Citizens Not Allowed to Ask Questions of County Commission

Posted on November 13, 2009 by


Public Input on Plant Washington Rejected by Washington County Chairman

Since the coal-fired Plant Washington was proposed for Middle Georgia in January 2008, citizens in the area have tried to get answers to a number of tough questions.

After months of delay, Katherine Cummings, president of the Fall-line Alliance for a Clean Environment (FACE) and a Washington County resident, had hoped that today would finally bring some answers. Cummings was on the agenda to speak before the Washington County Board of Commissioners to ask questions about the county’s role in the proposed coal plant and its impact on the community.

But as Cummings began her comments today, Commission Chairman Tommy Walker interrupted and said that she would not be allowed to ask questions in public. She was told instead to submit her questions in writing.

Plant Washington is a traditional 854-megawatt coal-fired plant proposed by energy developer Power4Georgians (P4G) to be constructed in middle Georgia, a few miles north of Sandersville in Washington County. Six electric membership corporations (EMCs) comprise P4G. They are Cobb EMC, Pataula EMC, Snapping Shoals EMC, Central Georgia EMC, Upson EMC and Washington EMC.

“I am disappointed that the County Commission isn’t interested in hearing from constituents about important issues related to Plant Washington that will affect our financial and environmental future,” Cummings said.

Both a representative of Power4Georgians and the president of the Washington County Chamber of Commerce have said that the Washington County Development Authority will own the plant. Added Cummings: “We need to know why the county should take on the huge financial risk of funding a $2 billion coal plant when recent reports demonstrate that there is no need for the power, the technology is outdated, and construction and operation costs are underestimated.”

“The financial impact that this plant could have on the taxpayers of my community merits careful consideration,” Cummings continued. “Why won’t the Commission discuss this with voters? I’m also deeply concerned that Commissioner Walker gave us no date by which these very specific questions will be answered.” [Those questions are below.]

Larry Warthen, FACE vice president, is also a Steward in Minton Springs Methodist Episcopal Church. “Our church is located on Mayview Road and our grounds include a historic slave cemetery. It disturbs me that they want to close this road. It also disturbs me that they don’t know where the money to build this coal plant is going to come from. My question to our community leaders is: Who is going to own this plant and who is going to pay for it? If they know the answers, why can’t they tell us?”

FACE Questions for the Washington County Board of Commissioners
1)    What will happen to Mayfield Road, which is scheduled to be closed?

2)    Who (what entity or entities) will hold title to Plant Washington?

3)    If there are to be multiple owners, how are the shares for each owner to be divided?

4)    Who will own the real property associated with Plant Washington?

5)    What is the anticipated annual ad valorem tax liability due to the local and state governments for the plant?

6)    Will any properties associated with the plant be exempt from ad valorem taxation?

7)    What is the value of the exempt properties?

8)    What would the total ad valorem liability to Washington County be if those properties were not exempt?

9)    Is any public authority or agency of government participating in financing any land acquisition for the plant?  Which public authority or agency? (Washington County Development Authority, Public Facilities Authority?)

10) Which parts of the plant are to be financed by these public agencies or authorities?  What percentage of the total cost of the plant does that participation represent? Which public agencies or authorities are expected to do this financing?

11) What is the nature of the financial instruments the public agencies or authorities plan to use?  (Are they general obligation bonds secured by county revenue?  Are they revenue bonds secured by revenue paid by the proceeds of sales of power?)

12) Who is responsible for the payment of any debt of any public agency or authority in the event of a default by the operators or the power plant?

13) In the event of default, what is the security available to the responsible party? Is it possible that the power plant could be exempt, for one reason or another, from ad valorem tax liability that would be incurred if the plant were owned by a for-profit corporation?

14)Is is possible that county taxpayers could be liable for debts incurred by public
agencies or authorities in the event of a default by the operator of the power plant?
Assuming Washington County is a part of any agreement containing these details,
when do you expect such an Operating Agreement to come before this Commission?

15) Do you have a draft that you are currently considering? Do you expect to act on
such an agreement after the permit is obtained, or before? Would you publish notice
of this action item in advance so that we can make comments?

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