LS Power Agreement with Environmental Groups Affects Three Major Coal Projects

An agreement reached between LS Power and environmental groups on Monday ends a decade-long legal battle, but it will force the company to ditch plans to build the 1,200-MW coal-fired Longleaf Energy Station near Blakey, Ga.; shelve plans for at least five years to build the 665-MW Plum Point II coal-fired plant near Osceola, Ark.; and limit pollution from the 900-MW pulverized Sandy Creek plant in Riesel, Texas.

Construction of the Longleaf plant, first proposed in 2001, has been hotly contested by environmental groups GreenLaw, Friends of the Chattahoochee, and the Sierra Club, which cite environmental and public health concerns. The agreement reached on Monday stems in part from a legal challenge involving LS Power’s Sandy Creek Energy Station in Texas. It requires the company to file notices with applicable Georgia agencies to formally withdraw all requests for environmental permits and rescind or revoke permits already issued related to the Longleaf project.

It also requires LS Power to shelve development of its proposed Plum Point 2 coal plant in Arkansas and imposes strict new limits on mercury and particulate matter pollution emitted by the new Sandy Creek plant.

A high-profile aspect of the legal battle to halt construction at Longleaf concerned its lack of controls to limit carbon dioxide. The Georgia Department of Natural Resources Environmental Protection Division (EPD) awarded the Longleaf project an air permit in May 2007, but it was challenged by environmental groups, which said that the plant did not properly account for carbon dioxide emissions or incorporate the required pollution control technologies in the plant design. An administrative law judge upheld the permit in January 2008.

In June 2008, however, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Thelma Moore invalidated the permit, issuing an order that said that federal air pollution control laws required pollution permits to cover all pollutants—including carbon dioxide—that could be regulated under the Clean Air Act, not just those for which there is a “separate, general numerical limitation.” In July 2009, a Georgia Court of Appeals reversed that ruling, however, saying that neither the Georgia Air Quality Act nor the federal Clean Air Act contained regulations controlling carbon dioxide emissions.

Sources: POWERnews, GreenLaw, LS Power

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