Another hurdle for “dormant” Plant Washington

The Carbon Pollution Standards for new power plants announced by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on August 3rd confirm that Plant Washington will not get a “pass”, adding yet another hurdle to the development of one of the last proposed new coal plants in the country.

The new standards rely on partial capture and storage of carbon dioxide emissions. Plant Washington project spokesman Dean Alford has said that such a standard will result in cancellation of the coal-fired project because it was not designed to meet the standard. To avoid that outcome, the project developer, Power4Georgians, LLC (P4G) sought to convince EPA that the project had “commenced construction” when the standards for new sources were first proposed in January 2014.  Under such circumstances, Plant Washington would be considered an existing source exempt from the new standards

Dean Alford
Dean Alford

But as Alford and P4G are now finding, there’s a difference between saying something and proving it.

Almost two years ago, in the draft version of the standards, the EPA specifically addressed Plant Washington and another proposed coal-fired plant in Kansas. The agency took the developers at their word that the plants were under construction and therefore qualified as existing sources.  But EPA also said that if either plant failed to qualify as an existing source, and was therefore classified as a new source, the agency would consider granting special standards due to the unique circumstances that both already had their construction permits.  The idea was that these two sources, the last two coal plants still supposedly under development in the country, would get special treatment – perhaps a standard less stringent than that applied to other new sources.  Otherwise the two lingering plants might not get built despite their “sunk costs.”

But last week, in the final rule, EPA said it is “unaware of any physical construction that has taken place at the proposed Plant Washington site,” and noted that a recent audit of the project had described it as “dormant.” EPA said it appears that Plant Washington did not commence construction when the new source rule was proposed, and would therefore likely be considered a new source should it ever be constructed.
 

The EPA pointed out that in October 2014, P4G received an 18-month extension on Plant Washington’s air permit from the Georgia Environmental Protection Division. The EPA went on to say that the possibility of Plant Washington being built and operating is “too remote” to merit an exemption from the new carbon emission standards.

So Plant Washington is not an existing source.  But what kind of carbon standard will it get? Remember that EPA said it would give Plant Washington and the Kansas project their own new source carbon standards.  Well, on this point, EPA punted.  Why?  Because the agency views it as so unlikely that these projects will actually go forward that it doesn’t want to spend the time coming up with individualized standards.  In the agency’s words, “because these units may never actually be fully built and operated, we are not promulgating a standard of performance at this time because such action may prove to be unnecessary.”

Ouch. 

EPA puts the ball P4G’s court, telling the developer that it must formally request a determination of its status — new or existing —  before EPA can decide whether and what kind of standards should apply to its carbon emissions.

P4G has had the ability since January 2014 to seek this so-called “applicability determination,” which would clear up once and for all the question of its status under the new standards.  In fact, under Alford’s leadership, P4G sought such an “applicability determination” from the Georgia Environmental Protection Division, but later chose to withdraw that request before the state agency could respond. Rather than clarify the project’s status, Alford opted to pursue an 18-month extension of the construction deadline under Plant Washington’s state-issued air permit. Alford got the extension, but this did little to convince EPA of P4G’s claim that the project had commenced construction in January 2014.  Instead, EPA arrived at the opposite conclusion: that Plant Washington is going nowhere fast.

Thanks to EPD’s generosity, Plant Washington still has 8 months left on its deadline to construct under the air permit.  But the project’s water discharge permit, another critical piece of the project, expired in March of this year. P4G failed to timely file an application to renew the permit prior to its expiration, prompting EPD to fine P4G.  EPD gave P4G thirty days to cure the defect but P4G missed that deadline as well.    These are not the actions of a project developer intent on meeting its construction deadline. 

And here in Washington County, there are no signs the coal-fire project is going forward, even at a snail’s pace. No ground has been broken, no Power Purchase Agreements have been announced, and no financier willing to pour the necessary billions into the project has emerged.

The EPA was correct in its refusal to exempt Plant Washington from the new carbon emission
standards.  The plant is not needed and would be a major source of carbon emissions.

