"Clean Coal" CEO replaced due to millions in cost overruns, withholding documents from regulators
May 23, 2013
The Southern Company removed the CEO of Mississippi Power and appointed G. Edison Holland, an attorney, to lead the company, in an unexpected move earlier this week. Under the leadership of former CEO Ed Day, the company has seen costs continue to skyrocket for the Kemper County coal plant. The facilty was announced with a $2.4B price tag, but recent estimates in the Wall Street Journal this week have the costs estimated at $4.3B.
Mississippi Power has already run into roadblocks with rate increase requests with the state's utility regulators. Some of the cost overruns will have to be carried by the shareholders instead of ratepayers.
Magnolia Business Journal, a Mississippi business publication, reports that last week the Mississippi Public Service Commission (PSC) learned that Day had ordered documents containing details of cost overruns at the Kemper facility be withheld from the Commission.
Leonard Bentz, who chairs the Mississippi PSC and represents the area where Kemper is being built, told Mississippi Business Journal that work to uncover the truth on the cost overruns is not over.
EPD at odds with King America and concerned citizens
Wednesday, May 8, 2013
Monday's Savannah Morning News reported that employees at King America Finishing (KAF), a textile finishing plant in Screven County, have been told by their employer to drink bottled water while they are at work. This policy was put into place six months ago according to the newspaper. An attorney for the company, Meaghan Goodwin Boyd, told the paper in an email that the Environmental Protection Division (EPD) told the company to switch to bottled water.
EPD Director Jud Turner told the Savannah Morning News that his agency has not told KAF to use bottled drinking water.
The article goes on to report that KAF tested two wells on their property and found cadmium and phenanthrene (PAH) above acceptable levels, according to Turner. Both of these chemicals are toxic and can cause numerous health problems, including cancer and cardiovascular disease.
The problem with drinking water at KAF came a day before 200 citizens filled the Effingham Couty High School to ask the EPD to deny a permit to KAF for discharging fire retardant chemicals into the Ogeechee. Two years ago the state's largest fish kill in hisotry happened just downstream from an unpermited discharge pipe at KAF.
Ctizens have been adamant about the dangers to the water, fish, wildlife, and health of citizens, and have taken legal action against the EPD and KAF under the leadership of the Ogeechee Riverkeeper.
The Statesboro Herald reports that citizens told EPD officials that the state takes too long to responde to reported problems, that the lack of dead fish above the KAF pipe is a clear indication that the problem is the result of the discharge, and that the EPD does not listen to citizen requests. The paper reported that Connie Shreve, who owns a riverside canoe rental business, told EPD officials, “I think the EPD should be deleted,”Y’all are not doing your jobs.”
The public can submit comments about the permit until May 15. Comments may be mailed to the Environmental Protection Division at 4220 International Parkway, Suite 101, Atlanta, Georgia 30354, Attention: Jane Hendricks, or sent via email to EPDcomments@dnr.state.ga.us, with the words "NPDES permit reissuance King America Finishing (Dover Screven County)" in the subject line.
And then there were none
EMCs bail from Power4Georgians
May 2, 2013
Earlier this week Plant Washington developer Dean Alford announced that he now has no EMCs remaining in Power4Georgians, and that Taylor Energy Fund, LLC is the only identified partner remaining.
The Macon Telegraph and the Atlanta Business Chronicle both report that Alford has not shared any information on who is helping finance the plant, which has conservatively doubled in estimated costs. That figure does not include carbon control. According to EPA requirements and earlier legal filings, Alford has not met all the carbon pollution control exemption hurdles. Alford has said the plant has not modeled for meeting the standards which were announced in April 2012.
As costs continue to mount for coal fired energy, the questions also continue to grow about how Plant Washington will be able to sell power at rates which can compete with already low costs from natural gas, solar, and wind.
Earth Day and Tar Sands
April 22, 2013
The State Department will close comments on the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline this afternoon. It seems ironic that the deadline to speak out in opposition to one of the dirtiest means of producing energy lands on Earth Day.
Nebraska residents drove through a terrible winter storm last week and stood in the cold waiting to comment at the only public session scheduled for citizens. Those opposing the pipeline included farmers, faith leaders, business owners, parents, and grandparents. According to the Daily Kos the only support for the project came from Trans Canada officials, the oil in dusty, and the Chamber of Commerce.
Speak up TODAY by adding your name to 350.org's comments, which will be submitted to the Secretary of State.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, April 15, 2013
John Suttles, SELC,
Lisa Hamilton, Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis
Katherine Helms Cummings, FACE, 478-232-8010
Plant Washington has high hurdles to clear
Plant Washington developer Dean Alford has high hurdles to clear despite his insistence that he met EPA requirements for his coal-fired power plant by signing a contract for a boiler on Friday, April 12. Alford has not met all the EPA’s requirements, despite his statements to the contrary.
