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Thursday, July 18, 2024 | Back issues
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Sierra Club Fails to Halt Federal Coal Plant Funds

WASHINGTON (CN) - A federal judge has shot down an attempt to stop the Department of Energy from backing the Mississippi Power Co.'s construction of a multibillion-dollar coal-power plant in Kemper County.

The plant, which is currently under construction, sits on 1,650 acres of land and will cost $2.67 billion to complete. At full capacity, it will convert, on average, a projected 13,800 tons of coal into gas per day.

It was announced in 2008 that the project was under consideration for a $294 million financial assistance award under the Clean Coal Power Initiative (CCPI). The Energy Policy Act of 2005 authorizes the U.S. secretary of energy to make loan guarantees for projects that "avoid, reduce, or sequester air pollutants or anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases and employ new or significantly improved technologies as compared to commercial technologies currently in service," U.S. District Judge John Bates explained.

Construction of the Kemper Plant began in June 2010. To date, Mississippi Power has received all of the originally proposed $294 million in CCPI financial assistance.

Against this backdrop, Sierra Club, the country's oldest and largest environmental group, called for an injunction to prevent further financial assistance for plans that have "disrupted a once quiet and peaceful community." Kemper Plant will allegedly emit thousands of tons of air pollution and greenhouse gases, permanently damage the environment, lower property values, and expose residents to increased health risks.

But Bates ruled Friday that an injunction against DOE funding would not in fact halt construction. In a sworn affidavit, an unnamed Mississippi Power corporate official testified that the project would go on, even without federal assistance.

The official said "in no uncertain terms that, 'given the advanced stage of development of the Kemper Project,' Mississippi Power 'would continue to construct the Kemper Project even if the DOE is enjoined temporarily or permanently from disbursing any additional CCPI-2 funds and/or approving DOE loan guarantees to MPC,'" Bates wrote.

The government also convinced the court to dismiss Sierra's claim regarding the loan guarantee, which is not set in stone.

"Here, DOE has not taken that final step of deciding whether to approve the loan guarantee, and hence DOE's action has not created legal consequences regarding a loan guarantee, either technically or as a practical matter," Bates wrote. "Regardless of whatever steps have been taken thus far, DOE can change its mind (or, more precisely, has not yet made up its mind) until it issues a record of decision."

As such, the matter is not ripe for adjudication, according to the 21-page decision.

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