Power plant appeals not over Ruling on coal plant hailed by both sides

Both sides in the debate over coal-fired power plant development in Georgia claimed victory after a court ruling on a project planned for Early County in southwest Georgia.

Environmental groups said the Georgia Court of Appeals action will further delay the $2 billion Longleaf Energy plant, even though the decision overturned five of six earlier rulings that had favored environmentalists.

Those rulings were issued last year by a Fulton County Superior Court judge after environmentalists sued to invalidate the Longleaf plant's state permit.

The appeals court reversed the judge's ruling that plans for Longleaf should limit carbon dioxide emissions. Environmentalists around the country had hailed that decision because it linked, for the first time, coal-fired power plants and global warming from greenhouse gases.

Justine Thompson, executive director of GreenLaw, an Atlanta environmental legal group, said the appeals court decision will be appealed to the Georgia Supreme Court. She said, "The reality is that the permit (for the plant) remains invalid. They can't move forward."

Dean Alford, spokesman for Power4Georgians, a consortium of Georgia electric cooperatives including Cobb EMC, said the appeals court ruling won't hurt his group's efforts to build a coal-fired plant in Washington County, between Macon and Augusta.

Alford said the ruling "clarifies the path to get a permit."

Georgia hasn't had a new coal-fired power plant in two decades. It has 10.