On April 13, 2012 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a proposed Greenhouse Gas (GHG) standard to control carbon emissions from new power plants. The proposed standard includes requirements for facilities to be grandfathered into the new standards as "transitional sources." The two requirements for transitional source status are that projects must have received full and final PSD permits before the standard was published in the Federal Register (April 13th, 2012), and that projects commence construction within 12 months of that date.
Plant Washington did not have a final permit until May 31, 2012, weeks after the EPA announced the GHG standard. John Suttles, an attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center, pointed to EPA’s May 17, 2012 filing with the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals regarding Power4Georgians’ claim to have had a final permit before the GHG standard was published. The EPA said "this assertion is incorrect, inasmuch as state administrative challenges to the [Power4Georgians] permit remain pending."
"If EPA accepts Power4Georgians' statement that they had a final permit, they would be taking a position inconsistent with what they told the D.C. court of appeals," Suttles said. “And in that case, we would strongly consider contesting EPA’s use of a ‘transitional source’ designation to exempt certain power producers from Clean Air Act standards. The ‘transitional source’ exemption diverges from past implementation of the Act.”
The costs of coal fueled power have soared since Plant Washington was announced, while power generated with natural gas, solar, and wind have dropped. Between December 2012 and February 2013 three proposed coal plants in Texas folded. The last to cancel, White Stallion, said very simply, "the presently low price of natural gas has made the price of electricity from a new coal fired generator uncompetitive at this time"
“With or without greenhouse gas regulations, Plant Washington is a bad investment,” said Lisa Hamilton, who studies power plant projects across the U.S. on behalf of the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis. “New coal-fired power plants simply cannot compete. Right now we’re seeing hundreds of communities throughout the Midwest struggling to survive the millions of dollars of projected losses they will sustain through 2024 as a result of their nearly $5 billion investment in the Prairie State coal-fired power plant in Illinois. After operating for less than a year, several communities have already tried to get out of their commitments to purchase power from the facility.”
Ongoing regulatory uncertainty and potential legal challenges continue to make Plant Washington a risky investment for ratepayers, Washington County taxpayers, and potential investors. Alford’s project is not a “done deal,” while continued efforts to stop the plant are certain.
Dead End Road for Plant Washington
Plant's Future Uncertain as Critical Deadline Approaches
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, April 11, 2013
Seth Gunning, Sierra Club, 404-434-9745
John Suttles, SELC, 919-967-1450
Lisa Hamilton, Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, (212) 729-9391
Katherine Helms Cummings, FACE, 478-232-8010
Amelia Shenstone, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, 339-223-0536
ATLANTA, GA - It’s already too late for developers to gamble further on the risky proposal for a middle-Georgia coal-fired power plant, according to consumer and environmental advocates. Developers of Plant Washington are scrambling to meet a looming April 13th construction deadline in an attempt to qualify for exemption from new EPA Clean Air Act pollution limits.
Plant Washington’s developer, Power4Georgians, did not meet the first of two criteria to be exempted from new Clean Air Act standard for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions – standards the plant cannot achieve – because it lacked a final and complete permit when the greenhouse gas rule was published. If Power4Georgians does not commence construction by Saturday, it will not meet the second criterion either. According to environmental groups, there is also significant uncertainty about the legality of EPA’s proposed exemption to the new standard.
John Suttles, an attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center, pointed to EPA’s May 17, 2012 filing with the D.C. Court of Appeals regarding Power4Georgians’ claim to have had a final permit before the GHG standard was published. The EPA said "this assertion is incorrect, inasmuch as state administrative challenges to the [Power4Georgians] permit remain pending."
"If EPA accepts Power4Georgians' statement that they had a final permit, they would be taking a position inconsistent with what they told the D.C. court of appeals," Suttles said. “Furthermore, we would strongly consider contesting EPA’s use of a ‘transitional source’ designation to exempt certain power producers from Clean Air Act standards. The ‘transitional source’ exemption diverges from past implementation of the Act.”
Even if EPA extends the April 13 deadline or revises the greenhouse gas rule entirely, the uncertainty about what standards the plant will have to meet and the possibility of another protracted legal battle brought by local resident and state environmental groups make the future dim for Plant Washington.
“We suspect that investment in Plant Washington is incredibly unappealing to would-be financiers given the increasing uncertainty of greenhouse gas regulations and existing financial risk of constructing a merchant coal plant in today’s market,” said Amelia Shenstone, an organizer with the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. “Continuing to develop Plant Washington is quite simply throwing good money after bad.”
Power4Georgians hopes to construct the plant and sell its power to utilities. However, it will only recoup investments if the plant produces power cheap enough for utilities to buy, which seems increasingly unlikely at a time of record low natural gas prices. Katherine Helms Cummings, a Washington County resident and director of the local Fall-Line Alliance for a Clean Environment, wants to avoid financial hazards for Washington County taxpayers, who will be at risk if the Industrial Development Authority issues bonds on behalf of Power4Georgians.
“This issue with the greenhouse gas standard is just another in a long line of questionable financial dealings that make Plant Washington a bad idea,” Cummings said. “Power4Georgians never developed a financial pro-forma for the project, it chose a developer who has never built a coal plant in a no-bid process, and its cost estimates haven’t been revised since 2008 despite similar plants seeing costs triple. All of the utility co-ops that originally financed the projects withdrew their funding because of the uncertain cost, despite their earlier plans to own and operate the plant.
