposed by the EPA observes no distinction between “major” and “minor” coal-fired utilities.

The rule holds “them all to a common set of standards, including a mercury limit that is sharply lower than the limit in the permit,” it added. “However, the proposed rule will not become final until November, and Longleaf would have several years to comply with the new standard.”

Sources: POWERnews, GreenLaw, Georgia Office of State Administrative Hearings

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