The power to pollute? - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

The power to pollute?

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By Karen Colhilas

Early county's poverty rate is almost double the state average. Nearly a quarter of the 12,000 people who live in Early county are below the poverty level, but a coal-burning power plant could bring in hundreds of jobs.

Critics say coal is a dirty fuel and coal-fired plants pollute the environment. But supporters of a power plant in Early County say the benefits to Southwest Georgia far outweigh the drawbacks.

Early County has long-been an agricultural community, and that means plenty of vacant land. But soon, 2,000 acres may be used for a new LS Power coal-burning plant.

"This is home. I hate to see it messed up like that. If I had the money, I'd buy the whole thing and just let it stay like it is," says Thomas E. Wright, Sr. He grew up next to the land proposed for the site, he's also a member of Friends of the Chatahoochee who are not friendly to the idea of a coal-plant being built here.

Wright says, "I don't know what the situation is going to be on the wetlands, because they're going to have, I'm assuming, millions of tons of ash, they are going to have to dispose of."

They'll also have to use millions of gallons of water a day, but most of that will be waste-water from the Georgia Pacific plant, located just a few miles away. And they will also produce some soot, from burning the coal, but Development Authority Director, Marty Howard says, they are a "clean-coal" plant.

He says, "It's going to, probably be the cleanest plant in the world."

And it's going to bring millions of dollars and hundreds of jobs to Early County. During construction of the plant, which is expected to take about four years, they will use about 800-employees on average, at peak times, up to 1,300. Once the plant is operating, 125 people will be hired full-time. Howard says, "I think it's a very positive economic revenue for us."

But he wants others to see the advantages for themselves. "I've seen the plant and I know it's going to be clean," says Howard, "but I want them to feel the same way about it. We've got to work together as a strong community, and LS Power is knocking on the back door, it's time to open the door and let them in."

That meeting starts at 6:30 PM Monday in the Early County High Auditorium. Representatives from LS Power, the Sierra Club (which opposes the plant), and the Environmental Protection Division (which will monitor the plant and its impact on the environment), will be there to answer questions.

LS Power will pay the county and development authority $1 Million during construction. Ad Valorem taxes will kick in once the plant is operational, and will eventually be more than $4 Million a year.

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