ATLANTA -- As Georgia Power builds nuclear capacity for Georgia’s electricity demands, a new audit of a Cobb County utility suggests a plan for a coal-fired power plant in Sandersville is deep asleep.
Officials at Cobb Electric Membership Corp. called the Plant Washington plan “dormant,” according to auditors hired by the EMC’s board of directors.
The board hired the auditors to look at the finances it inherited from the era of former CEO Dwight Brown. In 2011, Brown was indicted on theft and racketeering charges related to his management of the company. Brown has pleaded not guilty.
The Sandersville power plant plan dates from 2008, when 10 electric co-ops, including the Cobb EMC helmed by Brown, formed a partnership called Power4Georgians. P4G, in turn, hired a company called Allied Energy Services to develop the plant. The audit says senior Cobb EMC officials said P4G hired Allied in a no-bid process on Brown’s recommendation. The auditors also wrote that they could find no business plan to justify Cobb EMC’s involvement in the plant.
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Since then, P4G has obtained key state permits, but EMCs have backed out. P4G says its financial backing comes from a Colorado firm called Taylor Energy Fund.
The timeline, though long, is no worry to Dean Alford, president and CEO of Allied Energy Services.
“This is not uncommon for projects. ... This is a $2 billion project,” he said.
Right now, P4G is trying to convince the federal government that it is far along enough in development and has signed enough contracts that it should be considered an existing power plant, and thus not subject to new, tighter air pollution rules that the feds are crafting for new coal-fired power plants.
State air pollution regulators in Atlanta recently granted P4G some breathing room, over the objections of green groups. In October, the Georgia Environmental Protection Division extended the deadline to April 2016 for P4G to start construction.
Longtime Plant Washington opponents at the Fall-line Alliance for a Clean Environment said in a written statement the audit will give P4G’s member co-ops “renewed interest in whether additional legal charges and actions may result.”
According to the audit, Cobb EMC has written off $4.3 million against the project.