Coal-fired Power Plant Still on Drawing Board for Six EMCs

While four Georgia electric membership corporations (EMCs) have pulled the plug on their partnership to build an 854 mega-watt coal-fired electric power plant in Washington County, six other EMCs are still committed to the plan. Thus GreenLaw’s work to educate communities about the risks and harm that could come from this plant continues.

Who dropped out?
Jackson EMC, Diverse Power, Excelsior EMC, and GreyStone Power Corporation all announced in May that they were dropping out of the deal, raising questions about the financial viability of the project. These four EMCs represent over 48% of the EMC customers that were in on the plan at the start (312,698 out of 649,564). “These four EMCs have done the homework for the rest of the EMCs,” said Thompson. “These business leaders have looked closely at the economics of energy production and customer demand as well as the increase in regulation of coal emissions. Fortunately for their members, these EMC boards have done the math and stepped away from an ownership position that represents a huge financial risk for them,” she stated.

Who remains in Power4Georgians?
In addition to Washington EMC, those remaining in the consortium (called Power4Georgians) are Cobb EMC, Snapping Shoals EMC, Pataula EMC, Upson EMC, and Central Georgia EMC. There are a total of 42 independent EMCs scattered across Georgia that provide power to about half the state and are not regulated by the Public Service Commission, unlike Georgia Power Company which is subject to public oversight.

“The EMCs that remain a part of this plan should start looking very hard at whether they are investing their members’ money wisely,” said Katherine Cummings, chair of the Fall-line Alliance for a Clean Environment (FACE) based in Sandersville, Ga. “Our Washington County EMC and the others that remain ought to be looking instead at energy efficiency measures and investing in renewable sources of energy.”

What’s Next?
Thompson pointed out that Dynegy, the Houston-based energy conglomerate, pulled out of the planned construction of an even larger coal-fired power plant in Early County back in January, citing financial risks that were too high for shareholders. Nevertheless, its partner, New Jersey-based LS Power, has vowed to continue trying to get the air pollution permit needed to build the 1200 mega-watt Longleaf Energy Station near Blakely. That permit was rejected by a Fulton County Superior Court judge in June 2008 and the case is on appeal, due for a decision by mid-July.

Across the country dozens of plans for coal-fired power plants have been cancelled recently as business and civic leaders have studied the financial realities and economic consequences of these plants for their communities. “In other states, people know that constructing huge plants to burn dirty fossil fuels is outdated and bad for business and for public health. We know that clean energy is affordable, available, and reliable in many parts of the US and other countries. Georgia can and must invest in alternative ways to conserve and produce energy for our homes and businesses,” said FACE’s Katherine Cummings. GreenLaw continues its work on this case, along with its coalition partners at Georgians for Smart Energy.