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Tuesday, April 10, 2012 - 11:50am

Big Moves On Coal Plant Front

Updated: 2 years ago.
It was a big week in news related to coal-fired power plants in Georgia. Plant Ben Hill is dead. And environmental groups have reached an agreement with supporters of Plant Washington. (photo Nick Humphries)

Supporters and opponents of new coal-fired power plants in Georgia both are claiming victory after a pair of decisions involving two embattled facilities.

A plant in South Georgia's Ben Hill County is dead while another in Middle Georgia's Washington County is moving forward.

A coalition of electric membership cooperatives had been pushing both plants, saying they were needed for low-cost energy and new jobs.

But one will not survive.

The coalition, Power4Georgians, is pulling out Plant Ben Hill, cheering environmentalists who challenged the plant's emissions.

The plant site now will be placed into a conservation easement, ensuring it will not be developed.

But, the two sides have reached an agreement on Plant Washington.

The Sierra Club's Jenna Garland says, both moves come just months after Marietta's Cobb EMC pulled out of Power4Georgians.

"Since they chose to withdraw their support, we knew that these two plants, Plant Ben Hill and Plant Washington, were on shaky ground," Garland says. "And we knew that it was only a matter of time before at least the Plant Ben Hill project would be cancelled."

Both plants have been a font of litigation for years.

Power4Georgians spokesman Dean Alford says, the Plant Washington agreement now clears the way for the final approvals needed to design, build and operate the power facility near Sandersville.

"In any negotiation, it's important that there's give-and-take," Alford says. "And basically, we were willing to move forward with Plant Washington. And if that meant that, at this time, we need to step aside on Ben Hill, we were willing to do that."

The company has agreed to lower mercury emission rates at Plant Washington.

The agreement still needs to be approved by state and federal regulators.