“With or without greenhouse gas regulations, Plant Washington is a bad investment,” said Lisa Hamilton, who studies power plant projects across the U.S. on behalf of the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis. “New coal-fired power plants simply cannot compete. Right now we’re seeing hundreds of communities throughout the Midwest struggling to survive the millions of dollars of projected losses they will sustain through 2024 as a result of their nearly $5 billion investment in the Prairie State coal-fired power plant in Illinois. After operating for less than a year, several communities have already tried to get out of their commitments to purchase power from the facility. Now is a good time for Power4Georgians to drop Plant Washington for good and avoid the same mistakes.”
"It's time to cancel Plant Washington before we dig this hole any deeper, concluded Cummings.
Explosion closes coal-fired Plant Bowen
April 5, 2013
photo by the Atlanta Journal Constitution
Note the playground and school bus next to the damaged coal plant
Late yesterday afternoon an explosion at Plant Bowen in Bartow County rocked nearby homes and caused the plant to be shut down. The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that fortunately there were no serious injuries.
Georgia Power is required to have access to reserve power resources, so customers should not experience any outages.
It is important to remember that Plant Washington's waste would include mercury and other heavy metals. What would happen to the dry waste stored at the plant site in the event of an explosion or other accident? Would local wells risk additional exposure to these cancer causing metals? Could the dry coal ash waste, stored in open piles just 1/4 mile from Williamson Swamp Creek, be scattered to nearby homes and streams in an accident?
Will volunteer firefighters be called out to help in the event of an accident at Plant Washington? How will they be adequately protected from exposure to the chemicals and waste at the plant? Will they be adequately trained? Is there sufficient firefighting equipment in our area for a fire at a coal plant?
Do WEMC and local leaders really want to put all of us at risk?
April deadline looms but developer ignores critical factors
April 4, 2013
The Macon Telegraph has an interesting article about deadlines Plant Washington developer Dean Alford believes apply to his project. An analysis of the requirements, and how they apply to Plant Washington can be found in an update on the SACE web site.
Alford continues to talk about meeting the commence construction deadline of April 12, but he fails to acknowledge that his project is not exempt from the carbon pollution rule tied to April 12. As the EPA made very clear when it announced its proposed rule almost a year ago, a facility must have had a final permit when the rule was announced. SACE addressed the lack of a final permit in a posting on its web site last year under Coal-fired Plant Ben Hill Cancelled
Plant Washington was weeks away from a final permit when the carbon rule was announced (see the last post at the bottom of this page for background information).
Besides the fact that Alford didn't have a final permit as required last April, he has yet to demonstrate that he has a boiler design approved by the EPA, or that P4G has “entered into binding agreements or contractual obligations which cannot be canceled without a substantial loss.”
Such a contract will require millions of dollars. Without any announcements about power purchase agreements, financing, or an owner for the facility, it doesn't seem likely that Alford will meet the April 12 deadline.
It bears repeating, Plant Washington did not meet the final permit requirement the EPA set last year when it announced the carbon rule, and therefore, regardless of whether they have begun work on constructing the plant, it will have to meet the carbon regulations.
Judge decides in favor of polluters
March 20, 2013
The EPD doesn't have to stop King America Finishing from the unpermitted discharge of fire retardants into the Ogeechee River. The Savannah Morning News quotes attorney Don Stack, who, along with Hutton Brown at GreenLaw, represents the Ogeechee Riverkeeper saying, "Prevention of pollution should be the goal of all citizens of the State. Those efforts should be led by EPD. Instead the State hinders the efforts of those most affected. That is reprehensible.”
The ruling, handed down by Spalding County Superior Court Judge Christopher C Edwards, includes that the Riverkeeper lacked standing in the case and instead should pursue legal action through a Clean Water Act suit.
The comments from the newspaper's readers provide citizen reactions to the ruling.
Cobb EMC members still in court
March 19, 2013
Problems remain at Cobb EMC as members have taken the co-op to court concerning the disbursement of capital to both current and former owner/members. Read more here.
Dublin High School installing 1MW of solar panels
March 7, 2013
Dublin High School in nearby Laurens County will reduce operating costs (and pollution emission from fossil fuel powered electricity plants) by installing 4,000 solar panels on the city's high school. The installation will reduce the school's energy costs by 40 percent.
Dublin school officials say that the lower energy costs will allow the system to reduce furlough days to a minimum and save teaching jobs.
Bonds issued by the Dublin-Laurens County Development Authority will help fund this part of the high school construction plan. The panels will be manufactured by MAGE, a German owned company which located its North American headquarters in Dublin a few years ago.
Washington County is also construction new facilities for the county's high school. Questions about renewable energy use there have been sent to the Superintendent Dr. Donna Hinton and Board of Education Chair Lamar Binion. Check back here for updates on their responses.
