Now the real work begins

The fight to stop Plant Washington is going to get very interesting because developer Dean Alford’s filings with the EPA will be subject to Open Records sunlight.

Alford claims he met EPA requirements to “commence construction” by midnight April 12 when he signed a boiler contract with IHI Corporation in Japan and a site erection contract with Zachry Industrial in the United States.

EPA “commence construction” requires more than signing a contract. Georgia EPD staffer Jac Capp told the Macon Telegraph earlier this month that commence construction, “means that the source has both ‘begun a continuous program of actual on-site construction’ and ‘entered into binding agreements or contractual obligations which cannot be canceled without a substantial loss.’

Last Saturday, a day drenched in brilliant sunlight, I drove past the plant site. There was a dead armadillo in the road, but except for some March storm damage, not much has changed on either side of the Mayview Road, which divides the plant site, since January 2008. The dirt roads crossing the plant have no tracks indicating heavy equipment has moved in for construction work ahead.

Meeting the requirement of a “substantial loss” will now require more than Alford saying there are “several” entities lined up for this project, which is all he offered to the Atlanta Journal Constitution in January 2012 when his largest backer, Cobb EMC walked from the project. Earlier this month Alford told the Macon Telegraph he has “way over the amount of money I need for this project.” Hopefully the contract documents will soon be made public so that we’ll finally get a chance to see what all this talk is made of, and who is willing to invest in it besides the latecomer to the game, designated hitter Taylor Energy Fund.

There are brand spanking new coal plants, some built and owned by EMCs, like Spiritwood in Minnesota, which have never powered a single light bulb because the operating costs were prohibitive. Other plants, like Prairie State in Illinois, have saddled ratepayers with higher rates before supplying them with any power.

Sure, I wish Alford had called it a day late last Friday night, but I am not surprised. He doesn’t live here, he doesn’t rely on the local groundwater when he wants a drink of water, and his grandchildren won’t be breathing Plant Washington toxins into their lungs when they play outside.

For those of us who have real skin in the game, the work has just begun.