Longleaf

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The Longleaf is a 1200 megawatt (MW) power plant proposed for Early County, Georgia in 2001. The project has been proposed by by Longleaf Energy Associates, a subsidiary of LS Power Development.

December 2011: Project canceled

On December 12, 2011, the Sierra Club announced a legal agreement between LS Power and Sierra to cancel Longleaf, a 1200 MW proposed coal plant in Georgia, and Plum Point II, a 665 MW proposed coal plant in Arkansas. In addition, as part of the agreement, Sierra dropped its opposition to the Sandy Creek Plant in Texas and LS Power agreed to stricter air pollution controls at Sandy Creek. Sierra Club noted that Longleaf, which had first been proposed in 2001, was among the first coal plants among the hundreds of coal plants proposed -- and mostly defeated -- in the recent coal boom.[1]

Background

The Longleaf unit is one of 4 new coal plants LS Power Development proposes to build around the nation. Longleaf Energy Associates, a branch of LS Power, originally proposed the plant in 2001, and then in March 2007, LS Power merged with Dynegy to form the largest builder of coal plants in the country. The Georgia Department of Natural Resources Environmental Protection Division approved construction of the plant in May 2007, and the draft air permit has been issued. [2] However, Longleaf is still in litigation in 2011. [3]

GreenLaw (formerly the Georgia Center for Law in the Public Interest) is leading the legal challenge to the Longleaf project, and No New Coal for Georgia is also working to stop the plant. Sierra Club and Friends of Chattahoochee have also challenged the state’s air permit, on the basis of the Supreme Court’s Massachusetts v. EPA ruling requiring carbon dioxide regulation under the Clean Air Act.[4]

An administrative law judge upheld the permit in January 2008.[5] On February 11, GreenLaw attorneys filed an appeal to Fulton County Superior Court, representing the Friends of the Chattahoochee and the Sierra Club of Georgia.[6]

On June 30, 2008, Superior Court Judge Thelma Wyatt Cummings Moore invalidated the air pollution permit required to begin construction of the plant. The judge cited the 2007 U.S. Supreme Court decision that carbon dioxide is subject to regulation under the Clean Air Act as a pollutant. As originally permitted the plant would have emitted 9 million tons of carbon dioxide annually. The original permit placed no restrictions on the amount of carbon dioxide the plant could emit. This ruling could have far reaching effects and may influence permits for proposed coal-fired power plants throughout the country.[7]

On November 4, 2008, Longleaf Energy Associates and the GA EPD filed opening briefs in their appeal of Judge Moore's decision with the state Court of Appeals. On November 24, GreenLaw, on behalf of Sierra Club and Friends of the Chattahoochee, filed responses arguing that Longleaf's BACT analysis for the plant was inadequate, and that the company is required to regulate the plant's CO2 emissions under the Clean Air Act.[8]

In December 2008, Dynegy CEO Bruce Williamson announced that the company was reevaluating its role in developing new power plants, including Longleaf. Williamson cited the tightening credit markets and difficulty in permitted new coal plants as reasons for reconsidering its involvement in the siting, permitting, financing and construction of several new projects. Other plants include the LS Power Elk Run Energy Station in Iowa, Midland Power Plant in Michigan, Plum Point Energy Station in Arkansas, Sandy Creek Plant in Texas, West Deptford Project in New Jersey, and White Pine Energy Station in Nevada. As an alternative, the company will look at adding generation to its existing sites in the Northeast, Midwest and Western U.S.[9]

According to an April 2009 Sierra Club update, the appeal case filed in November 2008 has been fully briefed and a decision is expected by the end of July 2009.[10]

On July 7, 2009, the Georgia Court of Appeals issued an order resulting in more delays for Longleaf. The Court of Appeals overturned the previous ruling that the plant must limit its carbon dioxide emissions, a decision the environmental groups said they would appeal to the Supreme Court. Despite this reversal, the court's ruling left the plant's permit invalid, further postponing the plant's construction and calling into question the viability of the project.[11] On September 29, the Georgia Supreme Court announced that it would not hear the environmental groups' appeal. The Sierra Club said it would continue fighting the plant.[12]

On October 8, 2009, the Sierra Club and other environmental groups filed a motion with the Georgia Supreme Court. The motion asked the Court to reconsider its decision not to hear their appeal of aspects of the Georgia Court of Appeals' ruling, including the finding that Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) technology did not need to be considered in the plant's Best Available Control Technology (BACT) analysis. The Georgia Supreme Court denied the Sierra Club's motion for reconsideration on November 10, 2009.[13]

On May 9, 2010, Friends of the Chattahoochee and the Sierra Club of Georgia, with representation from GreenLaw, filed a petition for hearings challenging the air permit for Longleaf. They are also asking that the Environmental Protection Division (EPD) ensure that the permit is up-to-date. GreenLaw attorneys say the EPD granted Longleaf an extension on when it must begin construction, allowing the Plant to be built with outdated technology, and the EPD classified Longleaf as a minor source of pollution, which allows the power plant to avoid certain requirements that would ensure compliance with the law. The EPD has seven days to send the cases to the Office of State Administrative Hearings, where they will be assigned to administrative law judges. Court dates are expected later this summer.[14]

