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U.S. Court of Appeals upholds strict air standards for coal plants
April 15, 2014

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld the Mercury and Air Toxins Standards (MATS) for power plants today, which will help protect the health of citizens across the country. The standards, years in the making, will reduce mercury, arsenic, lead, and other toxic emissions from power plants.

John Suttles. an attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center,
represented the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Lung Association, American Nurses Association, American Public Health Association, and the Physicians for Social Responsibility as interveners in the case. Suttles released the following statement:

"Today’s decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals secures critically important safeguards for people’s health, particularly in the Southeast, where people are vulnerable to some of the largest concentrations of coal-fired power plants in the country.  Coal plants are among the largest sources of toxic pollution into the air we breathe.”

“Today’s decision is a great result for clean air and the health of families across the Southeast.  It assures that one of the biggest unregulated sources of toxic air pollution must finally limit their emissions of toxic mercury, lead, arsenic, acid gases, and other heavy metals.”

“Families in Atlanta and Richmond—cities that suffer from  some of the highest levels of toxic air pollution from coal plants in the country— as well as families across the Southeast will be able breathe easier with limits on toxic pollution finally in place.”

The Southern Environmental Law Center represents FACE.

Um, no. Not Really

April 15, 2014

Submitted to newspapers in the Washington EMC service area

To the Editor:

There is a critical error of fact in a press release issued by Power 4 Georgians last week. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has NOT stated that Plant Washington is exempt from any of the proposed carbon, or greenhouse gas (GHG) rules proposed by the agency, for existing or new power plants. In fact, it has become even clearer that, if built, Plant Washington will be subject to carbon pollution standards.  The only question is how protective those standards will be.

Plant Washington’s developer Power4Georgians has requested yet another extension from Georgia’s Environmental Protection Agency for his dinosaur-fuel based project. Southern Environmental Law Center attorney John Suttles commented that, “If Power 4 Georgians commenced construction a year ago like they said, they wouldn’t need additional permit extensions.”

Power4Georgians is choosing to delay construction.

With no announced Power Purchase Agreements or billions in required financing announced, of course the project requires extensions. If the project was fully funded and customers were waiting for power, wouldn’t the plant already be under construction?

The arguments against Plant Washington continue to grow larger and stronger with time. More energy producers are switching to renewable fuel sources due to reduced costs. Ratepayers are demanding more power produced by sunshine and wind. Major financiers have abandoned coal projects. A similarly speculative project, the Longview Power Plant in Maidsville, West Virginia, began operations in December 2011 and filed for bankruptcy less than two years later.  Meanwhile, ratepayers for power plants like the Prairie State Energy Campus have seen their monthly bills go up by as much as 51 percent due to the soaring costs of coal plants.

We’ve never needed Plant Washington in the first place. If you don’t believe me, drive out to the 10 megawatt solar farm in Davisboro and see where Cobb EMC in Marietta is buying clean, affordable electricity generated right here in our own community.

Katherine Cummings
FACE Executive Director
Washington EMC owner/member

Chamber of Commerce on Plant Washington: Support "dwindling"
April 14. 2014

Today's Macon Telegraph includes an article on Plant Washington which includes Power4Georgian's (P4G) former employee Charles Lee saying this about the likelihood of Plant Washington being built, “the number of us who are still encouraged by that possibility are dwindling...." Lee now leads the Washington County Chamber of Commerce and the Industrial Development Authority.

P4G has requested a permit extension from the state's Envrironmental Protection Division (EPD). The Telegraph reports that in September Dean Alford submitted a letter to the EPD which said P4G had been unable to complete the design of the boiler or commence construction.

In November Alford submitted another letter to the EPD stating that the project is in a "difficult position" according to the Macon paper.

In the mean time, the solar plant in Davisboro will hold a ribbon cutting on May 2nd. That facility is sending all of the power it can produce to Cobb EMC, which was the lead EMC in proposing Plant Washington over six years ago. Cobb EMC abandoned Plant Washington over 2.5 years ago, which meant the project lost it's greatest source of funding.