Over 8.5 years have passed since this boondoggle plant was first announced, and its future is not one bit brighter than it was on the cold, gray, January day when it was unveiled. If Mr. Alford returns for yet another permit extension next year, the state would be wise to tell him that the final buzzer has sounded and no more time can be added to the game clock

Two boxes, 8.5 years

The Friday Photo
May 29,2015


We’re downsizing today. These two boxes are filled with documents spanning 8.5 years (and counting) of some of the most difficult, rewarding, and meaningful work I will ever do.

Today’s EPA deadline

The Friday Photo
May 9, 2014

pine trees
mature pine trees in our front yard

I had other plans for The Friday Photo today but spent more time than I expected crafting my comments to the EPA about proposed carbon pollution rules for existing power plants and why Plant Washington isn’t an existing source of greenhouse gases. The deadline was today at 5:00 p.m.

My comments included this:

“On a sunshine soaked afternoon in September 2013 while Power4Georgians was announcing its intent to request permit extensions from the Georgia Environmental Protection Division, crews hired by the current land owners were preparing the proposed plant site for planting timber. Growing timber is an investment in time and money, as my family knows from timber management on our family farm. Growing trees requires patience as it takes several years before even a thinning of the growth is necessary, with significant harvesting sometimes requiring 20 years of patient waiting and watching.”

Just like growing timber, fighting Plant Washington has required time and patience, and some watching and waiting. The investment for those of us who steeled ourselves and stood up in our community has been worth the effort. We won’t have to wait decades for the return on our investment.

Enough is enough

The Friday Photo
May 2, 2014

20140502-072805.jpg
I posted this photo on January 25, 2012 after Cobb EMC abandoned Plant Washington and resigned itself to a likely $15M loss on the proposed coal plant it had bankrolled with co-op owner/member dollars.

Almost 6.5 years after it was announced as a “done deal,” Power4Georgians has asked for a permit extension for this because P4G chose to delay construction.

Today is the last day to tell the Georgia EPD that Power4Georgians has had plenty of time.

We’re all living on the same small spinning piece of real estate sharing the limited water and air that has to sustain all of us. Every one of us have skin in this game.

Sign and share this message to the Georgia EPD TODAY and say that after almost 6.5 years, “enough is enough.”

 

Um no, not really

This letter was submitted to newspapers sold in the Washington EMC area:

Um, no. Not really

There is a critical error of fact in a press release issued by Power 4 Georgians last week. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has NOT stated that Plant Washington is exempt from any of the proposed carbon, or greenhouse gas (GHG) rules proposed by the agency, for existing or new power plants. In fact, it has become even clearer that, if built, Plant Washington will be subject to carbon pollution standards.  The only question is how protective those standards will be.

Plant Washington’s developer Power4Georgians has requested yet another extension from Georgia’s Environmental Protection Agency for his dinosaur-fuel based project. Southern Environmental Law Center attorney John Suttles commented that, “If Power 4 Georgians commenced construction a year ago like they said, they wouldn’t need additional permit extensions.”

Power4Georgians is choosing to delay construction.

With no announced Power Purchase Agreements or billions in required financing announced, of course the project requires extensions. If the project was fully funded and coal stacks of moneycustomers were waiting for power, wouldn’t the plant already be under construction?

The arguments against Plant Washington continue to grow larger and stronger with time. More energy producers are switching to renewable fuel sources due to reduced costs. Ratepayers are demanding more power produced by sunshine and wind. Major financiers have abandoned coal projects. A similarly speculative project, the Longview Power Plant in Maidsville, West Virginia, began operations in December 2011 and filed for bankruptcy less than two years later.  Meanwhile, ratepayers for power plants like the Prairie State Energy Campus have seen their monthly bills go up by as much as 51 percent due to the soaring costs of coal plants.

We’ve never needed Plant Washington in the first place. If you don’t believe me, drive out 300px-Solar_panelsto the 10 megawatt solar farm in Davisboro and see where Cobb EMC in Marietta is buying clean, affordable electricity generated right here in our own community.

Katherine Cummings
FACE Executive Director
Washington EMC owner/member

Is this the beginning of the Blame Game?

Today’s EPA ruling isn’t the reason Plant Washington won’t ever be built. It will, however, serve to drive home the fact that this project has always been  an exercise in bad business decisions in addition to the environmental and health impacts it would have on our area.

