The coalition of environmental advocates said they filed the five challenges in a bid to stop what they see as an unprecedented wave of new permits for coal-fired power plants at a time when environmental regulators in other states are supporting alternative energy proposals.
"Coal is a dirty, dangerous business. From the mine to the smokestack, coal-fired power is outdated, risky, and unnecessary," said Erin Glynn of the Sierra Club in Georgia. "Innovative, clean ways of producing energy are economically feasible and Georgia has energy efficiency measures to meet the economic growth that we expect."
The petitions filed in a state court targeted the Longleaf Energy Plant, a project developed by LS Power for rural Early County, and Plant Washington, a medium-sized plant that would be built by an energy consortium in Sandersville.
The petitions say state regulators failed to classify the Longleaf plant as a "major" source of air pollution, meaning that it would not have to meet as stringent a set of requirements. And they say Plant Washington would harm water resources for downstream communities along the Oconee River while allowing harmful pollutants in the air.
The developers of the two projects say they are crucial to supplying power to a fast-growing - and energy-hungry - population. They also say that the plants would generate long-term jobs to economically depressed regions hit hard by the sour economy.
Power4Georgians, the consortium backing Plant Washington, has said that it would produce enough power to supply 500,000 to 700,000 homes annually when it starts operating in 2015 or 2016.
"They're throwing a bunch of stuff on the wall and hoping that something sticks," said Dean Alford, president and CEO of Allied Energy Services, a development firm that's part of the consortium.
"We think it's important to find a way to provide environmentally sensitive, reliable and affordable energy in the state," Alford said. "Georgia's going to have to build new energy solutions and we think clean coal is one of the best solutions."
The Longleaf plant, meanwhile, is expected to create at least 100 full-time jobs and generate millions of dollars in tax revenues for the rural county, where almost a quarter of the 12,000 residents live in poverty. It would power more than a half-million homes through utilities in Georgia, Alabama and Florida.