Georgia Power says goodbye to coal unit at Plant McIntosh

Georgia Power says goodbye to ash ponds

RINCON, GA (WTOC) - Georgia Power has made a huge announcement that they will close their coal unit at Plant McIntosh in Rincon.

The plant will stay open and continue with its natural gas plant.

It seems to be a huge win for local environmental groups in Savannah that have been worrying about the ash leaking into the waterway. They’ve been working to make this happen for years, and so has Georgia Power.

Despite not being significantly active since 2016, Georgia Power announced this week in its 20-year plan that the company will permanently close the coal unit at Plant McIntosh. Savannah Riverkeeper board member Emily Kurilla says finally eliminating this coal ash threat to the Savannah River is crucial.

“It was causing a big problem with leaky landfills,” Kurilla said. “They were unlined ponds that they were holding it in. Now that we are recognizing that and cleaning it up, it’s a good move forward. That has been a long time coming.”

Georgia Power says no one will lose their job. They found other positions for the four employees impacted within Plant McIntosh.

The company doesn’t anticipate any impact for customers on their power bill.

“We wouldn’t expect any change at this point. That is why we do this in a very methodical way, so that we can be prepared for the energy needs that our customers have long-term."

If the Public Service Commission approves the proposal, Plant McIntosh will continue with only natural gas units. Another change that could come is getting rid of all coal ash ponds in the state, including the one in Effingham County.

“It’s a long-term process we began back in 2015, announcing the closure of all of our ash ponds in the state and making steady progress since that time.”

Georgia Power credits the longer timeline with staying in compliance with the stringent federal and state rules of coal ash clean-up. Savannah Riverkeeper says they plan to follow up and make sure if and when the ash ponds are eliminated, it is done so correctly.

“They are going to close all of them, remove everything, put it in a lined landfill, which is the appropriate thing to do, so we want to make sure that all of the active and inactive ponds out there get cleaned up.”

It’s a win-win for everyone. Again, the Public Service Commission must review and approve the retiring of the coal plant.

Georgia Power says they should have a final answer in about six months.

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