Artist organizes Coal Ash Wednesday
March 5, 2014

North Carolina artist Kathy Clark is urging the public to observe Coal Ash Wednesday today, regardless of whether they also observe Ash Wednesday. Clark, along with other Duke Energy customers, is angry about the recent coal ash spill in the Dan River.

Coal Ash Wednesday focuses on reducing electric power use today, and using no power, or a bar minimum, from 7:00-7:30 pm. Even if you aren't a Duke Energy customer (or live in a different time zone), this could be a challenging way to reconsider how each of us use power, and how we can consume less of it.

Georgia Organics features FACE Board Member Lyle Lansdell
February 24, 2014

FACE's own Lyle Lansdell is featured in this month's Georgia Organics. Lyle retired from a career in public health and moved back to her family's farm near the Ridge Road School. Her farm includes newly restored buildings in addition to a vibrant and growing (no pun intended) organic farm.

Georgia Trend focuses on Washington County
February 24, 2014

This month's issue of Georgia Trend includes an article on Washington County. The article features Washington County Chamber of Commerce President Charles Lee standing in front of the solar farm near Davisboro, not in the shadows of a new coal plant.

Coal ash spill from retired plant pollutes water supplies
February 5, 2014

Coal ash waste from the Dan River Power Station near Eden, North Carolina spilled into the Dan River last Sunday. The LA Times reports that Duke Energy, which owns the retired plant, did not inform the public about the spill until Monday, even though 50,000-82,000 tons of coal ash waste, and 24M-27M gallons of water from the coal ash pond, had poured into the river.


Catawba Riverkeeper photo, six inches of
coal ash waste top sediment in the river on
the left, while uncontaminated soil is on the right.


The spill has not been contained yet. Riverkeepers and Waterkeepers have been collecting water and soil samples for testing.

Plant Washington will store coal ash waste 1/4 mile from Williamson Swamp Creek, which flows into the Ogeechee River. The area also serves as a groundwater recharge area for local wells.

Dwight Brown back in court hoping for indictments to be dismissed
February 5, 2014

Former Cobb EMC CEO Dwight Brown wasn't in the courtroom Monday when his attorney, former gov Roy Barnes, argued before the State Supreme Court that the grand jury which indicted Brown on over 30 charges violated Brown's rights. Barnes argues that the grand jury should not have included Cobb EMC customers.

The Marietta Daily Journal reports that Associate Justice Nahmias made a distinction between the duties of a trial jury and those of a grand jury.

Special Assistant District Attorney John Floyd argued out that a second grand jury returned the same indictments against Brown and Barnes did not offer any challenges to the composition of that grand jury.

The Supreme Court of Georgia have less than six months to issue a decision.

Patagonia supports FACE with donation
December 18, 2013

Patagonia in Atlanta is supporting FACE by donating some of their outdoor clothing for us to use for fundraising. We still have two items remaining in our listings on eBay. The Women's base layer Capilene shirt is perfect for cool weather. The Women's Better Sweater is the best of both worlds: sweater on the outside, soft fleece on the inside.

You can support FACE and our ongoing efforts to protect the health and natural resources of Middle Georgia by purchasing these items or making a donation to us here.

Ogeechee Riverkeeper settles on tough standards for polluter, receives $2.5M settlement
November 21, 2013

Two and a half years after the largest fish kill in Georgia's history, the Ogeechee Riverkeeper has reached a settlement with King America Finishing, a Chicago based company that treats textiles at a plant in Screven County. Don Stack, who represented the Riverkeeper along with GreenLaw, told the Savannah Morning News that the stringent emission standards for the textile company will make the Ogeechee River the most protected river in Georgia.

