Source: Christian Science Monitor


Citing global warming, Georgia judge blocks coal plant

Eoin O'Carroll | 07.02.08

In what is thought to be an unprecedented ruling, a Superior Court judge
in Fulton County, Ga., halted the construction of a coal-fired power
plant, saying that the plant must limit its emissions of carbon dioxide.

Citing an April 2007 US Supreme Court ruling that recognizes carbon
dioxide - the primary gas responsible for global warming - as a
pollutant under the federal Clean Air Act, Judge Thelma Wyatt Cummings
Moore overturned a lower court's decision to issue an air-pollution
permit to Dynegy's Longleaf power plant near Columbus, Ga. Her decision
is believed to be the first one that links global warming to an
air-pollution permit.

The case had been brought by the Sierra Club and Friends of the
Chattahoochee, a local environmental group. They were represented by
GreenLaw, an Atlanta-based public-interest law firm.

The coal-fired power plant - the first proposed in Georgia in 20 years -
cannot begin construction until it can obtain a valid permit that
complies with the court's ruling.

The 19-page ruling
Decision.pdf>  [PDF via GreenLaw
<> ]
says that "[t]here is no dispute that the proposed power plant would be
a 'major emitting facility' as defined by the [Clean Air] Act,"
requiring that the plant must incorporate the "best available control
technology" to limit carbon dioxide emissions.

GreenLaw says that the proposed plant would emit 9 million tons of CO2
each year
<>  -
the equivalent of 1.3 million cars. The firm also notes that a typical
coal-fired plant emits 3.7 million tons annually, according to the Union
of Concerned Scientists.

The Atlanta-Journal Constitution quotes opponents of the plant who hail
the groundbreaking decision
<> :

"We think this is the beginning of the end of conventional coal-fired
power plants, because of the enormity of their emissions," said Bruce
Nilles, director of the Sierra Club's national campaign against coal.

Of the 80 coal plants in the permitting process nationwide, about 30 are
in active litigation, Nilles said. The Sierra Club is fighting coal
plants across the country and was one of the petitioners in the Georgia

"Our state can find other ways to produce cleaner, more economically
beneficial energy," said Patty Durand, director of the Georgia Chapter
of the Sierra Club. "Other states are doing it. Why can't we?"

The New York Times says that the impact of the decision
<>  for the
Longleaf plant, or for other proposed plants in Georgia and around the
country, is unclear:

Robert Wyman, a partner in the Los Angeles office of Latham & Watkins,
the law firm, who has represented power producers in previous cases,
said of the decision: "I would be surprised if it had much of an impact.
I'm not sure other jurisdictions will pick up that opinion." He said
that, despite the Supreme Court finding, federal regulators had not
issued the finding required before a pollutant can be regulated.

Vickie Patton, the deputy general counsel at the Environmental Defense
Fund, however, argued that the judge's reasoning might prove persuasive
to other courts facing similar issues.

The Knight Science Journalism Tracker - an insider blog for science
writers - is skeptical that the ruling will stick
<> :

Big coal has BIG money, as do the utilities that burn its product, and
as does industry and, most important, as does the general public. None
are at all resigned to blackouts and rolling brownouts and soaring
electricity bills while coal capture and sequestration technologies
remain good ideas with absolutely no full-scale prototype operations,



Kathleen W. Pagan, AICP, Senior Planner

(352) 374-5249


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