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Partnership releases Snapping Shoals from future coal plant commitments

CONYERS -- Snapping Shoals EMC announced Wednesday an agreement with development partner Taylor Energy Fund LP that will release the EMC and all other participating co-ops from any further capital commitments to Plant Washington.

According to Power4Georgians, a consortium of Georgia EMCs that partnered to develop and implement an energy strategy, the agreement announced Wednesday signals the end of the permitting phase for coal-fired Plant Washington, located near Sandersville, and the release of Power4Georgians EMCs from involvement in future funding.

"We have completed our commitment to our members and our partners to obtain all the various permits needed to build and operate Plant Washington," said Brad Thomas, president and CEO of Snapping Shoals EMC, in a press release Wednesday. "We are pleased to partner with Taylor Energy Fund as we move into the next phase of this important project."

According to Snapping Shoals, the EMC's financial commitment to the project totaled $3.7 million for land acquisition and $7.5 million for permitting.

Under the new arrangement, Taylor Energy Fund will fund the continued development of the 850-MW power plant project. Taylor Energy Fund, based in Denver, became a partner in the project in April. As a partner in the project, Snapping Shoals will receive a preferred option to purchase power once the plant is operational and a return on capital invested, according to the EMC.

"This is another positive step in the development of Plant Washington and will ensure that all necessary pieces are in place as we prepare to move this project into the next phase," said Dean Alford, spokesman for Power4Georgians and a Conyers resident.

With all permits in place, construction on Plant Washington is scheduled to begin sometime before April 2013.

Alford said the agreement with Taylor Energy is the culmination of the initial plan put into place by the EMCs involved in Power4Georgians.

"The co-ops have always said their desire was the permitting of the plant and to find a strategic partner to own and operate the plant," Alford said.

Taylor Energy's objective at this point will be to fund the $2-billion-plus project until construction is final and then secure ownership partners, Alford said.

The benefit to Snapping Shoals and other Power4Georgians participants is two-fold, Alford said.

"They get a preferred position, basically, for the power, but also will have the diversity in capacity," he explained, meaning that they will not be reliant on limited power sources.

Alford also said that those who warn that Snapping Shoals will likely see extreme rate increases due to its participation in Plant Washington are intentionally misleading.

"Snapping Shoals has some of the lowest rates in Georgia and it's because they've made good decisions like this one over the years," he said.

Ten EMCs initially were involved in the Power4Georgians consortium, but several have dropped out of the project. Most recently, the board of directors for Cobb County EMC voted to end its involvement in the plant's development. Along with Snapping Shoals, 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.

Taylor Energy manager Tim Taylor, former president and CEO of Public Service Company of Colorado, said Plant Washington will produce affordable, reliable energy and provide an economic boost to the state and local economies.

The project is expected to provide more than 1,600 construction jobs during the four-year construction phase as well as 200 to 300 new jobs onsite and in supporting industries, according to Power4Georgians.