In addition to the $2.5M to be awarded to the Riverkeeper, Georgia Southern University and the Southeastern Natural Sciences Academy in Augusta will receive over $1M for research. The city of Millen will be funded for a wastewater treatment plant.

The settlement requires third party monitoring and providing data to the Riverkeeper. Every six months the permit may be revisited if emissions are not within the permit's limits.

Five civil suits still remain active in Bulloch County according to attorneys at Alston and Bird, who represent King America.

Ogeechee and Oconee Rivers land on Dirty Dozen list
November 13, 2013


The Georgia Water Coalition announced its annual report, The Dirty Dozen today. Once again, the two rivers crossing through Washington County are included. These rivers are already saurated with mercury from coal plant emmissions. The long lingering Plant Washington would add yet more carcinogenic toxics to these already fragile water systems in addition to sucking up 16 million gallons of fresh water a day, even in a drought.

The full report is online.

Support FACE on November 13 during GA Gives
Day

November 12, 2013


FACE is participating in GA Gives Day, a statewide fundraising event organized by the Georgia Center for Nonprofits on Wednesday, November 13. We are asking for your support so that we can continue our work to protect the health of our families, our air, water, and wildlife, and our household budgets from this dirty no-bid coal plant.

For almost six years FACE members have worked with state and national partners to stop the expensive project from sucking up 16 MILLION gallons of water a day from our rivers and groundwater.

For almost six years FACE members have helped local citizens learn about how dangerous coal plant emissions to the health of our children, our seniors, and the unborn.

For almost six years FACE has educated local citizens, elected officials, and Washington EMC leaders about the huge financial risks of this multi-billion dollar coal plant.

For almost six years we've fought closed door operations and back room deals at our own Washington EMC. We've made some progress but there is still work to be done.

We are asking today, after almost six years of hard work, that you support our efforts with a donation so we can continue to fight for the health of our families, and clean air and water.

Dwight Brown's legal troubles not over, Cobb EMC members receive record settlement, Directors allow co-op members to attend meeting

October 21, 2013

Dwight Brown's legal woes are not over, and Cobb County District Attorney assures citizens who are anxious for Brown's trial to begin that, "this prosecution will continue."

The Marietta Daily Journal also reports in Around Town that Cobb EMC Board Chair Ed Crowell will not stand for re-election as the co-op's chair. Crowell will remain on the Board and he has not endorsed anyone to follow him as Chair.

All Washington EMC Board meetings are conducted behind closed doors, and co-op member/owners are barred from attending without special permission. Tomorrow Cobb EMC members will be allowed to attend the Board meeting, where the Director will choose a new Chair by secret ballot.

Cobb EMC members spent almost four years in court in hand-to-hand battle with their own co-op concerning capital credit payouts to members. A settlement has been reached which will require the co-op to dispurse $98M to the owner/members. The settlement figure is the largest ever agreed to in Cobb County.

EPA listening session on carbon emissions October 23

October 21, 2013

The Environmental Protection Agency will hold a public listening session to allow citizens to share their concerns about carbon (greenhouse gas or GHG) emissions from coal-fired power plants. Plant Scherer in nearby Juliette is the largest source of carbon in the country, and the Southeast is home to numerous coal plants.

The carbon emission standards have not been developed and are expected to be proposed by the end of June 2014. These standards, depending on a final determination concerning Plant Washington, could be the standards the long-delayed plant will have to meet.

Our country's power plants make up more than 30% of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and this rule will play a significant role in reducing those emissions. Public input will be critical in helping the EPA and states develop and design smart, cost-effective guidelines.

Please consider registering and providing comments at the listening session. You will be allotted 3 minutes to speak. There will be two sessions on Wednesday.

October 23, 1013

2:00-5:00 pm and 7:00-9:00 pm EST

Sam Nunn Atlanta Federal Center

Bridge Conference Rooms

61 Forsyth St. SW

Atlanta, GA 30303

Click Register to Sign Up. Point of contact at EPA: Dorothy Riddell - (404) 562-8080 or riddell.dorothy@epa.gov.

