US Treasury Called Upon to Investigate Taxpayer Subsidies for Risky Coal Plants

Environmental Organizations Welcome Call by New York City Comptroller To Investigate Taxpayer Subsidies for Coal Power Plants

GreenLaw, Sierra Club and Friends of the Chattahoochee welcomed a call by New York City’s Comptroller for an investigation of taxpayer subsidies for risky, old-fashioned coal-burning electric power plants such as the Longleaf Energy Station (Longleaf).  In a letter to the United States Treasury Department, New York Comptroller William C. Thompson, Jr. urged a review of policies that permit tax-exempt bonds to pay for dirty, coal-burning power plants.

"Recent research shows that the risks make [coal plants] poor candidates for federal support and problematic for investors," William Thompson said in a letter to Eric Solomon, Treasury assistant secretary for tax policy. "I firmly believe that an immediate review and timely action by the Treasury Department might spare the nation's taxpayers a series of expensive losses."

GreenLaw is currently representing Sierra Club and Friends of the Chattahoochee in a legal challenge to the state Environmental Protection Division’s (EPD) decision to issue an air pollution permit to Dynegy for its Longleaf plant in Early County, near Albany.  The permit failed to address CO2, which is the leading cause of global warming.  The Longleaf plant is only one of many coal-fired power plants proposed by Dynegy, the largest coal plant developer in the country, as the industry struggles to find states that will accept the environmental degradation and huge economic costs that are caused by burning coal. 

Justine Thompson, Executive Director of GreenLaw (no relation to William Thompson), noted this call could “cast a cloud” over the proposed Longleaf project, which is proposed to be built with industrial development bonds.  “A dirty coal plant such as Longleaf could prove to be an incredible white elephant – one that hurts both taxpayers and ratepayers.”

“This letter ought to be a real wake-up call,” said Patty Durand, Director of the Georgia Chapter of Sierra Club.  “Coal plants hurt our environment, they hurt our lungs, and they also hurt our pocketbook.”

Bobby McLendon, who leads the nonprofit organization, Friends of the Chattahoochee, comprised of citizens in Early County, worries about the impact of the coal plant on Early County’s economy.  “I fear that we are mortgaging our future away foolishly.  I don’t want my grandchildren to pay for our mistakes.”  

The issues raised by William Thompson’s letter also cast doubt on the wisdom of a newly proposed 854-megawatt coal-fired power plant to be built in Sandersville, 60 miles east of Macon.  The plant has been proposed by Power4Georgians, LLC, a consortium of 10 electric membership cooperatives (EMCs) in Georgia.

The full letter by William Thompson was available at  http://www.comptroller.nyc.gov/ but is no longer posted.