Power4Georgians LLC announced on Thursday that the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) has issued final permits for the operation of Plant Washington, an 850-MW coal-fired energy facility in Washington County, Georgia, in the eastern part of the state about halfway between Macon and Augusta, and approximately 125 miles southeast of Atlanta.

Power4Georgians describes itself as "a consortium of Georgia EMCs [electric membership corporations] that have partnered to develop and implement a comprehensive energy strategy to meet the growing demand for affordable and reliable electricity for the members they serve. One of the key components of their strategy is the development of a new base-load power plant."

The permits issued by the EPD include Prevention of Significant Deterioration permit for air quality; National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit for water discharge; a groundwater withdrawal permit; a surface water withdrawal permit; and a notice of site suitability for the solid waste handling facility.

Individuals and groups opposed to the plant will have 30 days to file a concern with a state administrative law judge. Several environmental groups have long been opposed to the plant.

The permits are the culmination of more than two years of work by Power4Georgians’ development team not only to meet but to exceed Georgia EPD’s rigorous air and water quality standards, the consortium’s press release said. Although the air and water standards in Plant Washington’s draft permits, issued by EPD in August 2009, represented standards that are acceptable under the strictest guidelines of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Power4Georgians continued to work to reduce emissions levels further while also developing an unprecedented water management strategy.

Through careful review of more than two-and-a-half years of testing data, as well as an evaluation of the technology and coal types to be used, Power4Georgians was able to devise a strategy that produced significant reductions of the emissions levels contained in the draft permit. As a result, Plant Washington’s overall emissions profile based upon the final permit will be among the lowest that has ever been proposed for a coal-fired power plant in the United States.

For example, preliminary evaluations conducted in the fall of 2007—before the initial permit application was filed with EPD in January 2008—placed the maximum annual emission of mercury at 122 pounds; that level was reduced to 106 pounds per year in the draft permit. Depending on the blend of fuel used, Georgia EPD’s final permit will limit Plant Washington’s mercury emissions to between 62.2 and 55.6 pounds annually—roughly half the original mercury emissions levels.

In addition, developers were able to devise an unprecedented water management strategy to conserve and reuse water, reduce water withdrawal from the environment and allow zero discharge of stormwater from the plant site.

To accomplish these water management standards, what had been stormwater runoff retention ponds in the draft permit were converted to stormwater collection and storage ponds. Collected stormwater will be able to be reused at the plant, reducing the use of river water and groundwater. In addition, by using the stormwater as makeup water for the plant, there will be zero discharge of process or contact water to either the Ogeechee or Oconee river basins.

Sources: Power4Georgians, Marietta Daily Journal