Georgia Coops Get It Wrong Again

Guest Blog | December 22, 2009 | Coal, Energy Policy

Another New Coal Plant Proposed in South Georgia by Power4Georgiansocriver-dames-ferry_d

Power4Georgians is at it again.  Just recently, citizens in Ben Hill County started hearing rumors that Power4Georgians, a consortium made up of Snapping Shoals EMC, Central GA EMC, Washington County EMC, Upson EMC, and Cobb EMC is looking to develop another 850 MW coal-fired power plant near Fitzgerald, GA.  This coal plant would be similar to Plant Washington, the first coal plant proposed in 2008 by Power4Georgians in Sandersville.  The rumor about Plant Ben Hill was confirmed this week by a local official and the Power4Georgian’s spokesperson and lead developer, Dean Alford.  Companies registered under the developer’s name have already purchased the land for the coal plant near the Ocmulgee River.

Power4Georgians is clearly a misguided group of EMCs who care little to seriously explore clean energy alternatives to coal and seem committed riskto keeping Georgia in the energy of the past – Georgia is now one of the only states left in the Southeast with active consideration of continuing our dependence on the dirty fossil fuel.  Many questions remain unanswered from the EMCs, including:  Do these five EMCs really NEED to build a new coal plant in Georgia given the water, air, and financial burdens associated with dirty coal?  Is the energy demand really there for these EMCs to build two, not to mention even one, new coal plant? (Many coal plant proposals have recently been rescinded because of the decreasing demand for energy.)  Does their foray into Ben Hill County mean that Power4Georgians is giving up on their attempt to build a new coal plant in Washington County and are instead moving their project plans to another location?  Why isn’t Power4Georgians seriously pursuing energy efficiency alternatives like other utilities in the Southeast?  And lastly, can we even trust Power4Georgians to make the right decisions regarding investment in new energy sources given Cobb EMC’s track record of corruption and alleged gross mismanagement of members funds?

What we do know is that Power4Georgians is putting all of these EMC electricity customers at financial risk by proposing the use of outdated coal technology in an era in which we know that coal pollution will be regulated and taxed. It is high time for Power4Georgians to lead their customers in a new direction rather than down a dead end street.

This month the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is moving forward with new rules that will make building new coal plants even more ofcoal-stack a gamble for these EMCs.  On December 7th, EPA issued a final ruling that global warming pollutants are dangerous to human health and constitute a public health risk – this was the so-called Endangerment Finding.  Meanwhile, public comments are being taken on EPA’s proposed a new Big Polluters Rule that if implemented will require new and existing coal plants to clean up their air emissions, specifically their carbon emissions for the first time in history.  In addition, EPA is expected to soon declare coal ash a hazardous waste, which will further hamper the traditional operations of these outdated coal facilities.  As one utility industry representative reports in a recent article for Power Daily Northeast:

“These rulings are effectively taking the economic value out of using coal in our industry by layering in these increased costs on coal plants,” said Pfeiffer…  “I’ll submit that we have built the last new coal-fired station in this country,” she said.

With these recent and pending federal announcements it does not matter where Power4Georgians ends up really pushing for a new coal plant to be built, they are a bad idea and a bad deal for Georgians. Whether the coal proposal is along the fall-line in Sandersville or near the pristine waters of Ben Hill County, Power4Georgians is likely to have a tough road ahead pursuing this antiquated power source as citizens get more and more frustrated with the pollution and costs concerns.

During a period of time when our nation is just beginning to really participate in ongoing international climate talks and move forward with a clean energy future, it is a shame to see Georgia’s electric cooperatives completely disregarding the movement away from coal in our nation. If you are a member of one of the EMC’s proposing to build new coal in Georgia and would like to get involved in the fight against dirty energy in Georgia, please sign the Georgians for Smart Energy Pledge today.

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