Plans to build a state of the art coal-fired power plant in Early County, Georgia, continues to cause controversy. The proposed power plant, called the longleaf energy station, was first proposed back in 2001, and then put on hold after the 9-11 terror attacks. Now five years later, protection of the environment continues to be the biggest concern among area residents.
"All plants have emissions and discharges and this plant is no different,” said Jim Ussery, an official with Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division.
Many people living in the area around the proposed "Longleaf Energy Station" site, are concerned about mercury and sulfur dioxide emissions; especially farmers.
"My family and I are pine tree farmers and the sulfur dioxide emitted out of these power plants particularly the one proposed by L.S. Power is in such a great amount that we're afraid it is going to damage our pine tree crop," said Claud Bell, a resident of Blakely Georgia.
There is also concern about a pollutant called particulate matter.
Sammy Primm, a resident of Gordon, Alabama says, "It's a small particle that goes to the periphery of your lungs and causes cardiovascular diseases, heart attacks, stroke, and those kinds of problems as well as lung disease."
Officials with Georgia's Environmental Protection Division say they are addressing these concerns with permits regulating how L.S. Power will handle air emission, solid waste, surface water withdrawal and waste water.
"The permits are on draft... right now we have drafted a permit which is basically us saying this is what the permit would look like if it were issued," said Ussery.
L.S. Power officials say that under the current permits, the new plant would emit far less amounts of pollutants than are allowed under federal and state regulations.
They also say construction of the plant would bring in over a thousand jobs, and once completed between 100 - 125 jobs at the plant.
"Once it's operational as well it will be a tremendous amount of tax base that will be added to this community for schools, county purposes and city purposes," said Mike Vogt, the director of the project’s development.
But the permits are not yet finalized, as Georgia EPD officials continue to ask for public input as to how strict the regulations should be.
EPD officials will be hosting a public hearing on November 9th, once again allowing residents who will be affected by the construction of the plant to have a say in how regulatory these permits have to be. The public hearing will be held at Early County High School, in Blakely, and it will start at 6:30 P.M.