Lack of Limits for CO2, PM 2.5, and Other Harmful Pollutants Challenged

Today GreenLaw attorneys in the Longleaf coal-fired power plant case filed their petition for certiorari, requesting that the Supreme Court review the July 7 decision of the Court of Appeals on the plant’s air pollution permit.  The Court of Appeals upheld the Fulton County Superior Court’s decision on a central issue, thus halting construction of the plant.  However, GreenLaw, representing Friends of the Chattahoochee and Sierra Club, is challenging the Appeals Court’s rejection of important claims about limits for fine particulate matter, carbon dioxide (CO2) and other hazardous pollutants.

Justine Thompson, Executive Director of GreenLaw, commented, “We are confident that the Georgia Supreme Court will agree to take the case due to the importance of the air quality issues addressed.  Although we won in the Court of Appeals on a key point, which stops the plant’s construction for now, we believe that other claims that the Court rejected are worthy of reconsideration.”

A copy of the Petition for Certiorari, the Court of Appeals ruling, and other pleadings can be found on GreenLaw’s website at

Dangerous Levels of Fine Particles

The Court of Appeals refused to allow the consideration of evidence that the Longleaf plant would cause violations of health-based air quality standards for fine particulate matter, or PM2.5. These microscopic particles that are emitted from coal-burning plants can lodge in the lungs, causing or exacerbating respiratory and heart conditions.  Children and the elderly are at a higher risk of experiencing the health consequences from this dangerous pollutant.  A leading national expert found that the Longleaf plant’s emissions of PM 2.5 would exceed air quality standards, a finding which has never been disputed by coal plant proponents.

“The residents of Early County and surrounding areas are really concerned about the effects this plant would have on our children’s health,” said Bobby McLendon, Chair of the Friends of the Chattahoochee.  “We hope the Supreme Court will see just how important it is to us that we are afforded protection from harmful pollutants that we have no choice about breathing if coal is burning in our community.”

Lack of Carbon Dioxide Limits

The Court of Appeals also rejected the claim that CO2 emissions should be limited, although this plant will emit 9 million tons of CO2 each year. The Court was swept up by the political debate raging on how to address CO2 emissions on a comprehensive basis. While the public debate on CO2 allows the proponents of the plant to confuse the issue, the law is quite clear that CO2 emissions must have some limits. 

Mark Woodall, Chair of the Executive Committee of the Georgia Chapter of the Sierra Club, commented, “Greenhouse gases are a huge concern to us as it is clear that they are affecting our climate and our crops.  Farmers, fishermen, and hunters alike are seeing changes in temperature that are affecting plants and animals and their habitats.”

The Court also rejected the Superior Court ruling that the plant’s owners should be required at the very least to consider technologies (IGCC – Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle) that would dramatically reduce emissions from the plant. 

Independent Judgment of State Action Required

The Appeals Court agreed with the Fulton County Superior Court Judge that Administrative Law Judges in Georgia must consider the facts presented in the case and reach an independent judgment of the actions of the Environmental Protection Division (EPD).  This ruling will have a long-term positive impact on future environmental cases, ensuring that citizens who raise questions about state agency decisions receive a fair hearing.