POWER4Georgians is a consortium of ten Georgia electric membership cooperatives (EMC) (Central Georgia EMC, Cobb EMC, Diverse Power, Excelsior EMC, GreyStone Power, Jackson EMC, Pataula EMC, Snapping Shoals EMC, Upson EMC, and Washington EMC).
In January 2008 the consortium announced plans to build a $2 billion, 850-megawatt (MW) supercritical coal plant in Washington County, Georgia. Applications for air permits were filed with the Georgia Environmental Protection Division in January. On April 8, 2010, the Environmental Protection Division issued final permits for operation of the Plant, green-lighting construction. (See Washington Plant for more details).
Georgia legislature proposes coal moratorium
House Bill 276, proposed by Margaret Oliver (D-Decatur), would put a 5-year moratorium on building new coal plants and eliminate the burning of Appalachian coal mined by mountaintop removal by mid-2016. The Appalachian Mountain Preservation Act would gradually prohibit Georgia coal consumers from using Central Appalachian mountaintop removal beginning in 2011. The bill is backed by environmental groups including Appalachian Voices but received strong opposition from POWER4Georgians.
Co-ops leave amid questions of corruption
In May 2009, Jackson EMC and Diverse Power announced they had left Power4Georgians because of the uncertainty over carbon emissions regulations. GreyStone Power and Excelsior EMC also withdrew in May.
Just one day before the withdrawals began, the Institute for Southern Studies released a report about possible corruption related to the project. In April 2009, law enforcement officers searched the homes of top officials with Cobb Electric Membership Corp. A grand-jury investigation is underway into charges of theft from Cobb EMC via a spin-off corporation called Cobb Energy. Dwight Brown, the CEO of both Cobb EMC and Cobb Energy and also the founder and manager of POWER4Georgians, is among those under investigation. The ISS report also cited the questionable hiring of a fully-owned subsidiary of Cobb Energy to construct the $2.2 billion plant. Subsidiary Allied Energy Services received the contract with no competitive bidding process, in spite of the fact that it has no experience building coal plants.
Power4Georgian Organizer Dwight Brown indicted
In January 2011, Dwight Brown, Chief Executive of Cobb EMC and the organizer of Power4Georgians, was indicted by the Cobb County District Attorney for theft and racketeering. Cobb EMC was already embroiled in litigation questioning the EMC's financial accountability to its members. Questions have also been raised about Cobb EMC’s involvement in the proposed construction of two coal-fired power plants - Washington Plant and the Ben Hill Plant - which could cost over $4 billion. As CEO of Cobb EMC and of Cobb Energy, Brown organized Power4Georgians, a corporation with five other EMCs, to build and operate the two coal-fired plants.
Four of the original ten EMCs pulled out of Brown’s Plant Washington project, citing high cost concerns, but under Dwight Brown's leadership, Cobb EMC proceeded. During the hearing on the Plant Washington air permit in October 2010, Dean Alford of Power4Georgians testified that Power4Georgians received a no-bid contract to develop the proposed coal-fired power plant. According to the Marietta Daily Journal, “the indictment alleges that Brown used Cobb Electric Membership Corporation as a piggybank to fund various operations and activities of Cobb Energy without approval by the cooperative’s members, as required in EMC’s bylaws.” It is estimated that the development of Plant Washington has cost $27 million to date, of which Cobb EMC paid a significant portion that has never been approved by the coop’s members.
Katherine Cummings, Director of the Fall-Line Alliance for Clean Energy (FACE) and a customer of Washington County EMC, a member of Power4Georgians, wondered, “Will Washington EMC be able to get its rate-payers’ money back from Dwight Brown’s Plant Washington scheme?”
Washington Plant permits in dispute
On April 8, 2010, the Environmental Protection Division issued final permits for operation of the Washington Plant, green-lighting construction of the $2.1 billion coal-fired power facility near Sandersville in middle Georgia.
Cobb Electric Membership Corporation (EMC) is joining five other state EMCs to build the 850-megawatt plant, which will supply electricity to an estimated 500,000 to 700,000 Georgia homes. The facility would be the first power generator owned by the six EMCs, which now purchase their energy from wholesalers, allowing them to own and operate their own plant and sell energy to themselves.
Power4Georgians worked for more than two years to obtain the permits.The plant will take about four years to complete after construction begins, which has not yet been determined, as Power4Geogians is waiting to see if anyone will challenge the issuance of the permits. There are 30 days since the date of the issuance of the permits to file a specific concern with a state administrative law judge, who would have about 150 days to consider the challenge. Georgians for Smart Energy and the Sierra Club are expected to file concerns.
On July 26, 2010, Administrative Law Judge Ronit Walker ruled that Georgia's environmental regulators had failed to properly review the proposed power plant's plan before giving it permission to take water from the Oconee River and use it in another river basin. The decision also struck down another water permit allowing Power4Georgians LLC to monitor discharged water at a retention basin instead of where it will ultimately flow back into the river. The ruling sends the disputed permits for the Washington Plant back to the state's Environmental Protection Division, lawyers said. The plant would take water from the Oconee River and pipe it 30 miles to the power plant site, which is in the Ogeechee River basin. In her ruling, the judge said that transfer should have triggered additional reviews required under state law.
Coal projects sponsored by POWER4Georgians
Articles and Resources
- "Co-ops Propose $2 Billion Coal-Fired Plant in Georgia", Reuters UK, Jan. 24, 2008.
- Brandon Wilson,"Ga. OKs Plant Washington construction" The Marietta Daily Journal, April 9, 2010.
- "power4georgians.com", Joker.com, accessed April 2008.
- "Georgia bill proposes moratorium on new coal plants," Reuters, February 4, 2009.
- Margaret Newkirk, "Bill would restrict coal power plants," Atlanta Journal-Constitution, February 4, 2009.
- David Markiewicz, "2 more co-ops drop out of coal plant group," Atlanta Journal-Constitution, May 19, 2009.
- Sue Sturgis "Ga. utilities pull out of coal plant project that faces questions of corruption," May 21, 2009.
- "Brown Indictment & Coal Plant Financial Concerns: Financial Concerns about Coal Plants Spread as Cobb EMC Chief Dwight Brown Is Indicted Brown’s Business Schemes Included Power4Georgians" cleanenergy.org, January 7, 2011.
- Ray Henry, "Judge strikes permits for proposed Ga. coal plant" Bloomsberg BusinessWeek, July 27, 2010.
Related SourceWatch Articles
- "Tracking New Coal-Fired Power Plants", National Energy Technology Lab, May 2007, page 18. (PDF)
- "Stopping the Coal Rush", Sierra Club, accessed January 2008. (This is a Sierra Club list of new coal plant proposals.)
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