Supporters will say the EPA’s carbon control rules killed the plant. That will hardly be the case. The plant has never had a demonstrated need, and at every turn plant supporters have seen their weak arguments only grow weaker.

I’ve made plenty of mistakes in my 52 years,  and I’ll make plenty more in the future. Opposing Plant Washington isn’t one of them.

‘Tis but a scratch

Five years ago there were 10 EMCs backing Dean Alford’s Plant Washington coal project. Now Alford has announced that there aren’t any EMCs left in the group, EMCs that had originally announced that they would own, operate, and buy power from the plant.

The little that we do know about Alford’s plans is that he still has Colorado based Taylor Energy Fund, LLC as a partner, but he won’t name any others. Nor has he announced any completed Power Purchase Agreements, which are critical to financing the project. Yet Alford continues to believe this project is viable.

I am reminded of the limbless Black Knight, who says to the sword yielding King Arthur,” ‘Tis but a scratch.”

WEMC: Quit calling the co-op owner/members liars

I don’t need to recount the way P4G got a water permit, but we all know, plant supporters and opponents alike, that appeals were filed and the permit requirements were significantly increased due to those appeals.

And friends, the Oconee was too low for withdrawals in May. Period. The data on water levels came from the USGS. No one rigged up questionable data for the recent press release on exceptional drought conditions or the careful research carried out by the Union of Concerned Scientists used in their report.

I know the only day we will all agree on Plant Washington is when the Washington EMC Board of Directors announce a decision that Plant Washington isn’t tenable and is cancelled.

In the mean time, WEMC Board Members, and in particular my Board Representative, Billy Helton, please tell your spokesman and “no bid” contractor to stop calling your members “dishonest.”

As a result YOU are also calling us, your owner/members, friends, and neighbors, well, liars.

And you can’t hide behind some thin “excuse” like, “I can’t control what anyone says.” You are paying your spokesman and you can put a stop to the inaccurate things he is saying about your owner/members by cutting him off at the checkbook.

Please remember, we are the same people who have held you up while you grieved, brought you food when there was an illness in your family, prayed with you in church, and cheered your children on to victories on the ball field. We are leaders in our shared community of churches, civic groups, businesses, and schools.

Quit stooping to name calling and inaccurate statements about what we all know didn’t happen and the veracity of data.

Those tactics will not be forgotten long after Plant Washington’s pursuit is just a bad memory for our community and co-op.

You know better. Would your mother be proud?

One simple reason the EPD shouldn’t issue a final permit for Plant Washington

May 15, 2012

To: Georgia Environmental Protection Division

RE:  Amendment 4911-303-0051-P-01-2

When Plant Washington was announced over four years ago the plant was expected to pump 122 lbs of mercury per year into the local airshed. The EPD approved that amount of toxins in a permit which local residents and organizations across the state challenged. The result was a second permit reducing the mercury emissions to 55.6 lbs per year.

The developer of Plant Washington, Dean Alford, acquiesced on meeting the MATS rules at start up. The much needed and long awaited MATS regulations reduce the allowable mercury emissions to 1.69 lbs per year.

Please allow me to pat myself and other plant opponents on the back for standing firm on lower emissions in a community which already teeters on non-attainment, and whose citizens suffer the health ramifications of poor air quality. If your agency is truly committed to protecting the health of Georgia’s citizens and our natural resources permits with such high emission levels should never have been issued.

Now that Mr. Alford has agreed to meet the MATS emissions sooner rather than later, he seems to have had a change of heart. In interviews with Politico Pro and The Sandersville Progress, Alford said he can meet the emissions standards at start up. That is what the amended permit requires. Period.

I hope you can appreciate my concern about Alford’s ability to meet these standards when he joined a filing with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit stating that the emission regulations are unattainable.

The EPD permit amendment makes no mention of any technical or engineering requirements, or fuel mix, to assure that the emission standards will be met.

Is your agency in the business of issuing permits to companies who announce, before they have secured a final permit, that they can’t meet the requirements of the permit?

Rightly so, the confidence of local citizens in Alford’s ability to meet the standards has been deflated.