"Keep Your Dirty Lights On"
September 29, 2013

This video was shared by Flint Riverkeeper last week, and is getting national media coverage today.


Updated Rules for Coal Air Pollution, Recent Plant Struggles Underscore High Risk of Proposed Washington County Power Plant

Press Release from the Southern Environmenal Law Center

September 20, 2013

Contact:

John Suttles, Senior Attorney, Southern Environmental Law Center, 919-967-1450

Ashten Bailey, GreenLaw, 413-335-7181

Seth Gunning, Sierra Club, 404-607-1262 x 233

Amelia Shenstone, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, 339-223-0536

Emily Markesteyn, Ogeechee Riverkeeper, 866-942-6222

Katherine Helms Cummings, FACE, 478-232-8010

ATLANTA, GA – New federal safeguards for coal pollution cast further doubt on the fate of the proposed Plant Washington coal-fired power plant in Sandersville, GA. The new standards come as the nation shifts toward cleaner sources of energy, with 149 existing coal-fired plants scheduled for retirement, 179 proposed new plants canceled since 2001, and recent high-profile bankruptcies have highlighted coal’s inability to compete in the marketplace.

Plant Washington is designed to produce the equivalent carbon pollution of about one million cars, adding to the long list of cost and pollution concerns already raised by an alliance of groups representing conservation, public health, consumer, local resident, and utility co-op member interests. Today’s announcement from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency makes it certain that Plant Washington will be required to adhere to new safeguards limiting carbon pollution from power plants. EPA is further considering the category of standards Plant Washington will be held to, adding even greater uncertainty for possible investors in the plant.

Reducing carbon pollution adds even more financial risk to the project, already estimated by developer Power4Georgians to cost more than $2 billion to construct. Other, less expensive energy options are available to utilities and their customers, including wind power, natural gas, and solar power. These resources also produce less air and water pollution than coal.

“Plant Washington did not seem like a viable proposal to start with, and it certainly doesn’t seem viable now as we see coal use plummet across the country and operating costs increase,” said Katherine Helms Cummings, director of Fall-line Alliance for a Clean Environment. “This proposal has never made sense for the people of Washington County, who have significant concerns about how the air pollution would affect our health and whether we would be duped into paying higher rates to prop up the plant.”

“Carbon pollution is the leading contributor to climate disruption and is linked to life-threatening air pollution, like the smog that triggers asthma attacks,” said Seth Gunning, Beyond Coal organizer with the Sierra Club. “Plant Washington’s developers tried to avoid life-saving Clean Air Act protections from the beginning, and we worked to protect Georgians from its out of control pollution. Today’s carbon pollution protections will help us clean up and modernize the way we power Georgia. Plant Washington will have to clean up or hang it up.”

Local concerns about Plant Washington have grown with news of excess energy capacity in Georgia and struggling coal plants across the country as markets turn to cleaner, cheaper options. Recent high-profile examples of doomed new plants include the Longview Power Plant in Maidsville, West Virginia, which began operations in December 2011 and filed for bankruptcy last month, and the Prairie State Energy Campus, an Illinois coal plant constructed in 2007 that has resulted in 51 percent higher power rates for the communities that invested in it.

“Cleaner sources of energy like wind and solar are the future of our country’s energy supply, so communities around the nation that invest in coal are struggling as it becomes increasingly uncompetitive,” said Amelia Shenstone of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. “The safeguards announced today reinforce the imprudence of continued spending to build an outdated coal plant.”

In addition to the economic consequences, Plant Washington raises deep concerns over the anticipated air pollution and the impact on local water resources. Mercury from the plant would pollute the Ogeechee River, which is already so polluted with mercury that the state health department limits the amount of fish that should be eaten, and the plant would consume about 13.5 million gallons of water a day from the Oconee River, at a time when the entire state of Georgia is struggling with limited water resources and projected future drought scenarios.

