Friday, August 10
, 2001

Williams reps are no-show at power plant meeting


The central question on everybody's lips Tuesday night in a sweltering gym in College Park was "Where's Williams?"

More than 100 people packed into the Burdette Park gym to find out answers about Williams' efforts to build a massive power plant on Peters Road in South Fulton County.

The meeting was called by Rep. Sharon Beasley-Teague, who said she wanted more information on the project from experts in each field.

Williams spokeswoman Paula Hall-Collins said Thursday that the company had decided not to attend any more public meetings until more information is available. "We decided it would be better for us to wait until we have more definitive information on air quality, noise, visibility, etc.," she said.

The firm is conducting tests, she said, with hopes of being able to answer residents' concerns. Action has been delayed on the company's rezoning request for that same reason, she added.

During Tuesday's meeting, the crowd instead heard from a state Environmental Protection Division representative who tried to explain the complexities of offsetting pollution from the plant.

EPD's Jimmy Johnston explained that Williams would have to create a net benefit for the region's troubled air before EPD would issue a permit.

Johnson said the state ratio for offsetting pollution is 1.2:1. For example, if the company plans to emit 1,000 tons of pollution in the air, it would have to eliminate 1,200 tons of pollution at another site in the 13-county metro area that has failed to meet federal air quality standards.

Although he has not received an application from Williams to start the permitting process, Johnson said he has heard that the company plans to replace gas-powered engines at a Henry County facility with electric engines to offset the pollution from the South Fulton facility.

When residents peppered him with questions about how reducing pollution in Henry County would benefit them, Johnson said ozone pollution doesn't necessarily affect people right at the site because it's created under certain conditions and affects the entire region.

Johnson also added that the state is seeing a big increase in power plant applications, but in 30 years there had never been a site permitted like Williams is proposing to build.

When questioned about the 210-foot height of the proposed stacks at the plant, Johnson said that could actually be a good thing for residents near the facility.

"The higher the stacks means a lower impact near the facility," he said.

One of the more emotional points of the meeting came when local opthalmologist Dr. Floyd Davis addressed the crowd.

Davis brought a sheath of materials to the front of the room and said it was all documented evidence that ozone pollution causes health problems. Davis said he also experienced the effects of ozone on a personal level.

"My mother passed away on a high ozone day in Los Angeles," he said.

The Fulton County Commission is not expected to vote on rezoning the property from residential to industrial until early next year.

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