Rolling the Dice for Clean Energy in Georgia
On April 27, Georgia clean energy activists set up an oversized "Cobb-opoly" board in the town of Marietta in Cobb County, just west of Atlanta, to demonstrate how local utility cooperative Cobb EMC is "rolling the dice" and wheeling and dealing with ratepayers' money. The utility has proposed building two new coal-fired power plants in the state, which the Sierra Club is fighting.
That's Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign organizer Erin Glynn above, explaining how to get your blank check of bonus money from the ratepayer's treasure chest when you pass "Go!" Roll a five and you'll land on Allied Energy Services, a subsidiary of Cobb EMC, which lost $4.33 million between 2004 and 2007. Or you might land on the Cobb Energy Mortgage Company, which lost $870,000 in its two years of existence between 2005-2007.
"It looks like Cobb-opoly is a fun game to play, but unfortunately it's being played with real ratepayer money," says Georgia Chapter Director Colleen Kiernan. Below, Club activist Delon Barfus impersonates former Governor Roy Barnes standing in the Jail square handing out "Get Out of Jail Free" passes.
Georgians for Smart Energy, a coalition co-founded by the Sierra Club's Georgia Chapter, has been gathering steam in its fight against not just two, but three proposed coal plants in the state, including the ones being pushed by Cobb EMC. The Georgia Sierra Club is the lead petitioner in air and water permit challenges to all three plants.
A newly-formed group of concerned ratepayers, Take Back Cobb EMC, is protesting a pattern of misuse of money by Cobb EMC and calling for a federal investigation into the utility on the grounds that it failed to disclose information in possible violation of the Federal Power Act. Earlier this year, Cobb EMC's chief executive officer was indicted for racketeering and theft and accused of 31 counts of stealing from the co-op. The criminal charges were thrown out on a technicality.
"One thing we hope is that an investigation will compel those who took money inappropriately to give it back," says Mark Hackett of Take Back Cobb EMC, who is working to elect new board members for the utility. "The current board has shown a pattern of conflicts of interest and lack of transparency. It seems that we, members, have lost control of our runaway electric co-op."
A spokesman for the utility called Take Back Cobb EMC "radical environmentalists" with an agenda of keeping the company from building its two new coal plants.
"Often where there's a lack of transparency there's waste and pollution," says Georgia Chapter Chair Mark Woodall.
The Sierra Club's Georgia Beyond Coal campaign is working to collect 20,000 petition signatures to remove the current Cobb EMC board. Colleen Kiernan, who provided logistical support for the press conference and the Cobb-opoly game, gives a special shout-out to Centennial Group volunteers Roger Buerki and Delon Barfus for their work on Cobb EMC transparency, board elections, and stopping the two proposed coal plants. The two led neighborhood canvasses in the petition drive.
"At root, this is all about stopping Cobb EMC's new coal plants," Kiernan says. "New coal-fired power plants in Georgian are dirty, unnecessary, and expensive."
Learn more about the Sierra Club's work to move America beyond coal.