“Moving forward with this misguided and unneeded plant could have terrible consequences for the residents of Washington County,” said Emily Markesteyn, Executive Director and Riverkeeper of Ogeechee Riverkeeper. “We would bear the economic risk of paying for a plant that can’t compete on the market, and most importantly we would bear the tremendous health and environmental risks of housing a highly polluting plant in our community.”

The alliance fought loose permitting terms that would have allowed the plant to produce illegal and dangerous levels of toxic mercury pollution, and secured cancelation of Power4Georgians’ second coal plant proposal in Ben Hill County. That agreement ensured that Plant Washington, if built, would dramatically reduce those emissions beyond what was originally proposed and protected the Ben Hill County plant site for conservation purposes. Led by members of utility cooperatives, the alliance also challenged Power4Georgians’ funding source, and as a result protected more than one million Georgians from rate hikes to pay for the plant.

###

The Southern Environmental Law Center is a regional nonprofit using the power of the law to protect the health and environment of the Southeast (Virginia, Tennessee, North and South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama). Founded in 1986, SELC's team of nearly 60 legal and policy experts represent more than 100 partner groups on issues of climate change and energy, air and water quality, forests, the coast and wetlands, transportation, and land use. www.SouthernEnvironment.org

Founded in 1985, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy is a nonprofit organization that promotes responsible energy choices that create global warming solutions and ensure clean, safe, and healthy communities throughout the Southeast. Learn more at www.cleanenergy.org.

GreenLaw is a nonprofit, environmental lawfirm dedicated to preventing air and water pollution that endangers human health and degrades Georgia’s natural resources. Since 1992, GreenLaw has achieved these goals by providing free, high-quality legal and technical assistance to environmental organizations and community groups throughout Georgia. For more information, visit www.greenlaw.org and follow @greenlaw_GA on Twitter.

FACE (Fall-line Alliace for a Clean Environment) is a nonprofit grassroots organization of local citizens who came together to protect their natural resources, the health of the community, and the economic future of their community from the risks Plant Washington poses to the area. FACE members are also engaged in co-op reform efforts for Washington EMC http://www.faceenvironment.org

Ogeechee Riverkeeper is dedicated to protecting, preserving and improving the water quality of the Ogeechee River Basin. To accomplish this goal, Ogeechee Riverkeeper strives to amplify the voices of concerned citizens and strengthen their efforts to protect their rivers and their communities. www.ogeecheeriverkeeper.org

Sierra Club is America's largest grassroots environmental organization. Inspired by nature, we are 2.1 million of your friends and neighbors, working together to protect our communities and the planet. Read more at http://www.sierraclub.org.

####

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

September 16, 2013

CONTACT: Katherine Helms Cummings, FACE, (478) 232-8010

Developers Ask for More Time, Call Plant Washington Proposal “Precarious”

SANDERSVILLE, GA – This afternoon, Power4Georgians held a meeting for so-called supporters of the Plant Washington proposed coal-fired power plant, during which spokesman Dean Alford announced the consortium would seek a deadline extension to commence construction from the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD). According to the terms of GA EPD’s air pollution permit, Power4Georgians must begin construction on the plant before November 30, 2013, or it will lose its permit and need to re-apply. A second application process would further delay the already behind schedule project and would increase costs.

In response, Katherine Helms Cummings, executive director of the Fall-line Alliance for a Clean Environment, issued the following statement:

“Washington County residents have had enough with the false promises and threats to our clean air, clean water, and our electricity bills. It's time for Power4Georgians to move on to greener pastures and cancel the proposed Plant Washington. Plant developers went so far as to call the plant’s situation ‘precarious’ at today’s meeting. Clearly, even the plant’s backers see little hope for this expensive and unnecessary project, but are too scared to cancel the plant once and for all.

