FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 25, 2012
Contact: Jenna Garland, (404) 281-6398 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Decade-Long Georgia Coal Rush Almost
Utility Withdraws New
Coal Financing, Following National Trend of Coal Losing Market Share to Clean
Atlanta, GA – In another strike against coal, a local
utility near Atlanta voted late Tuesday to cancel funding for two proposed new coal-fired
power plant projects. Over the past
decade three coal plants have been proposed in Georgia. With yesterday’s announcement, the remaining
two projects have lost their primary source of funding and will likely be
abandoned. The third project, the LS
Power Longleaf project, was abandoned late last year as part of a nationwide
settlement with the Sierra Club.
Yesterday in a closed meeting, the
Cobb Electric Membership Corporation (EMC) board of directors voted to stop
funding the Power4Georgians proposed coal plant projects, Plant Washington and
Plant Ben Hill, in Central Georgia. Each 850 megawatt coal plant would have
cost more than $2 billion to build and would have added deadly new sources of
toxic mercury and carbon pollution in Georgia and downwind states.
“Coal’s dominance is coming to an end,” said Bruce Nilles,
Senior Director of Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign. “Today’s news from
Georgia fits into a strong national trend of clean energy displacing coal. For
the past decade we have successfully blocked the construction of now 164
proposed coal-fired power plants. With the
cost of coal rising and clean energy prices plummeting, coal’s market share is
shrinking and shrinking fast. At the
same time, over the past three years the United States has installed records
amount of wind and solar, and in the process has created thousands of new jobs.
For the past four years Sierra Club and the Georgians for Smart
Energy Coalition have been campaigning to persuade Cobb EMC and its partners to
abandon the coal plants and instead to invest in clean, home-grown energy sources like wind and solar. The proposed coal plants would have required
Georgians to ship millions of dollars out of Georgia annually to buy imported
"I am proud
that since 2008, the Sierra Club and our partner organizations have been
actively organizing and challenging these coal plant proposals, and
working with cooperative members to highlight the risky nature of coal-fired
power plants," said Seth Gunning, Georgia Organizer with the Beyond Coal Campaign and Cobb EMC
A report released this week by the U.S.
Energy Information Administration highlighted a predicted drop in coal’s market
share, from 44 to 39 percent, between 2010 and 2035. The EIA reports
traditionally underestimate coal's decline, and the Georgia board vote seems to
suggest an even steeper drop for coal power in the United States. The EIA
report also predicted that no new coal plants would be constructed in this
period, aside from those already under construction. Bruce Nilles’s recent
writing on the EIA report can be found at http://sc.org/w9SrLV.
No new coal plants have broken ground
since 2008, except for a highly-subsidized Department of Energy demonstration
project in Kemper County, Mississippi. Even with federal and state subsidies,
the project is expected to increase consumers’ electric bills by more than 40%,
according to the Mississippi Business Journal. The Great River Energy
Spiritwood Plant in North Dakota, which came online in 2010, now sits idle
because it is too expensive to run. The plant cost $400,000,000 to build.
New federal health protections
finalized in 2011 will require existing coal plants to reduce their pollution,
including toxic mercury pollution, and new plants will have to plan for
scrubber technology, which will increase the projected price of construction.
The Sierra Club’s
Beyond Coal campaign works in partnership with Bloomberg Philanthropies and a
nationwide coalition of allies to retire one-third of the nation's aging coal
plants by 2020, replacing them with clean energy like wind and solar by 2030.
Coal plants are the largest sources of climate disruption and toxic air
pollution like mercury, soot and carbon pollution. Once finalized, Plant Washington and Plant Ben Hill would
be the 163rd and 164th plants defeated or abandoned since the Sierra Club began
its Beyond Coal campaign in 2002.
Cobb EMC, an electrical membership
corporation based in Marietta, GA, serves 200,000 members in the Northwest
Metro Atlanta area. The non-profit corporation has been embroiled in legal
controversy for years, resulting in a legal settlement forcing CEO Dwight Brown
to step down in February 2011. He was then indicted on 35 felony charges,
including racketeering and conspiracy to commit fraud related to Brown’s
establishment of a for-profit arm of the company, illegal under Georgia law.
The coal plant proposals were tied into the controversy.