The taxpayers and citizens of Georgia expect, deserve, and demand that all companies issued a permit for emissions of any type, are able to meet those standards and maintain them in demonstrable and measurable ways.

Alford’s assurances that Plant Washington can meet the MATS rule are now hollow. I urge and request that the EPD do its duty to protect the health of my community as it is described in your mission and vision statements, and require Alford and Power4Georgians to demonstrate their ability to meet the MATS standards before a final permit is issued.

Sincerely,

Katherine Helms Cummings

You’re only as good as the company you keep

“You’re only as good as the company you keep” is something all of us probably heard growing up. It holds true for adults just as much as impressionable teenagers.

If the company you keep says a lot about you, then Dean Alford’s choice of business partners raises serious questions. Yesterday Alford announced that Taylor Energy Fund LLC is joining Power4Georgians (P4G). Tim Taylor’s company is based in Colorado but the Secretary of State’s website there shows no record of the company. Taylor joins forces with Alford, a private business partner with Dwight Brown, who awaits trial on 35 indictments pertaining to his time at Cobb EMC and Cobb Energy.

What plant opponents have learned about Mr. Taylor’s business history is less than encouraging.

In 2007 five men working at the Cabin Creek power plant in Colorado were killed in a tragic fire. Tim Taylor was President of Colorado Service Company (part of Xcel Energy), the company which owns the facility where the men died. The Denver Post coverage includes this quote from Greg Baxter, a regional administrator of the federal Occupational Health and Safety Administration, “This catastrophe could have been avoided if the companies had followed their critical safety procedures. There should never be such a disregard for the safety of employees.”

Mr. Taylor’s approach to company finances should also make Washington EMC  (WEMC) and other P4G co-op owner members take notice. In 2009, Xcel, under Taylor’s leadership,  made multiple requests to the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC) for rate increases to pay for construction costs in advance (much like GA Power is doing for Plant Vogtle). One request to the PUC was for $180.2M and it came on the heels of recent rate increases customers were already paying according to the Denver Post.

EMC members should note that Taylor had to take his rate request to a government utility  commission for approval. EMC rates do not go before the Georgia Public Service Commission. The Board of Directors at OUR co-op, the one we own and belong to, but must request permission to attend monthly meetings or get information about operations, sets our rates.There is no one to appeal to but them.

WEMC owner-members need to ask our Board of Directors who they are choosing to “keep company with” before the first shovel of dirt is moved, or we are told to expect bigger power bills.

The blessings and the curses of weekly newspapers

Several years ago I edited The Wrightsville Headlight in neighboring Johnson County. I spent a year there meeting and working with some of the nicest people I will ever know.

The upside of a weekly paper is that when you print something readers like, you have a whole week for people to say nice things about the paper. When you run a story about an issue which divides people, there is always an opportunity for a week’s worth of phone calls and passionate discussion.

One serious downside of weeklies is that readers must wait a week to see any corrections or clarifications in print.

This week’s edition of The Sandersville Progress didn’t get some important facts clear about a pending settlement concerning the construction permit for Plant Washington or the Greenhouse Gas Rule (GHG, or carbon pollution rule).

The paper’s coverage did not include or state clearly:

  1. P4G (Power4Georgians) does not have a final permit, and the amended permit must stand for public comments before it can be final. This will take weeks to complete.

2. The carbon pollution rule (also called Green House Gas or GHG rule), was announced on Friday, April 13.  Plant Washington needed a final and complete permit before April 13th to be considered exempt from the rule.  In addition, P4G must commence construction before April 13, 2013 in order to avoid this additional pollution control rule. The clock is running now on this project.

3. If Plant Washington fails to meet the exemption criteria announced by the EPA, it will have to meet the new carbon pollution rules.

4. “Commence construction” requires more than moving some dirt around. It might be demonstrated by a contract for a boiler for the facility. For a facility of this size experts estimate the cost to be about $400M, with additional cancellation penalties ranging from $20M-$80M. There is no indication that P4G has done any of the engineering work required to order a boiler. There is also no indication that P4G has lined up the financing that would allow it to enter such a significant contractual commitment.

5. No company has built a new coal plant to meet the new Mercury and Air Toxins rules which were finalized earlier this year. Dean Alford, the project developer, has never built a coal plant.