This week the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will announce new limits on dangerous carbon pollution for proposed coal plants like Plant Washington, adding one more straw to the camel’s back. There is no financial or economic justification for Plant Washington, nor will there ever be. Plant Washington will never compete with cleaner, cheaper sources in Georgia. It’s past time to cancel this plant and move on.”

###

New coal plant customers see power rates increase 51 percent
September 4, 2013

The Chicago Tribune reported yesterday that the small communities invested in Prairie State Energy Campus, a coal plant which began construction in 2007, have seen their power rates go up as much as 51 percent. The project was initially announced with a $2 billion price tag which jumped to $2.9 billion when construction began. The final cost was $5 billion by the time the plant started operating.

The Tribune reports that some of the cities and municipal agencies are dipping into bond proceeds and draining budget reserves in an effort to keep rates low. For the particapating Ohio communities, the Prairie State coal costs are the most expensive source of energy in their porfolio, even more expensive than wind power.

Marceline, a small Missouri community, was paying $100,000 per month for its share of the coal plant, and it has an annual budget of just $8 billion. The town finally sold its share of Prairie State, but it is still saddled with debt payments of $22,000 per month.

Washington County and EMC mourn loss
of local leader
August 22, 2013
The Washington EMC and Washington County community are mourning the sudden death of Mike McCoy, who served as the Chair for the EMC. Mike died unexpectedly and at the all too young age of 65. The services were held on Sunday, August 17. The EMC Board, employees, and affiliates served as honorary pallbearers.

Yesterday Wendy Sellers, the CEO at WEMC, told Katherine Cummings, FACE Executive Director, that in accordance with the bylaws, the Vice-Chair, Mildred Jackson, is now serving as Chair. The Board will appoint someone to fill the District 6 seat now vacant. The member/owners will elect someone to fill that seat next fall since that is when the district seat would have been up for approval by members.


The Washington EMC Annual Meeting is scheduled for Saturday, October 5th at Elder Middle School. Details will be posted here next month. Members are encouraged to attend because this is the only open meeting the Board conducts during the year.

Small town struggles under financial weight of new coal plant
July 16, 2013

Visitors to this web site may remember earlier links to articles about a coal plant built in Illinois called Prairie State Energy Campus. The "shiny new" is wearing off for customers and the little town of Marceline, Missouri.

Recent MSNBC coverage of the pain State Prairie has brought to small towns includes:

"Local governments and utilities that invested in the Prairie State Energy Campus, a massive $5 billion plant outside the village of Marissa in southern Illinois, in the early to mid-2000s thought the project would protect against wild electricity price swings and save money in the long run.Instead, construction cost increases, lower natural gas prices and other factors erased any competitive advantage and left officials wondering if they got a fair shake on the deal."

Don Faulds, a newly elected city council member in Galion, Ohio, is asking how the small towns now ensnared in the Prairie State boondoggle had the ability to analyze this type of investment and project.

The coverage includes, "But in 2008, after the contracts were signed, the investment began to go south: The recession hit, depressing expected growth in demand for electricity. Construction delays hiked the plant’s price tag to nearly $5 billion. And the energy boom resulting from “fracking” and other advanced drilling techniques brought down the cost of natural gas for electricity generation."

Plant Washington was announced in 2008. Sound familiar?

Now city officials in Galion are pointing fingers at Prairie State's "full-press" marketing effort and heading to court.

In Washington County the City Councils of Tennille and Sandersville have supported Plant Washington, and the County Commissioners have the ability to issue county bonds to help finance Plant Washington.

Ask your elected officials, and EMC representatives, what they know and understand about the financial risks of Plant Washington. Tell them about Prairie State and urge them to learn from the mistakes made by other small communities.

Solar wins at PSC!
July 11, 2013

Beyond Georgia is reporting that the Public Service Commission voted in favor of 500MW of solar power in GA Power's 20 year energy plan. Check back for details later.