A ground breaking ceremony will be held on Monday, March 11 at 3:00 p.m. at the school at 1127 Hillcrest Parkway (behind the Dublin Mall). The public is invited to attend.
Legislation protects EMC customers across Georgia
Backroom deals at EMCs have already cost customers
March 6, 2013
ATLANTA – A new bill filed in the Georgia House of Representatives could protect millions of Georgians from unnecessary electricity rate increases by limiting the ability of Georgia’s Electric Membership Cooperatives (EMCs) to make unscrutinized sweetheart deals with power providers, says Georgians for Smart Energy, a coalition of consumer advocacy and environmental groups. House Bill 500, introduced by State Representative Karla Drenner (D-Avondale Estates), would require the Georgia Public Service Commission to approve long-term power purchase agreement contracts between wholesale power producers and Georgia’s Electric Membership Cooperatives.
“Cobb EMC members were forced to take their own co-op to court in order to return decision making and open door operations to the customer-members who own the company,” said Washington EMC member Cathy Mayberry. “EMC customers across Georgia often find ourselves locked out of EMC decision-making by policies which prevent attendance at board meetings, withhold meeting minutes and annual financial statements from members, and which allow power purchasing decisions to be made outside of competitive bidding processes. These practices are hurting the pocketbooks of rural EMC members.”
Before closed-door operations officially ended at Cobb EMC, a sweetheart deal was made which cost customers at ten Georgia EMCs over $25 million. The contract, between EMC members of the Power4Georgians conglomerate and former Cobb Energy affiliate Allied Energy Services, put EMC ratepayers on the hook for the development of two $2.1 billion coal-fired power plants. All ten EMCs eventually cut funding for the project after information about the high cost of the proposed projects became public, and revelations of murky financial dealings led to the indictment of Cobb Energy CEO Dwight Brown.
"Georgia's EMCs have shown that they can't be trusted to allow necessary member oversight in their decision making. This bill aids EMC members by ensuring that expensive, long-term contracts are reviewed by the Public Service Commission. This way, members will know that their pocketbooks are being protected," says Don Dressel, a Cobb EMC member.
Rep Mack Jackson, 404,656.0314, and Rep Rusty Kidd 404.656.0202 represent the WEMC service area in the Georgia House. A full list of House members is here http://www.house.ga.gov/Representatives/en-US/HouseMembersList.aspx
“You need to change your name to EDD, Environmental Destruction Division"
March 6, 2013
Last night citizens filled the Effingham High School to comment on a proposed consent order resulting from the largest fish kill in Georgia's history almost two years ago. The chemicals dumped into the Ogeechee River were traced to King America Finishing (KAF) in Screven County. The Illinois based company has continued to dump fire retardant chemicals into the river without a permit.
The Savannah Morning News coverage includes comments made by Hubert Sapp, who has lived on the Ogeechee for 70 years. The paper reports that Sapp told the Environmental Protection Division, “You need to change your name to EDD, Environmental Destruction Division."
Another resident, Ben Anderson, who also lives on the river, said he isn't interested in settlements. He told EPD officials Jim Ussery and Ben Foisy, "I want my river back." EPD staffers don't comment or answer questions during these public sessions.
In addition to the public comment session last night, GreenLaw filed a brief requested by Spalding County Superior Court Judge Chris Edwards concerning filings which would require Jud Turner, Director of the EPD, to shut down the unpermitted discharges King America Finishing has continued to dump into the Ogeechee. The filing included this:
1. It is illegal under the (Clean Water Act) to discharge pollution without a permit.
2. The Director (Jud Turner) is obligated to enforce that rule.
3. The Director is empowered to revoke KAF’s ability to operate.
4. KAF is discharging without a permit.
5. The Director has done nothing to cause a cessation of this illegal discharge.
Attorneys for the EPD must respond next week.
Dominion Energy power up Davisboro solar farm in December 2013
March 5, 2013
Dominion Energy, a Virginia based customer which provides electricity to consumers across 15 states, has bought the 10MW solar farm project, Azalea Solar, in Davisboro, GA. Currently all the power it will produce is contracted with Cobb EMC. That co-op serves almost 200,000 customers in Marietta and surrounding areas.
Over five years ago Cobb EMC was the lead co-op in developing coal-fired Plant Washington, just up the road from Azalea Solar. The coal-plant developer Dean Alford, who was a Vice-President at Cobb Energy, a former for-profit part of Cobb EMC, secured the coal project in a no-bid contract. Plant Washington supporters have seen years of delays, abandonment by six electric co-ops, mounting costs for both construction and operation, record low prices for natural gas, reduced costs for both wind and solar power, and a surplus of cheap electricity in Georgia.
Oddly enough, Washington EMC would only buy about 10MW of power if Plant Washington ever goes online, which is exactly the same amount of power Dominion will generate without dirtying our air, soaking up 16M gallons of fresh water each day, and impacting the health of our families.
