May 19, 2009

Georgia Co-ops say "NO" to Coal

News from Georgia (E&E News PM):
COAL: 2 utilities withdraw from Ga. project (05/18/2009) Robin Bravender, E&E reporter

Two Georgia utilities have announced that they are pulling out of a planned 854-megawatt coal-fired power project slated for Washington County.

GreyStone Power Corp. and Excelsior EMC publicly announced last week that they are backing out of a consortium of 10 electric membership corporations, or EMCs, that planned to build a $2 billion coal-fired plant in Sandersville, about 60 miles east of Macon. The proposed Power4Georgians Plant Washington has come under fire from advocacy groups that have questioned the potential risks of increased air pollution in the region.

The two utility cooperatives cited high costs and concerns about the uncertainties surrounding federal climate legislation as factors behind their decisions to withdraw from the project. GreyStone held a 20 percent stake in the project; Excelsior's share was nearly 5 percent.

Tim Williams, vice president of corporate and external affairs at GreyStone, said the prospect of federal climate legislation and other regulatory concerns played into the utility's decision to opt out of the project.

Excelsior spokesman Greg Proctor cited similar worries. "At this time, we are experiencing an economic slowdown and a similar reduction in member growth," he said. "When coupled with a new administration whose energy policies are unknown, as well as the current capital constraints in the financial markets, we feel there is too much uncertainty to justify moving forward at the present time."

Environmentalists hailed the decision as a signal that developers face a tough battle to get the new plant online.

"We applaud GreyStone Power and Excelsior EMC for making the common-sense decision to steer away from investing in new coal-fired power plants, and we encourage the other EMCs of Power4Georgians to follow suit," said Stephen Smith, executive director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. "With pending federal climate legislation and the associated risks to utilities and their customers for emitting carbon dioxide, building new coal plants just doesn't make sense."

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