Georgia Power stock downgraded to "sell" while PSC member asks for more solar
July 11, 2013

The Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) meets today to consider a $482M rate increase for GA Power customers which could raise the utility bills an average of 6.7 percent each month according to the Columbus Ledger Enquirer. PSC Commissioner Bubba McDonald has introduced a proposal that would require GA Power to double the current 212MW of solar powered electricity it provides to customers to 525MW.

Tom Crawford at the Georgia Report writes that the issue of GA Power's control over the grid and the company's resistance to increase solar and wind power to its fuel portfolio has even brought the Atlanta Tea Party Patriots to the discussion. While many Americans think Tea Party activists and renewable energy advocates don't agree on many issues, the calls for free market, increased competition for Georgia's electric customers have brought these groups together.

Late last month GA Power's parent company, Southern Company, saw its stock downgraded to "sell" by Zacks Investment Research. The sell rating is due to "Southern Company's heavy reliance on coal-generated energy supply and a lack of meaningful contribution from renewable energy is a matter of concern. In the current age of growing emphasis on 'environment friendly or green' energy, the company may be forced to divert cash flow to ensure regulatory compliance, which can adversely impact profitability."

Power bills going down for Cobb EMC owner/members
July 3, 2013

Cobb EMC owner/members will see reduced power bills due to the efforts of new board oversight. The Board of Directors, all of whom were elected after the co-op's member/owners reached into their own pockets to fund years of legal cases, have worked hard to trim expenses. Board Chair Ed Crowell told theAtlanta Business Chronicle,  “We’ve been hard at work this last year to control costs and make progress that truly benefits our members. Passing those savings on through lower monthly bills was the logical next step.”
The rate reduction of 1-mill will save an average of $14.00 per year for each customer.

Dwight Brown loses in court, again
July 1, 2013

The indicted former CEO of Cobb EMC, Dwight Brown, failed, again, to have the 35 charges against him dismissed in court, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Brown, who was initially charged with 31 counts in indictments two years ago, was booked and re-indicted after his attorneys, who include former Governor Roy Barnes, got the charges dismissed on technicalities. The second round of indictments issued in 2012 included four additional charges of intimidating witnesses, in addition to the original charges of theft, racketeering, making false statements, and conspiracy to defraud the state.

Last week the witness intimidation charges were dropped, but the 31 other counts held up in court. Brown's trial could serve as an eye-opener for how much money Cobb EMC sunk into Cobb Energy, and how it was managed as a a for-profit entity that Brown and former Cobb EMC Board Members established. Cobb Energy holdings included Allied Energy Services, which it was forced to sell it as part of a court settlement with Cobb EMC co-op reform advocates.

Plant Washington developer Dean Alford, who ran Allied Energy Services at Cobb Energy, bought the company for just a fraction of the losses it incurred under his direction. Alford secured a no-bid contract for Plant Washington under Dwight Brown's leadership of Power4Georgians. Cobb EMC withdrew from the project in January of 2012 after spending almost $15M on the project. The Washington EMC Board of Directors spent $1M of owner/members dollars without any business analysis demonstrating that the "investment" could be returned to the co-op by Power4Georgians.

Plant Washington can't dodge carbon control now
June 28, 2013

Earlier this week President Obama announced that carbon pollution, which primarily comes from coal fired power plants, must be regulated and controlled in our country. The Environmental Protection Agency will announce final regulations on September 20, 2013 for new plants. Proposed limits for existing power plants are due in June 2014, with final limits announced in June 2015.

Plant Washington's developer has never included carbon control in plant designs, and has said in the past that carbon control would be the end of the project. Georgia Watch, a consumer advocacy organization, released a study, "Plant Washington: Too High a Price for Consumers" which shows conservative estimates for construction alone at just under $4B, almost twice the original $2.1B price tag announced over five years ago. Modeling for carbon control will not reduce the cost of construction, operations, or rates for customers.

No business and cost analysis of this project have ever been carried out by developer Dean Alford or any of the original 10 EMCs who announced the project. By the end of January 2012 only four EMCs remained committed to the project, and by July of 2012 they were no longer supporting it financially.

