February 10-- New research released today from Southern Alliance for Clean Energy exposes the trail of money from Georgia EMC members’ pockets to Dean Alford, former Cobb Energy executive and close business associate of indicted Cobb EMC ex-chief Dwight Brown. It also raises questions about benefits to one Washington County family.
The five EMCs (Snapping Shoals EMC, Central Georgia EMC, Washington EMC, Upson EMC, and Cobb EMC) funneled at least $27 million to Alford via the POWER4Georgians (P4G) consortium of EMCs, which hired Alford’s company, Allied Energy Services, with a no-bid contract to build two controversial coal-fired power plants in central Georgia. Cobb EMC opted on January 24 to discontinue funding P4G, leaving many questioning the remaining four EMCs continuing role and financial burden.
The “Follow the Money” research also highlights the role of Hugh Tarbutton, Sr., whose family owns the railroad line that would carry coal to the proposed Sandersville-area plant, Plant Washington. Tarbutton stands to gain a lucrative coal-carrying contract; he also owns the land the plant would be built on and serves on the Washington County Development Authority, which may back Plant Washington with bonds.
“Members have been asking these EMCs for years how Dean Alford has spent their money, and hit a wall of silence,” said Amelia Shenstone, Georgia Coal Organizer for the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, which compiled the research. “There’s no evidence that the EMCs themselves even know how the spending breaks down. If Hugh Tarbutton sells Power4Georgians his land at the same rate they paid his neighbors, he’ll make eleven times the market value of the land –EMCs and members need to know the justification for those transactions.”
Snapping Shoals EMC member Ab Roesel added, “I don’t know where my money is going in this process. It is a sure bet that Dean Alford knows. That’s a big problem. For EMC co-ops, the members are the regulators – if we, as members, can’t more clearly see what’s going on, how can we make sure we don’t get in the same mess that Cobb EMC got itself into?”
Dean Alford worked for now-indicted Dwight Brown as a Vice President of Cobb Energy, and kept his job even though his projects lost about $11 million over 5 years. Allied Energy Services, a former Cobb Energy subsidiary, helped create POWER4Georgians, which then turned around and gave a no-bid contract to Allied. Cobb Energy was the ill-fated, for-profit affiliate of Cobb EMC; Dwight Brown, who was CEO of both companies, allegedly used the for-profit to steal from Cobb EMC members. Dean Alford once owned $750,000 in preferred Cobb Energy stock.
Cobb EMC’s new directors have indicated they will conduct a forensic audit to investigate the business arrangements behind P4G and other EMC affairs. Snapping Shoals EMC, Central Georgia EMC, Washington EMC, and Upson EMC, are currently still invested in this risky business proposition. Questions remain about whether they intend to push ahead with this year’s installment to P4G, though several have indicated they are re-evaluating their roles in the power plant projects.
The Georgians for Smart Energy coalition continues to advocate that all the EMCs in P4G conduct a thorough analysis of their needs for new generation in light of reduced power demand trends and a stagnant economy, as well as a comprehensive assessment of alternative options including energy efficiency and renewable energy.