SACE | Southern Alliance for Clean Energy
In 2008, nine of Georgia’s Electric Membership Corporations (EMCs) formed a consortium called Power4Georgians, LLC with the main purpose of building a new 850 MW coal-fired power plant in Sandersville, GA called Plant Washington.
Power4Georgians was also considering building a second 850 MW coal plant located on the Ocmulgee River near Fitzgerald, GA called Plant Ben Hill. On April 9, 2012, Power4Georgians agreed to cancel Plant Ben Hill, and establish a permanent conservation easement on the land its affiliate companies had already purchased.
In the spring of 2009, four EMCs pulled out of the consortium citing the uncertainties of costs associated with building a new coal plant and pending carbon legislation. Cobb EMC followed their lead in January, 2012. The four EMCs still holding out, which include Snapping Shoals EMC, Central Georgia EMC, Upson EMC, and Washington EMC, announced on July 11, 2012, that they would no longer fund the plant’s development, but that they would remain partners in Power4Georgians as it seeks financing to construct the plant. The likelihood of securing financing is dubious, due to concerns over cost and the integrity of the proposal.
The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy has led efforts to defeat the proposed Plant Washington with full time organizers and direct collaboration with our Georgia allies in Georgians for Smart Energy and EMC members in these territories.
CORRUPTION ALLEGED IN PLANT LEADERSHIP
Power4Georgians Organizer and former Cobb EMC CEO Dwight Brown was indicted January 6, 2011 on 31 counts of racketeering, theft, and false statement, related to the creation of for-profit Cobb Energy, which he also oversaw. This indictment was dropped, and a new one filed July 7, 2011 with the same charges, plus four new ones for witness intimidation. Brown’s indictment follows a protracted civil lawsuit against Cobb EMC alleging financial mismanagement and malfeasance, again related to the role of Cobb Energy. Brown is one of the original promoters of Plant Washington, and has close business ties with Dean Alford, whose company, Allied Energy Services (a Cobb Energy subsidiary until it was sold in August, 2011), was contracted in a no-bid process to build the coal plants. You can learn more by downloading our “Follow the Money” fact sheet. SACE is encouraging the other EMCs that invested in the plants to demand a full accounting of exactly how their funds have been spent.
PLANT WASHINGTON’S IMPACT
• Cost: Promoters estimate construction costs for Plant Washington at $2.1 billion, but that estimate is outdated (from 2008) and probably low. A report released by consumer advocate Georgia Watch in June, 2011 projected that the total cost would likely be close to $4 billion, and the plant could raise rates by $258 per year for an average household. Furthermore, the price of coal has increased considerably over the past 5 years, making coal plants highly cost-inefficient. A report released by Synapse Energy Economics in December 2008 outlines the various price uncertainties and financial risks associated with building Plant Washington, providing more proof that the actual price tag for Plant Washington will be significantly higher than $2.1 billion; a 2011 Union of Concerned Scientists report and a white paper from As You Sow on the Financial Risks of Investment in Coal underscored these concerns by tracking national trends. Cities and towns in the Midwest are locked into above-market rates for electricity from a similar new coal plant that was constructed; other plants have been canceled due to similar financial concerns. If you purchase power from a utility that contracts to buy power from this plant, YOU could pay the cost.
• Water Impacts: Plant Washington would need 13-16 million gallons of water per day to operate. To obtain water, a 30-mile pipeline to the Oconee River would be built and 15 wells would be dug along the pipeline to extract groundwater for use during periods of drought. Considering Georgia’s recent dry spell, we believe a fluctuating water supply could make this plant especially risky to operate, and Georgia cannot afford to lose this much water (learn more about our partnership with the Union of Concerned Scientists on Energy and Water in a Warming World). In addition, this plant was estimated to emit into the air 63 pounds annually of mercury, a neurotoxin that interferes with the brain and nervous system, until Power4Georgians agreed in April 2012 to make the plant’s permit compliant with new EPA mercury regulations. Scientists estimate that it only takes one-seventieth of a teaspoon of mercury to pollute an entire 20-acre lake. EPA estimates that up to 14% of the mercury emitted by coal burning power plants deposits within 30 miles of a plant and up to 50% deposits within 500 miles. Given that Georgia already has nearly 41,000 lake acres and 2,600 river miles contaminated with mercury, and 123 fish advisories for mercury, we can not afford to build another coal plant.
• Air Quality and Global Warming Impacts: Plant Washington will put tons of smog-forming nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and soot-forming sulfur dioxide and particulate matter into Georgia’s air. These air pollutants all contribute to various environmental and public health risks including, but not limited to, respiratory illnesses such as asthma, heart disease, and premature death. In addition, Plant Washington’s yearly global warming pollution (carbon dioxide) of 6-7 million tons would be equal to adding nearly 1 million NEW cars onto Georgia’s roads. The carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from this coal plant would have an effect not only on Georgia but on the entire world. The Clean Power Plan makes specific mention of Plant Washington, noting that the chance of its being built is remote, and it would likely have to comply with the carbon standards for new (rather than existing) plants.
PLANT WASHINGTON PERMITS
After years of litigation by SACE and our allies, the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (GA EPD) has issued final air and water permits for Plant Washington. Please click on the links below to view the permits.
- Air Permit (scroll to “Plant Washington, Sandersville” and see original 2009 permit plus 2010 and 2011 updates)
- Surface Water Withdrawal
- Ground Water Withdrawal
- Water Discharge
In December 2011 SACE and our allies challenged EPD’s permits for air emissions for Plant Washington, arguing that they do not adequately protect public health. Our suit resulted in an April 9, 2012 settlement stipulating that if Plant Washington is built it must comply with new mercury regulations and that Plant Ben Hill would be canceled. Power4Georgians will also need a solid waste permit, for which it has not yet applied.
ALTERNATIVES TO PLANT WASHINGTON:
Georgia’s significant renewable energy potential remains largely untapped. Through a combination of energy efficiency initiatives and renewable energy sources such as biomass, off-shore wind, and solar power, Georgia can meet future energy demands without relying upon polluting, outdated technologies such as coal. A few facts about clean energy potentials…
- A 2011 study from Georgia Institute of Technology and Duke University sets the record straight on energy efficiency potential in the southeast.
- A 2009 energy efficiency study by the Georgia Institute of Technology determined that full deployment of energy efficiency technologies would offset our need to build any new generation capacity in the South until 2020.
- According to a University of Georgia report, Georgia has enough sustainable biomass potential to meet 12% of the state’s energy needs.
- The Georgia Wind Resource Map has identified over 10,000 MW of wind energy potential off Georgia’s coast.
- The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that if Georgia were to develop 1,000 MW of wind energy, it would annually save 1,628 million gallons of water and 3 million tons of CO2 and provide a total economic benefit of $2.1 billion.