Cobb EMC leading in better co-op governance
February 22, 2013
Cobb EMC issued a press release today detailing the significant improvements the co-op has made since an all-new Board of Directors was elected, a new CEO was hired to replace Dwight Brown, and Cobb Energy, a for-profit company, was liquidated. These changes raise questions about why Washington EMC can't do the same. Read more here.
FACE represented at nation's largest Climate Change Rally
February 20, 2013
Last weekend people from across North America came together in the largest Climate Change rally in our country's history, Forward on Climate Change.
FACE's Executive Director Katherine Helms Cummings reached into her own pocket so she could join Georgians in Washington DC for this event, which drew 40,000 people on a bitter cold day. Two buses went from Atlanta, and others from southwest Georgia and Savannah came by train.
A landscaper from Georgia attended because of her passion for air and water. Others came because they are concerned about the coal burned in our state. Some came because they want to promote increased use of renewable energy not only in our state, but across the country.
You can read more about what FACE's Executive Director experienced at Forward on Climate Change on her personal blog.
"the presently low price of natural gas has made the price of electricity from a new coal fired generator uncompetitive at this time."
February 20, 2013
Last week Power4Georgians lost a partner who has been the "lead" company in filings concerning Environmental Protection Agency emission regulations. White Stallion Energy announced it was canceling a 1200MW coal plant it proposed in 2008, saying, "the presently low price of natural gas has made the price of electricity from a new coal fired generator uncompetitive at this time."
Not only has White Stallion abandoned its project, it used the very same economic and financial points FACE and our partners have argued in opposing Plant Washington: the market isn't right for new coal. There are other energy resources, including natural gas, solar, and wind, which are cheaper to use. Renewables continue to drop in cost for energy production and their use is increasing. Texas relied on wind power for 20 percent of its electricity during peak use days last summer. Using other fuels, coupled with low power prices and a surplus of energy on the grid made coal too expensive.
No taxpayer backed bonds or EMC money for Plant Washington
February 18, 2013
This letter to the editor was submitted to weekly and daily papers in Georgia:
The proposed White Stallion Energy Center, a 1200 MW coal-fired power plant similar to Plant Washington, was officially canceled last week. A White Stallion spokesman said that "the presently low price of natural gas has made the price of electricity from a new coal fired generator uncompetitive at this time."
This echoes what FACE and Georgians for Smart Energy have been saying since Dean Alford and Power4Georgians announced Plant Washington over five years ago. For a host of economic reasons (to say nothing of its many adverse impacts on health and the environment), coal is no longer a good bet. In addition to record low prices for natural gas, those reasons include increasing costs of building and operating coal plants, decreasing costs for solar and wind energy, decreased demand for power generally, and greater energy efficiency.
With each passing year, the case for coal has only become less compelling. In over a 150 cases, proposed new coal plants have been canceled, abandoned or put on hold because their developers just couldn't make the math work. While Power4Georgians has yet to make any formal announcement, Plant Washington has already lost its biggest backers, most recently Cobb EMC.
Unfortunately, our local leaders seem content to prolong the inevitable while the clean energy train leaves the station. Washington County Commissioners should announce they will not put taxpayers at risk with bonds for Plant Washington. And Washington EMC leaders should quit Power4Georgians and withdraw from Plant Washington while they still have the chance to make sensible low-cost investments in clean and renewable energy.
We need to join the clean renewable energy team while the draft is still open.
FACE Executive Director
Washington EMC member
GA Power says it doesn't need new coal plants for power
February 13, 2013
GA Power submitted a 20 year energy plan to the Public Service Commission for review and approval recently, and the company's position on coal, and new coal in particular, raises yet more questions about why local EMC leaders continue to insist that Plant Washington is a good investment.
GA Power is required to have access to surplus energy as part of its planning, so the long and short range projections include increased demands due to weather, industrial use, etc. The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that earlier concerns about tougher emission standards are no longer a problem for GA Power.
GA Power will be closing some plants, converting others to natural gas, and increasing renewable energy use, without adding big rate increases. The company is guaranteed through state legislation to recover the costs of providing power across the state and make a profit.
Greg Roberts, Vice-President of Pricing and Planning with GA Power told the AJC,“(Energy efficiency) is kind of our first resource.”
If there is surplus cheap electricity on the market, and GA Power is planning 20 years down the road (Washington EMC buys power from GA Power), there are still more holes in the argument in support of Plant Washington.
Estimates on the project conservatively ring in at $4.2B, twice the original estimate five years ago. That estimate didn't include a pro forma business analysis, raising more concerns about the soaring costs construction along would require. No one from WEMC has released a projected rate for power if the plant is ever built.
Georgia tops a national list, again
February 6, 2013
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a ranking of facilities emitting carbon, or greenhouse gases (GHG), and once again Georgia leads the list. The Southern Company nabbed the top two listings in the country for GHG pollution: Plant Scherer in Juliette, GA was first and Plant Miller in Quinton, AL was second.
Plant Scherer has a lock on leading the country in carbon pollution. This is only the second time the EPA has released a report like this, and both times Scherer has brought home first place to GA Power. Over 8,000 facilities across nine industrial sectors were reviewed. Coal plants contribute the most carbon pollution to our atmosphere.
