Task Force to Plug into Need for Energy State Study to Include Environmental Impact

Article excerpt

Byline: Dave Williams, Times-Union staff writer

ATLANTA -- Determining the current electric-generating capacity of the state's utilities, Georgians' future power demands and how to meet those needs will be the yearlong assignment of a group of experts brought together by Gov. Roy Barnes.

The Governor's Energy Task Force will work to balance those concerns with the potential environmental impacts of ratcheting up power production, including the effects on air quality and water supply.

"It's the issue of the 21st century -- the environment vs. the demand for growth and jobs," Senate Minority Leader Eric Johnson, R-Savannah, a member of the panel, said yesterday after its first substantive meeting. "How are we going to be good stewards of our environment and provide fuel for the economy?''

The governor assembled the task force after state environmental regulators were hit with a deluge of applications for new power plants.

The Environmental Protection Division, which had grown accustomed to handling only one application every few years, now has about a dozen awaiting action, including gas-fired plants proposed for Clarke and Effingham counties. The EPD recently approved construction of a plant in Augusta.

Among the panel's members are legislators, utility representatives, environmental activists, state and federal regulators and members of the Public Service Commission.

Yesterday, Sen. Charlie Tanksley, the task force's chairman, asked for volunteers for subcommittees to tackle various aspects of the work ahead. While one group compiles statistics on Georgia's existing generating capacity, others will examine demand forecasts for the next 25 years, how many and what kinds of power-generating facilities will be needed and how much additional electricity can be supplied without hurting the environment.

"I want an intense debate on this part of it,'' said Tanksley, R-Marietta. "There are two sides to this issue. …

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