After election, questions remain about Plant Washington

While candidates Kaye Shipley, Cheryl Mathis, and Ab Roesel were edged out yesterday in board elections at Snapping Shoals EMC, an Atlanta-area utility co-op, we congratulate them on a hard-fought campaign to bring accountability to their co-op and shed light on its involvement with a controversial coal-fired power plant proposal. The election took place on Thursday morning at the co-op’s Annual Meeting of customer-members.

The turnout at the annual meeting was unusually large, with pro-incumbent votes far out-shadowing the reform candidates. In our opinion, the fact that the co-op felt the need to turn out so much opposition to new candidates standing for transparency, reform, and clean affordable energy is testament to the fact that it felt a very real threat from these candidates.

Despite the loss, there is good news for clean energy: the EMC announced shortly after the reform candidates began their race that it was no longer funding Plant Washington. Candidate Shipley pointed out, “I think our candidacies helped to push for this very public announcement around Plant Washington and I plan to continue to push for a full investigation of [the plant]. As a customer I want to make sure we are investigating the most affordable energy options moving forward.”

At the annual meeting, while the votes were tallied, several members stepped up to the microphone to ask tough questions about Plant Washington, ranging from cost to carbon impact. Co-op leaders assured members that Snapping Shoals was not obligated to buy power from Plant Washington, and that it would like to bring more renewables and efficiency into its power mix. The co-op also had interactive energy efficiency displays, and encouraged members to take advantage of existing efficiency programs and to buy green power – all steps in the right direction, though with only .2% of its power coming from renewables (according to CEO Brad Thomas from the podium), the EMC has a long way to go.

In the end, the reform candidates were proud of their accomplishment. The incumbent board members are rarely challenged in elections, and from their conversations with members they reported that most seemed not to know about Plant Washington before the election campaign started. Candidate Shipley offered, “The bottom line is, we’ve elevated a debate previously absent from our communities and family conversations.”

While the 3 reform candidates lost, they ran a noble race on platforms that would have truly represented the EMC members. We hope and believe they paved the way for change at Snapping Shoals and look forward to a more member-involved future at the co-op.

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The ‘reform’ candidates weren’t edged out, they were smacked-down by a whopping 88% of members who voted for the incumbents. No amount of clean energy spin can change the fact that SSEMC members like thier rates affordable and are happy to re-elect board members who make that possible. But for challengers campaigning on a platform of transparency, the three losers were pretty tight-lipped about who was funding their campaigns and who was paying for the robocalls – perhaps they should have been more transparent.

Comment by Frank Talk on July 27, 2012 9:33 am

Thanks for your comment. The fact remains that there is no evidence that power from Plant Washington would be cheap. It came out during the election of an entirely new board at Cobb EMC (after its CEO, who helped create Power4Georgians, was indicted) that an industry standard financial pro forma (cost projection) was never done for Plant Washington. On the other hand, analysis by experienced industry analyst Tom Sanzillo (author of Georgia Watch’s report) suggests that the costs of building and operating Plant Washington, and therefore the cost of power from the plant, have increased dramatically since the time when the plant was proposed. Furthermore, I have to wonder why the board at Snapping Shoals is so much more optimistic about this project than the boards at Cobb EMC and the other four EMCs that dropped out of Plant Washington in 2009. If it’s too expensive for Cobb, how could it be a good fit for Snapping Shoals?

Comment by Amelia Shenstone on August 1, 2012 10:50 am

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