Scherer emitted 22 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, the primary GHG in 2011. Carbon based emissions are known to significantly contribute to climate change (global warming). The survey also stated that just four percent of the facilities reviewed produced 57 percent of the 2011 reported carbon pollution in our country.
The Miami Herald quoted Peter Zalzal, an attorney for the Environmental Defense Fund, who said, "We know where the largest sources are. We know where we have to apply smart solutions." Energy efficiency, conservation, and switching to renewable energy fuels like wind and sun are gaining in cost effectiveness in efforts to reduce GHG levels. In long-range plans submitted by Georgia Power to the Public Service Commission last week, the power company plans to reduce its reliance on coal and oil significantly in the next few years.
Could suits "send a real chill up the spines of utility executives everywhere"?
February 1, 2013
Attorneys for Juliette citizens filed multiple law suits against Georgia Power, which is the primary owner and operator of Plant Scherer, and Vulcan Materials, a quarry in the Juliette community.
Juliette citizen Gary Sharp, one of the citizens included in the suits, has lived near the coal plant and its unlined coal ash waste ponds for 15 years according to today's Macon Telegraph. Sharp, a non-smoker, is being treated for lung cancer now. He told the newspaper that a gray mud is being hauled out of the plant and spread in front of his home on Hwy 87. Rental property Sharp owns remains empty because he feels an obligation to tell renters about possible water contamination in the well water there.
The lawsuits include claims of racketeering, battery, fraud, negligence. Vulcan Materials says its operations are not responsible for the problems detailed in the filings. Georgia Power said it had not seen the lawsuits but follows all monitoring requirements (coal ash waste ponds are not required to be lined. They are not monitored by state or federal agencies, and instead are self-monitored by Georgia Power).
Earthjustice attorney Abigail Dillen told the Telegraph, “If they (the citizens) prevail on this, I think it would send a real chill up the spines of utility executives everywhere,” Dillen said. “It could be transformative.”
Citizens across the country, in addition to environmental, health, and faith leaders have been waiting on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to announce a decision declaring coal ash waste as a hazardous waste. Current regulations are less stringent that those for household garbage. The Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) said that the EPA has found that unlined ponds increase cancer risks 900 times higher than acceptable levels.
The Southeast, and Georgia in particular, are pockmarked with coal ash waste storage sites. Find out if you live, work, fish, or vacation near coal ash waste.
Bryan Adams, with Gatreaux and Adams in Macon, is partnering with New York law firm Napoli Bern Ripka Shkolnik LLP in the filings. The New York firm represented claimants in suits for recovery workers at the World Trade Center after September 11. Reports in award figures for those suits vary from $850M-$1B.
The Telegraph reports that the two firms have 100 clients in Juliette and will file more lawsuits in the coming weeks, expecting to file a total of 50 lawsuits on behalf of their clients.
Plant Scherer neighbors filing law suits today
January 31, 2013
Last spring Juliette citizens living near Plant Scherer were the focus of news coverage concerning high rates of cancer and other serious illnesses. At the same time, as reported by CNN, Georgia Power was buying houses in the neighborhood and immediately sealing the wells.
After the CNN coverage, Georgia Department of Public Health officials began talking with citizens. As reported by the Macon Telegraph, Carla Coley, Environmental Director for the North Central Health District, told the Telegraph when the question of contamination from the coal ash ponds was raised by citizens, “I did not give it very much thought after that, because I thought, ‘that (pond’s) going to be lined anyway and be heavily regulated.' "
In fact the coal ash ponds at Scherer are not lined, and groundwater monitoring near them isn't required by state or federal agencies. The public health department said more testing is needed to determine if the water problems are a result of contamination from Scherer's acres of coal ash waste or the nearby Vulcan Minerals quarry.
Today the Telegraph and other Macon media report that Gautreaux & Adams, a Macon law firm, working with Napoli Bern Ripka Shkolnik & Associates LLP, a New York firm that handles environmental cases, will file suits on behalf of local citizens targeting Georgia Power and Vulcan Materials.
Effingham County Commissioner tells EPD Director that citizens are still boiling water after fish kill
Environmental Protection Division (EPD) director Jud Turner told Effingham County leaders yesterday he knows the department he leads has "little public credibility," according to today's Savannah Morning News.
Effingham County Commissioner Steve Mason told Turner that people living even as far away as one mile from the Ogeechee River are boiling water, and aren't fishing the river any longer.
The paper reports that the state's largest fish kill almost two years ago was the result of King America Finishing (KAF) discharging flame retardant chemicals into river. The paper doesn't point out that KAF had been dumping those chemicals for years, and that the dumping was undetected when EPD staff did site inspections.
Legal action is still pending concerning fines, penalties, and permits.
Georgia Power reduces coal use by 23 percent in five years
January 28, 2013
The Atlanta Journal Constitution (AJC) reported yesterday that in the last five years Georgia Power has reduced its reliance on coal as a fuel source for generating electricity by a whopping 23 percent. Georgia Power is planning on shuttering 15 coal and oil units in 215 while it continues to add natural gas, solar, and some wind to its fuel mix.