6.The remaining four co-ops in P4G do not have any Power Purchase Agreements (PPA) in place for customers to purchase electricity generated by Plant Washington.

  7. Dean Alford said that the PPAs will be used to help acquire financing loans for the project in addition to the bonds it expects the county to issue. Therefore, there is no indication that P4G has the necessary financing in place for the project.

I understand that the Progress works with limited staff and that the publisher, Trib Publication, has no online capacity to run corrections or clarifications promptly.

Whether the paper is crystal clear or not, thre are people who rely on it heavily for their local news (and we have a high population of people here who do not use the internet at all). It will be another week before we all see high school sports pictures, read Shirley Friedman’s column, or find out that in fact Plant Washington isn’t “full steam ahead.”

In fact, it seems to be sputtering.

Cobb EMC abandons coal and chooses solar power generated in Washington County!

What a week for clean air and water in Georgia! We started the week with the cancellation of the proposed coal plant Ben Hill near Fitzgerald, and Plant Washington will have to comply with stricter standards for mercury and other toxic air emissions IF it is ever constructed.

Now the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released the Greenhouse Gas rule (carbon pollution rule, or GHG), making Plant Washington’s fate even less certain. Because Power4Georgians does not yet have a final permit for construction, hasn’t made final design or engineering determinations, and has yet to secure financing for the multi-billion dollar facility, it appears Plant Washington is subject to the GHG rule. That means Plant Washington will be even more expensive and much less practical to finance, construct, operate, or return any investment to the four remaining co-op owner-members.

What options does our community have for affordable electricity? Cobb EMC, which dropped Plant Washington in January, has just inked an agreement to buy 10MW of power generated from the clean and abundant sunshine we have right here in Washington County!

Cobb EMC leaders did the math on Plant Washington and accepted the fact that it just wasn’t a cost effective investment for their co-op owner-members. After putting out requests for new power contracts, they decided in favor of clean, abundant, and job creating renewable power.

Renewable energy puts people to work. Washington County residents are already working at MAGE solar panels in Laurens County, where 350 people will be employed. Another Lauren County facility using wood waste will employ 55 people. Elbert County citizens are already working at some of the 200 jobs announced for a wind turbine company in their county.

Washington EMC Directors, elected officials, and business leaders, your former partner in Power4Georgians has done its homework and found that solar is affordable and reliable after all. It is time you did your homework too.

WEMC has a 10MW contract expiring in 2014. Give us a sound business plan that supports dirty outdated coal as the best option for our community, when solar is available just down the road.

Talking out of both sides of your mouth

Since the end of January Plant Washington has been a hot topic at barber and beauty shops, grocery store lines, and church. In just over three months time local residents of Washington County, Washington EMC owner-members, and others involved in Power4Georgians (P4G) have read in newspapers and online various, and often conflicting, versions of what’s going on with the proposed dirty coal plant.

Recently, the Marietta Daily Journal reported on the minutes of the Cobb EMC Board of Directors meeting on January 24, 2012: “Power4Georgians owns the permits but he (Dean Alford) stated that P4G never intended to build Plant Washington. He stated P4G’s goal has always been to obtain the permits needed and then sell them to any interested party that could build the plant.”

On the heels of this eye-popping revelation, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy released Follow the Money,  a report outlining and charting the complicated and circuitous connections among Plant Washington supporters.

This week The Sandersville Progress has an article about the remaining four EMCs in P4G. The article reports that all calls to the remaining four EMCs were unreturned or they declined to comment. Not one member of Power4Georgians will speak out in support of the project that has cost over 25 million dollars. . Central Georgia EMC referred the reporter to Dean Alford, and said that he will answer provide a statement for the co-op.

EMC owner-members, at least at my co-op, have long felt shut out and distanced from the Board of Directors. I doubt they will be any happier with our co-op’s leaders saying that our questions should go directly to Alford- or remain unanswered.

Dapper Dean isn’t on the Board of Directors at WEMC or any of the other EMCs. None of the owner-members have ever had a chance to vote for him, or the money and water sucking coal plant he continues to insist we need.

