Early County-- LS Power wants to begin construction this year, but The Sierra Club's recent appeal of a state administrative judge's decision to uphold the Georgia Environmental Protections permit to build the plant could jeopardize their plans.
Two thousand acres of land in Early county is across the Chattahoochee River from a nuclear power plant, and just 4 miles down the road from Georgia-Pacific paper mill. But the coal-fired energy plant it could soon house has caused more controversy than the community has seen in decades. "I think a majority, a great majority of Early County citizens are for it. I know that some are vocally opposed to it," says Early County Commission Chairman Richard Ward.
Bobby McLendon, an Early County native, and president of Friends of the Chatahoochee, says he just wants what's best for his community. "I was not opposed at all until I learned the facts. I researched a lot and I looked on the internet and couldn't find anything positive on a coal fired plant," he says. McLendon's group, along with the Sierra Club, are the plant's biggest opposition, citing health risks and damage to the environment as results of a coal plant.
"It increases asthmatic attacks, makes emphysema worse, it really shortens lives," says McLendon. But Ward disagrees, "I've done my research. I feel comfortable. I would rather be in Early County, breathing Early County air when that coal plant is running that standing in downtown Atlanta Georgia."
Supporters also point to economic development, saying the plant could provide 1200 jobs during 5 years of construction. "When we get it built we'll have about 100 to 125 jobs full time jobs is what I'm told," says Ward. LS Power Assisstant President Mike Vogt agrees, "Its tax base, its also jobs. That's another big thing that we heard from people in Early county that they're really excited about the job opportunities here."
But Mclendon argues that prospect isn't worth the risks it poses and wants the courts to overturn the EPDs permit. "Sierra Club has filed an appeal in Fulton County Superior Court to review the judges decision so we're preparing for that process," says Vogt.
LS Power hopes to have everything resolved and start construction by this summer. Representatives from environmentalist groups say they'll fight the coal plant all the way to the Supreme Court if they have to, and say that could take years.