The AJC reports that coal is increasingly expensive to burn with tighter air emission standards cutting pollution levels. A new coal plant under construction by Georgia Power's sister company Mississippi Power, is projected to cost half a billion dollars more than originally budgeted, ringing in at $2.8B now. Anticipated final costs haven't been announced because the plant isn't completed and online yet.
This Thursday Georgia Power is expected to release its 20 year energy plan. Company CEO Paul Bowers has said recently that a more diverse fuel mix is critical to future operations.
North Carolina Governor supports offshore wind power
January 25, 2013
Yesterday in Raleigh Governor Pat McCrory came out in support of offshore wind power for his state. During the 2012 campaign McCrory had been a proponent of fracking in the state, but is quoted in the Raleigh News and Observer saying, "North Carolina's offshore winds could stimulate $22 billion in new economic activity and create up to 10,000 jobs. Up to 3,000 North Carolina jobs are already tied to the wind industry as manufacturers produce cables for power transmission, steel plates used in turbine towers and fiberglass for blades"
Georgia has companies manufacturing wind and solar power components here but large scale use of renewable energy is stymied by Georgia Power, Governor Deal, and members of the General Assembly. Numerous reports have been released demonstrating ample capacity for using both types of energy resources for power production, including reports by Georgia Tech Professor and Nobel Laureate Dr. Marilyn Brown.
EPA's power to set air standards upheld by Supreme Court
January 23, 2013
The Supreme Court refused to hear a case brought by a copper smelting company that objects to tougher sulfur dioxide emission limits set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Earlier the D.C. Circuit Court upheld the air standards and said that the EPA had not acted arbitrarily or unreasonably in the limits it established according to the Reuters News Service.
In Monday's Inaugural Speech President Obama specifically addressed Climate Change and his administration's plan to work on reducing reliance on fossil fuels.
Coal "loses crown" as king of electricity fuel source
January 23, 2013
photo from WBUR, AFP/Getty Images
Georgia Power's decision to reduce its use of coal and oil for power production isn't just making headlines in our state. National media outlets are providing plenty of air time and space to cover this fundamental shift in how the company which controls the grid in our state will supply power to customers.
WBUR in Boston explored the reasons behind coal's loss of favor as a fuel source, which includes record low prices for natural gas, more stringent emission regulations for coal plants, and reduced demand for power in general.
Industry experts aren't swayed by FOX News host and "clean coal"
January 17, 2013
This segment from a FOX Business News broadcast just won't go away. It was broadcast on the heels of the announcement by Georgia Power to darkened 10 coal units by the end of 2015 and continues to circulate.
Despite the FOX host's best efforts, neither of the energy experts invited to comment would support any part of "clean coal," and in fact expand on the multiple ways that coal is dirty.
Power4Georgians loses another court battle
January 9, 2013
Power4Georgians has suffered yet another defeat in court. Dean Alford, Plant Washington's developer, along with five other proposed coal plants, lost in their efforts to require the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to finalize revised mercury and air toxins regulations before March.
Bloomberg BNA reports that the developers can't secure financing for their projects until the rule is finalized. Project developers must also beat an April 12, 2013 deadline concerning carbon pollution regulations.
The EPA, in an earlier filing in the spring of 2012, clearly stated that Plant Washington did not have final permits when the carbon regulations were released, which means that the EPA may very well not include the facility in the list of projects exempt from carbon controls.
Alford has not included carbon controls in any modeling for the project. Conservative estimates for construction are just below $4B now, and that figure does not include carbon emission controls.
GA Power to close 10 coal units, including Plant Branch!
January 8, 2013
Yesterday Georgia Power announced that it will close 10 coal burning units, including the entire facility at Plant Branch. Two units are already scheduled to be shuttered there at the end at this year. Taking the other two units offline will require approval by the Georgia Public Service Commission.
The Atlanta Journal Constitution coverage included this, "By law, the company is allowed to recoup money for materials and supplies that cannot be used once power units are shut down, which means the utility eventually could profit from closing additional coal and oil units."
Georgia Power spokesman Mark Williams told the Macon Telegraph that the company plans to handle the 229 employees at Plant Branch with job offers in other locations or through retirement.
Plant Branch listed as a "High Hazard" for coal ash waste contamination
December 12, 2012
Coal ash waste is filled with heavy metals and toxins which never go away, evaporate, or break down into a safer form. It is stored in dry landfills, like the one that is proposed for Plant Washington, or in huge coal ash ponds, like the one at Plant Branch on Lake Sinclair.
Less than a year after Plant Washington was announced residents in Tennessee experienced the worse coal ash pond disaster in our country's history. Residents in Georgia also worry about the safety of coal ash storage in our state. Concerns are often raised about the ponds at Plant Branch and the fact that the state's Environmental Protection Division does not have strict oversight and inspection requirements in place to protect citizens, water, or wildlife from these wastes.
