Valdosta Daily Times

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April 11, 2012

Ga. developer reaches deal on Plant Washington

ATLANTA — A Georgia developer will cancel a power plant proposed for Ben Hill County and reduce the pollution emitted by a second plant in Washington County under a preliminary deal announced Tuesday.

In return, a coalition of four environmental groups would drop pending legal challenges against the permits necessary to build and operate Plant Washington, moving that project forward. The POWER4Georgians consortium seeking to build the plant in Sandersville also agreed to spend $5 million to support energy conservation and renewable energy projects.

The agreement comes at a critical juncture for coal-fired power plants. Utilities have been shutting down older coal plants nationally as they are faced with low natural gas prices, a run-up in coal prices caused by demand from China and weaker overall demand for electricity. In December, another developer abandoned a project to build the coal-fired Longleaf Energy Plant in southwestern Georgia, citing a weak regional economy and stricter pollution rules.

“The cancellation of Plant Ben Hill is just one more sign that coal is dead,” said Justine Thompson, an attorney for GreenLaw, which has fought the project.

Four environmental groups — the Sierra Club, the Fall Line Alliance for a Clean Environment, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and the Ogeechee Riverkeeper — must still formally approve the deal before it can take effect.

The plant’s developer said the agreement clears the way for construction of Plant Washington. The project is backed by the POWER4Georgians consortium, which includes the Central Georgia, Upson, Washington and Snapping Shoals electric cooperatives.

Dean Alford, president and CEO of Allied Energy Services, which is developing the plant, called the agreement “exciting news.”

“We remain dedicated to building one of the cleanest facilities of its kind in the world and providing our EMC members with affordable and reliable electricity,” he said.

Under the agreement, the consortium must obey stricter limits on mercury pollution as soon as Plant Washington begins operating, rather than waiting up to eight years to comply. That change will reduce Plant Washington’s annual mercury emissions from about 55 to 65 pounds to about 1.6 pounds, said Kurt Ebersbach, a staff attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center.

The agreement may not end the legal fighting over Plant Washington. Last month, U.S. environmental regulators proposed their first-ever limits on heat-trapping pollutants blamed for global warming. To avoid the expense of complying with the looming rules, Plant Washington would need to break ground in about a year.

Alford said he believed the consortium could meet that requirement, although his opponents have doubts.

———

Follow Ray Henry at http://www.twitter.com/rhenryAP.

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