Georgia Judge Halts Construction of Coal-Fired Power Plant – A Sign of More Battles Over Coal?

Georgia judge blocks construction of Longleaf coal-fired power plantIn what is considered as a first-time application from a judge of the April 2007 Supreme Court decision ruling industrial CO2 emissions as a pollutant, Fulton County judge Thelma Wyatt Cummings Moore blocked the construction of what would be the first coal-fired plant in Georgia in over 20 years.

Judge Moore’s decision overturned an earlier ruling allowing construction of the $2 billion 120 megawatt Longleaf Energy Plant stating that the plant’s builders, Dynegy and LS Power, must first procure a permit from state regulators that limit the amounts of CO2 emissions from the plant.

Bruce Niles of the Sierra Club’s National Coal Campaign said of the ruling: 

“We will be taking this decision and making the same arguments to push for an end to conventional coal”

LS Power and Dynegy vow to appeal the ruling.

“A New Day in America”

While some have shied away from James Hansen’s recent assertion that CEO’s from fossil fuel energy companies “know what they are doing” and should be “tried for high crimes against humanity and nature”, it is clear that new coal-fired plants are square in the sights of environmental attorneys.

Niles said that he and other lawyers are preparing similar challenges to delay 30 other plants currently in active litigation. Says Niles,

“The issue is now teed up from Nevada to North and South Carolina”.

In the case of the Longleaf, the plant would not only create 9 million tons of CO2 annually, an equivalent of adding 1.3 million cars to Georgia’s roadways, it would also violate EPA standards for fine particulate matter as well (based on the location of the plant). A “typical” plant emits 3.7 tons of CO2 annually.

If there is a viable “clean coal” option, it seems that now is the time for coal developers to begin pursuing that option in earnest. Instead of allowing construction of a coal-fired plant emitting nearly 2.5 times the CO2 as a typical plant, Judge Moore’s decision is a step toward accounting, in some fashion, for the cost of the “externalities” of conventional coal.

A friend of mine is an avid Ron Paul supporter, so I’ve taken the time to try to find out more about him, in particular his environmental policy (which is a little troubling, but beyond the scope of this blog). Paul talks of putting a cost on externalities and letting the market do the rest – get government out of the picture because government always messes things up.

Well, okay, government often does mess things up – especially certain administrations. But how do we go about making business account for their external costs, the costs of pollution and resource depletion? In the case of greenhouse gas emissions, the Supreme Court provided a mechanism whereby we can begin to do that, and Judge Moore’s ruling is a further step in that direction.

One way are another, a cost must be put on carbon.

Patti Durand of Sierra Club’s Georgia chapter said of the ruling yesterday,

“This is a new day in the United States, and I’m thrilled”.

Let’s hope that feeling continues.




Tom is the founder, editor, and publisher of and the TDS Environmental Media Network. He has been a contributor for Triple Pundit since 2007. Tom has also written for Slate, Earth911, the Pepsico Foundation, Cleantechnia, Planetsave, and many other sustainability-focused publications. He is a member of the Society of Environmental Journalists

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