Plant Branch, which is owned by Georgia Power, is listed as a High Danger
Dam Hazard site in a new information and mapping resource released by the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE). Data from the Energy Information Agency and the Environmental Protection Division spell out the dangers of dam breakage and the loss of life which could result at Plant Branch as well as other coal ash storage sites in our region.
Coal project cancelled in Texas
December 12, 2012
Last week yet another proposed coal plant was cancelled, this time in Texas! The Limestone 3 project was announced in 2006 by NRG Texas Energy. A press release included, "As of December 2012, the majority of these proposals have been cancelled, due to the changing economics of coal plants, the growth of wind energy in the state, and because of legal challenges and grassroots opposition from Sierra Club and allied groups across Texas. Had NRG chosen to build the Limestone 3 project, the plant would have been a major new source of pollution upwind of Dallas, and the investment of billions in coal would have crowded out new clean energy projects from moving forward."
These are some of the very points opponents of Plant Washington have raised since the Washington EMC backed project was announced almost five years ago. To date Plant Washington has suffered setback after setback.
Georgia leads country in outdated coal plants
November 15, 2012
A new report ranks Georgia as the state with the most outdated coal-fired coal plant units. The Union of Concerned Scientists and the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) released Ripe for Retirement, which ranks Georgia as the state with the most coal units ready for retirement.
Plant Scherer near Macon, which is owned by the Southern Company, leads the country in carbon pollution. It is followed by Plant Bowen near Cartersville and Plant Miller in eastern Alabama. All three facilities are owned by the Southern Company. Tougher carbon emission rules were announced in early April by the Environmental Protection Agency and are expected to be finalized in the spring of next year.
Ripe for Retirement includes a comparison of fuel sources, energy production costs, and the impact on ratepayers. The Union of Concerned Scientists also reported on water use and electricity generation in November of last year.
Ogeechee River leads 2012 Dirty Dozen List
November 14, 2012
The Georgia Water Coalition released its annual Dirty Dozen list of impaired or threatened rivers and waterways. The Ogeechee River leads the list. In addition to mercury levels which exceed Federal standards, the river has been the victim of unpermitted dumping by King America Finishing (see news article below).
The report points to political cronyism and reduced funding for the state's Environmental Protection Division. The list also includes the Savannah Altamaha, and Chattahoochee rivers.
Does DC Court ruling put an end to the Coal Rush and Plant Washington?
June 27, 2012
The U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, DC ruled today that the EPA's regulation of carbon pollution (greenhouse gas or GHG) is enforceable and that opponents cannot challenge it in court.
Bloomberg News coverage of the decision states that carbon pollution producers, which are primarily coal fired power plants, will now be required to reduce their emissions. The rule applies to motor vehicle exhaust, new coal fired power plants, and other industrial sources.
This ruling comes about five weeks (May 15, 2012) after attorneys for the EPA filed in response to efforts to overturn the Mercury and Air Toxins rule (MATS). Of particular interest to those following Plant Washington, the filing (see page 12) includes this:
"The Power 4 Georgians’ (“P4G”) Project (Case No. 12-1184): Movants submit a declaration stating that “as of April 9, 2012, P4G has a final PSD permit and all other required permit approvals necessary to commence construction of Plant Washington.” Mot. Ex. H ¶ 5. This assertion is incorrect, inasmuch as state administrative challenges to the P4G permit remain pending. See Settlement Agreement, EPA Ex. 4 at 2-4 (reciting status of administrative litigation). Pursuant to a settlement agreement entered into between P4G and permit challengers that was executed by P4G on April 25, 2012, that administrative litigation will not be dismissed unless and until P4G applies for and obtains a permit amendment that would require the plant to comply with the MATS Rule’s standards immediately upon start up, as opposed to possibly having up to eight years to comply with the standards. Id. at 5 (requiring P4G to obtain a permit amendment that requires compliance with 40 C.F.R. Part 63, Subpart UUUUU upon start up); P4G Opposition to Motion for Summary Determination at 11-15, EPA Ex. 5 (acknowledging state could allow source up to eight years to comply with MATS standards pursuant to 40 C.F.R. § 63.44(b)(2)).6 The outcome and timing of further administrative proceedings is uncertain. (emphasis added)
6. In other words, two days before P4G filed a motion in this Court claiming that having to comply immediately with the promulgated standards for new EGUs causes P4G irreparable harm, P4G entered into a settlement agreement to resolve state administrative litigation pursuant to which it voluntarily agreed to comply with these same new source standards years sooner than it might have otherwise had to. (the word sooner was in italics in the filing, bold font added here)"
Now Plant Washington has even higher hurdles to clear. P4G bargained that the carbon pollution rules wouldn't be announced before it had a final permit, but instead, as the EPA filing indicates, there wasn't a final permit so the plant will have to meet the now upheld carbon pollution emission rules at start up.
Estimated costs for the plant now reach at least $3.9B, and that figure, almost twice what Dean Alford and Washington EMC leaders announced 4.5 years ago, doesn't include any carbon control costs.