On June 2, 2010, an administrative law judge dismissed the appeal filed by Sierra Club and Friends of the Chattahoochee, which challenged the two permit amendments that Longleaf needed in order to begin construction of the plant. The dismissal came after the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) withdrew the permit amendments voluntarily. EPD issued two permit amendments to Longleaf in April 2010, but failed to allow adequate public notice and comment on the amendments as required by state and federal law, according to GreenLaw: even though EPD sent draft permit amendments out for public comment in July 2009, the permit amendments issued in April 2010 were drastically different than those originally proposed. In late May, EPD stated in documents filed with the court that it intended to re-send the permit amendments out for public comment. The dismissal has once again halted plans for the Longleaf Energy Station.[15]

On April 20, 2011, a Georgia administrative law court sided with Sierra Club and Friends of the Chattahoochee in their challenge to the proposed Longleaf coal-fired power plant in Blakely, Georgia. According to the ruling issued April 19, 2011, a permit issued by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD), did not sufficiently limit harmful air pollution that will be emitted by the plant. EPD must reconsider its permit after the court found flaws in provisions designed to make Longleaf a "minor" source of pollution for toxic air pollutants. EPD's permit would have classified the plant as a "minor" source of pollution, a strategy aimed at getting around stricter pollution controls required for a "major" source of pollution. EPD defended the permit on the ground 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. The court also found that the permit did not account for toxic air emissions from the entire facility. The court upheld the permit in other respects, disagreeing with the challengers' core contention the facility remained a "major" source of toxic air pollutants despite the provisions designed to make it "minor."[16]

On Aug. 1, 2011, the state Environmental Protection Division issued a final permit for Longleaf. However, since the administrative law court has maintained jurisdiction over the permit during the remand, no appeal is needed for the case to proceed. As such, the permit challenge is back before Judge Howells. [17]

Project details

Sponsor: Longleaf Energy (LS Power Development/Dynegy)
Location: Early County, Georgia
Size: 1200 MW (two 600 MW units)
Type: Pulverized coal
Projected in service: 2012
Status: In development

Financing

Citizen activism

On May 10, 2010 Georgia environmental groups filed two petitions to set up hearings to challenge permits for two major proposed coal-fired power plants in the state. Attorneys from GreenLaw and the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC), acting on behalf of seven citizens’ groups, are fighting the proposed plants with claims against the water and air pollution permits proposed for Washington Plant, to be built in Sandersville, Georgia and against the air pollution permit for Longleaf Energy Station, to be built in Early County, Georgia.[18]

Citizen groups

Resources

References

  1. "Longleaf Cancellation Marks End to Nation's Longest Running Fight Against Coal Plant," Sierra Club press release, December 12, 2011
  2. "Stopping the Coal Rush", Sierra Club, accessed January 2008. (This is a Sierra Club list of new coal plant proposals.)
  3. "Greenlaw: Longleaf" Accessed Oct. 29, 2011.
  4. “Groups Battle Power Plant,” Atlanta Journal-Constitution, November 30, 2007.
  5. "Despite Health Concerns, Coal Plant Permit Affirmed by Judge", GreenLaw, January 11, 2008.
  6. "Challenge to Coal-fired Power Plant Moves to Superior Court", GreenLaw, February 11, 2008.
  7. Georgia court cites carbon in coal-plant ruling Reuters, June 30, 2008
  8. "Stopping the Coal Rush", Sierra Club, accessed May 2009. (This is a Sierra Club list of new coal plant proposals.)
  9. "Dynegy to rethink new coal-fired power projects," Reuters, December 11, 2008.
  10. "Stopping the Coal Rush", Sierra Club, accessed May 2009. (This is a Sierra Club list of new coal plant proposals.)
  11. "Court of Appeals Decision Delays Coal-fired Power Plant," GreenLaw, July 7, 2009.
  12. "Coal plant denied hearing," Albany Herald, October 1, 2009.
  13. "Stopping the Coal Rush", Sierra Club, accessed December 2009. (This is a Sierra Club list of new coal plant proposals.)
  14. "Legal Challenges Filed to Stop Georgia's Coal Rush" Sustainable Business.com, May 11, 2010.
  15. "Further Delays for Longleaf Coal Fired Power Plant: Agency Implicitly Concedes Procedures Not Followed" GreenLaw, June 2, 2010.
  16. "Georgia Court Rejects Air Permit for New Coal-Fired Power Plant" Environmental News Service, April 20, 2011.
  17. "Greenlaw: Longleaf" Accessed Oct. 29, 2011.
  18. "Legal Challenges Filed to Stop Georgia's Coal Rush" SustainableBusiness.com, May 11, 2010.

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