The members of these Board of Directors need to be mindful that they accepted a fiduciary responsibility for co-op operations, and that Plant Washington certainly falls in that category. They can’t necessarily count on being shielded by the co-op if they do their jobs poorly.

What am I doing to be a good co-op owner-member? I have sent information to them as well as questions. I’ve asked for answers via letter to the local papers and here in this blog.

Since the end of January I have emailed the officers of Washington EMC-Frank Askew (CEO), Wendy Sellers (CFO), Mike McCoy, (Board Chair), and Billy Helton (my rep to the Board) each three times (I finally got an email address for Mike McDonald, another board member, who was copied in the third email I sent).

I got one response from Mr. Helton concerning news about Dwight Brown’s legal battle with Cobb EMC over $2.1M he thinks his former employer owes him, and an article on  profits soaring 20 percent since 2008 at King & Spalding, the law firm representing P4G (Plant Washington was announced in January 2008)

And now, in this week’s Sandersville Progress (which isn’t available onlinethe paper reports that none of the EMCs involved in P4G will answer questions from  reporters. Instead, Dean Alford speaks for them.

So, to smooth out some of this tangled mess: leaders at Washington EMC want Dean Alford, who testified under oath in 2010 that the P4G EMCs intend to own and operate Plant Washington, but according to the Cobb EMC January 2012 Board Minutes, Alford told Cobb EMC leaders that P4G never intended to own or build the plant. And now WEMC leaders have chosen Alford to speak for them.

And just to remove any doubt about the ownership of Plant Washington, Dean was quoted in the Marietta Daily Journal immediately after the plant was announced over four years ago, saying, “These 10 cooperatives (P4G)… are building this facility — 100 percent used by them, for them, — to keep energy rates affordable.” (I can’t find any record of him disagreeing with the quote).

Developed, built, and owned by the EMCs- or not. Do the leaders in Washington County and our EMC know?

 

The fog is lifting on a “smoke and mirrors guy”

The Marietta Daily Journal’s “Around Town” column confirms what many of us have suspected for almost four years: Dean Alford never intended to build Plant Washington.

Cobb EMC is now posting board meeting minutes on its web site for access by co-op owner-members (pass word protected with no ability to electronically copy or print). The minutes from the January 24 meeting where Dapper Dean made a final pitch to convince the co-op to continue bankrolling his project have now been posted.

The MDJ reports from the minutes, “Mr. Alford … commented that coal is still the backbone of the country and that it is important to have a diversified portfolio of energy. Power4Georgians owns the permits but he stated that P4G never intended to build Plant Washington. He stated P4G’s goal has always been to obtain the permits needed and then sell them to any interested party that could build the plant.” (emphasis added).

The MDJ goes on to say about the project. which Cobb EMC spent at least $13.5M on,  “The power plant was the ‘baby’ of now-indicted ex-Cobb EMC head Dwight Brown and his sidekick Alford, who also served as vice chairman of corporate spinoff Cobb Energy. ”

The Marietta newspaper quotes a power industry expert in “Around Town” about the possibility of selling the permits if they could be secured, “As for the argument that the permits could be sold? “Good luck,” our first industry source said. “Who would buy those, if Cobb and others are saying they don’t need all that power?”

The MDJ quotes a second industry expert saying, “I questioned myself if they ever intended to build it, and I’m convinced that if they had pursued that course, it would have driven Cobb EMC into bankruptcy. But I think Dean’s a smoke-and-mirrors guy who’ll say anything to keep his business going.”

I saw the smiling faces at the Washington EMC when Plant Washington was announced in January 2008 because I was invited to the very hush-hush event. The Washington EMC Board of Directors, CEO Frank Askew, Dean Alford, Chamber President Theo McDonald, and Hugh Tarbutton Sr. were all grins despite Dean’s statement that they were counting on “some environmentalists” trying to stop the plant.

My eyes, like those of others in the room, were opened wide that day. We heard the promises ourselves: Plant Washington would be built, owned, and operated by the co-ops.

I didn’t know much about energy production that afternoon, and no one would have accused me of being an environmentalist. And I sure didn’t know anything about being a good co-op owner-member.

I still have a lot to learn about energy production. But now I am a flag waving, treehugging, dirt worshipping environmentalist. And the good co-op owner-member? I’m working tooth and nail on that too.