Locally Washington EMC members have seen $1M of their member dollars poured into this project with no certainty of a return on their investment or affordable power rates should the plant ever operate

The financial risks of this project have only grown since it was announced. Proposed coal plants across the country have been cancelled, or worse, built and never operated, due to the soaring costs of coal fueled energy production.

Local NAACP leader says Plant Washington is bad for our county
June 19, 2013

During last week's community meeting held by the Washington County chapter of the NAACP and GreenLaw, Chapter President Benjamin Dotson told the group he should have opposed Plant Washington years ago. The two groups came together to present information from Coal Blooded, a report issued by the NAACP.

The report details the negative health and economic outcomes of minority communities living and working near coal plants. Findings from the report include:

people living within three miles of a coal plant earn $18,400 per year, which is lower than the American average of $21,587 per year.

among people who live within three miles of a coal plant, 39 percent are people of color, which is higher than the 36 percent of our population that consists of people of color

The Macon Examiner wrote in its coverage of the forum, "Washington County

is a majority-minority county with African-Americans comprising 53 percent of the population.

Sandersville, Washington County's largest city and county seat of approximately 6,000 people is closer to 60 percent African-American.

However, the main voices pushing this project are primarily wealthy, conservative Republicans or Dixiecrats locally who are associated with the Development Authority along with the County Commission.

One of the few African-Americans who have been actively supporting a coal plant is State Rep. Mack Jackson and has bought in to the same narrative of his conservative contemporaries.

With the Washington Co. NAACP's objection, will State Rep. Mack Jackson who represents Sandersville be more willing to re-think his position?" (bold font original to Macon Examiner article).

During the Q & A and comments from the audience, no one spoke in support of the proposed coal plant. One church leader compared the slow and cumulative impact of coal plants on local residents this way; If you put a drop of Drano in your coffee or child's juice every day, what would happen after a few months? You would have horrible damage to your organs. That is what living near a coal plant does. It won't happen overnight, but it will happen.


EPA to consider tougher water regulations and coal plant waste
June 12, 2013

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced that it will consider tough regulations concerning coal plant waste dumping into water resources. According to the EPA, more than half the toxins released into our country's water resources come from coal plants. The regulations haven't been revised in 30 years. The Sierra Club reports that four out of five coal plants have NO restrictions on the toxins and heavy metals they can dump into our waterways.

Plant Washington, if it is ever built and actually operates (that isn't certain despite supporters' assertions), it would put at risk groundwater resources below its coal ash waste landfill, nearby Williamson Swamp Creek, and the Ogeechee and Oconee Rivers.

The Sierra Club has a link on its site for submitting comments. In just seconds you can speak up and tell the EPA to protect our water from the toxins coal plants are allowed to dump without regulations.

Tea Party targets Georgia Power's grip on the grid
June 4, 2013

The Tea Party in Georgia is challenging the Southern Company's Georgia Power division over its resistance to use more solar power, mounting costs for nuclear unit construction at Plant Vogle, and the company's monopoly over the grid in our state.

The Georgia General Assembly has guaranteed 11 percent profits to the utility. The Public Service Commission, which oversees rate increases for the company's customers, has heard from ratepayers who do not want to pay for the soaring costs of nuclear expansion before the units deliver any power to them.

As proponents of free-market competition, Georgia Power's lock on the electric grid in our state doesn't sit well with Tea Party activists. While other states have seen some Tea Party comments on this type of issue, Georgia's group is leading the nation in stepping forward. It has garnered considerable national media coverage. The Augusta Chronicle's article is here.

"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, toldMississippi 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
10:00am

CONTACT
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

CONTACT

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.

Katherine Cummings
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'sMacon 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


photo, AJC

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

Plant Bowen
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) releasedRipe 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) afterattorneys 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)

Footnotes:

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.