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Trio opposed to coal plant runs for Snapping Shoals board

COVINGTON - Three candidates have launched campaigns for posts on the Snapping Shoals EMC Board of Directors, demanding that the board be more transparent about its decision to back a coal-burning power plant in Washington County.

Ab Roesel of Rockdale County, Cheryl Mathis of DeKalb County and Kaye Shipley of Henry County are concerned Snapping Shoals customers who say they've asked plenty of questions about why the non-profit, member-owned cooperative is continuing its support of Plant Washington, a proposed $2 billion power plant, after other backers have pulled out.

Most recently, the board of directors for Cobb County EMC, the largest of the four remaining EMCs supporting the project, voted to end its involvement in the plant's development. Snapping Shoals is part of a consortium, reduced from 10 EMCs to three, called Power4Georgians, that is financially backing the project. Snapping Shoals is now the largest EMC involved; other partners are Washington, Central Georgia and Upson EMCs. Plant Washington has been criticized by environmental groups since it was proposed in 2008 for its possible impact on the local water and air. The plant has received all permits from state and federal regulators with the exception of one regarding air quality.

Ab Roesel is running for the District 2 Rockdale post against incumbent and Snapping Shoals Board of Directors Vice Chairman Anthony Norton. Roesel, a retired teacher and former Army pilot with experience in the electrical contracting industry, said he's asked many questions at board meetings and at the Snapping Shoals annual meeting, but he's not getting any real answers. That's what motivated him to run for the board.

"Our objections and our efforts are towards more transparency in the function of the board and the management. We won't necessarily turn Snapping Shoals around but at least we'll be able to get out information as to how the decision is being made and what the arguments are for pursuing this thing," he said, adding that there are less expensive alternatives, such as gas-fired power plants.

Cheryl Moore-Mathis is running for the DeKalb County District 3 post held by incumbent Walter Johnson.

"I've been paying my bill to Snapping Shoals for over 18 years now and would love to see an EMC that is more responsive to its members and forward-looking in their energy planning," said Moore-Mathis, who is retired from business development and is a self-proclaimed neighborhood activist. She attends St. Matthew Missionary Baptist Church in Covington. Like Roesel, Moore-Mathis said she's seeking more information for herself and other customers, including a feasibility study on why the plant will be beneficial.

Moore-Mathis said she believes the board may be "listening to a select group of people and they need to branch outside of that so they can be more informed about how this is going to affect us and our bills."

Concerns aren't limited to environmental impact for the local candidates. They cite a study by Georgia Watch, a consumer watchdog group, that found the plant could increase electric bills by 16 percent.

"The reality is that the only thing protecting Snapping Shoals EMC ratepayers like me is the Board of Directors," said Shipley, a businesswoman with experience in the healthcare and chemical industry who is running for the District 4 seat held currently by Gene Morris. "As a ratepayer I want a transparent process when it comes to energy decisions and their predicted costs. As a board member, I'd work to make sure any Snapping Shoals family or business could have answers to these questions and more."

An 11-member board of directors sets policies and oversees the finances and administration of Snapping Shoals EMC. The board hires a CEO/president who administers policies set by the board and oversees day-to-day operations.

Members of the board of directors are elected at the Snapping Shoals annual meeting, set for July 26 at the Georgia International Horse Park in Conyers. Registration is from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., with the business portion of the meeting beginning at 11:30. Results will be announced as soon as tabulations are completed.

The District 1 post representing Newton, Walton, Morgan and Jasper counties is also on the ballot, with incumbent D.L. "Pete" Knox running unopposed.

Members serve three-year terms and, though posts are divided by district, elections are system-wide, meaning all members vote for each post.

Roesel, Moore-Mathis and Shipley are hosting a joint meet and greet from 5 to 7 p.m. Monday at Ruby Tuesday's at 1714 Ga. Highway 138 in Conyers. The public is invited to come and learn more about the candidates and their positions on Plant Washington.