Good governance isn’t just for co-op owner-members

The cows are still coming home to Cobb EMC. The Marietta Daily Journal is reporting that Dwight Brown is taking legal action against Cobb EMC because he thinks he is due the full $2.1M from a consulting contract.

If I were Dwight Brown I would do the same: who wouldn’t want to collect $13,800 per week plus expenses for three years (plus attorney’s fees of $5,000 for the contract he had drawn up).

This is a perfect example of how open meetings and transparency help Board members too. Larry Chadwick, the Board Chair of Cobb EMC, signed the contract without the approval or authorization of the co-op’s Board of Directors. That wouldn’t happen if business and voting take place in an open meeting, along with access to documents and records (and there are co-ops that discuss personnel and  contractual matters in executive session but vote in an open meeting. It can and is done successfully) .

Maybe the previous rubber stamp board would have agreed to the contract too, but we will never know. Now the co-op has to spend yet more of the owner-member dollars in an effort to break the contract and recover some of what has been paid.

All of the “doing and deals” cooked up by Brown and the Board of Directors in control prior to November 2011 defy good business practices. A court agreement between owner-members and the Board required that Brown leave the co-op at the end of February 2011. After insisting that Brown was the only person on the planet who could effectively run the co-op, the Board hired him as a consultant on March 1, 2011 to work as a consultant where, according to the MDJ, he essentially continued to work as the CEO.

It is stunning to watch the machinations of people who have long lost sight of what is best for the community they live in, the co-op they work for, and the owner-members who elected them to conduct business on their behalf.

It bears repeating: open meetings and transparency held Board members too.

What say you now Washington EMC leaders? Still think keeping the door slammed shut to members is in the co-op’s best interest? What about your best interest?

Power4Georgians law firm reports “fat” profits

The going rate for attorneys like the ones at King and Spalding, who represent Washington EMC and the remaining three co-ops in Power4Georgians, is about $650 per hour, per attorney. They usually have no fewer than three attorneys at their table. Billing just under $2000 per hour isn’t chump change.

So how did last year go for King and Spalding? According to the American Law site, the firm’s revenue increased 9 percent, jumping from $718M to $781.5M. The cut per equity partner (lawyers in the firm eligible for distribution of profits) went up 12 percent from the previous year, falling just short of $2M at $1.975M.  The article reports that K&S’s revenue has increased 20 percent since 2008, and the profit per equity partners (lawyers in the firm eligible for distribution of profits) soared by 56 percent.

When was Plant Washington announced? January 2008. 

Every Washington EMC owner member contributed directly to those profits when they paid their bill or bought an appliance. It just doesn’t seem right that “our” attorneys are making out like bandits with our money.

Do the phones at K&S sound like a cash register when Dean Alford calls? Just wonderin’

 

Dwight Brown is a national award winner

mug shot 
indictments on 35 charges 
years of lawsuits brought by co-op owner members 
awarding a no-bid contract to your business partner 
barring owner members from board meetings 
making thousands of owner members furious 
voted “Best Villain” in a national media awards competition

Kudos to Mad Dog Mail, Building a Better Georgia. and 190,000 Cobb EMC members who are taking back their co-op

 

Flannery O’Connor could have written this

Today the team I play on stepped our game up to a higher level. We started together to stop Plant Washington, a coal plant supported locally by the Tarbuttons (Southerners know to how things happen in a “one family county.”). The more my friends and neighbors, along with our partners, learned about our respective electric co-op’s  governance and business relationships, the more tangled the story line became.

This story is set in a rural community blanketed with tall trees, a black water river, and, because it is the rural South, a swamp. Another chapter was published today, and this one has a picture that outlines the characters and the plot.

The plot picked up again this morning. Some of the characters left early on in the story. Others held on into the fourth year since the story outline was announced in Sandersville. One of the lead characters, Dwight Brown, awaits trial on 35 indictments which include racketeering, theft, making false statements, and witness intimidation. At least one forensic audit is in the near future which may reveal yet more intrigue.

The story isn’t over, but this much is certain: it hasn’t played out like the writers announced in late January 2008. Flannery O’Connor loved a good plot twist too.