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Georgia Power cutting jobs at coal-fired power plant near Rome

Georgia Power is cutting over half of its work force at a coal-fired plant near Rome even as state regulators have been re-examining some of its operations.

The Atlanta utility said 80 jobs are being eliminated at Plant Hammond, a 63-year-old facility on the Coosa River near Rome.

Georgia Power spokesman John Kraft said the plant, which currently has about 140 workers, will remain in operation but will be used as a reserve plant for “reliability and emergency needs,” with about 60 workers remaining.

The job cuts won’t be through layoffs. Kraft said staff cuts at the plant had already begun and will continue through the year, but will be accomplished mostly by shifting workers to other roles in the company.

Kraft said the action to limit Plant Hammond’s operations and cut its staff was prompted by “economics and market conditions.”

Georgia Power has shut down several of its coal-fired plants in recent years as the falling price of natural gas and rising cost of regulations to reduce air pollution have made the plants too costly to run.

Critics want Georgia Power to close Hammond and a handful of other old power plants that are only used part of the year during peak demand periods, and are costly to run.

Last year, in Georgia Power’s long-term plans approved by the Georgia Public Service Commission, the utility agreed to limit its investments in the Hammond plant to $5 million a year.

Meanwhile, the Georgia Environmental Protection Division is considering a new wastewater permit for the plant after it was sued in January by the Sierra Club and other environmental groups.

The environmental groups alleged that state regulators allowed Georgia Power to operate four power plants, including Hammond, with permits that hadn’t been updated in up to 12 years to comply with tougher federal water pollution standards.

The environmental groups recently put the lawsuit on hold after the Georgia EPD agreed to update the permits.

The EPD is holding a public hearing Wednesday evening in Rome on its draft permit for the Hammond plant.

In a statement, Georgia Power said, “We have always complied with EPD’s regulations on our water discharge and we have a long track record of meeting, or exceeding, these requirements - this new, more stringent permit will be no exception.”

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