Westmoreland hears concerns about energy regulations
By W. WINSTON SKINNER
U.S. Rep. Lynn Westmoreland toured Coweta-Fayette EMC’s north Coweta headquarters on Friday afternoon.
His tour followed a meeting with Coweta-Fayette staff and directors about federal energy policy concerns. He expressed support for a level of regulation that would not stymie utilities in their work to provide electric power to the region.
Coweta-Fayette spokeswoman Amy Lott said Westmoreland was invited to visit the EMC headquarters near Palmetto “to discuss the need for a more comprehensive approach to energy regulation.”
Anthony “Tony” Sinclair, Coweta-Fayette’s CEO, said the meeting could not have come at a better time. “Regulatory overreach by the Environmental Protection Agency has a detrimental effect on the ability of Georgia’s EMCs to continue providing affordable and reliable electricity to our members,” he said.
“These regulations could make it nearly impossible to build new coal-fueled plants, more costly to modify and operate existing plants and may lead to the shut-down of existing plants and a resulting loss of jobs,” Sinclair stated.
Coweta-Fayette is a member/owner of Oglethorpe Power Corporation. As a member OPC, Coweta-Fayette receives a portion of its power from coal plants Scherer and Wansley.
Lott noted a multiplicity of pending or recently issued regulations – the Cross State Air Pollution Rule, the Industrial Boiler MACT, the Utility MACT, the Mercury and Air Toxics Rule, the Coal Ash Rule, the Cooling Water Rule and the New Source Standards for Greenhouse Gases – which have the potential to greatly increase costs at the two plants.
OPC’s original investment in Scherer “could at least double,” and the investment in Wansley “could rise to 3.5 times” the originally anticipated cost because of requirements “to meet EPA mandates,” Lott said.
Westmoreland and EMC leaders also discussed the preservation of Power Marketing Administrations, the success of the Rural Utilities Service Electric Loan Program and the continued classification of Coal Combustion Residuals as non-hazardous and recyclable.
During his tour, Westmoreland talked to employees in the co-op’s operational facilities and customer service department. At the dispatch center, the congressman was shown the EMC’s high tech outage management, vehicle tracking and two-way automatic communications systems in action.
Chris Stephens, vice president of engineering, demonstrated the electronic mapping system for Westmoreland. The maps monitor service reports and calls. Stephens said dispatch personnel can “ping” a meter to evaluate a problem or determine if power has been restored at a particular location.
Stephens also said Global Positioning System technology is being incorporated into the dispatch system. That work will be 90 percent complete by the end of the year – with the remainder done in 2013.
Sinclair told Westmoreland the EMC is focusing on energy efficiency. “We’re definitely pushing energy efficiency everywhere we can,” he said. “It’s a significant priority for us now and going forward.”
Westmoreland saw an outdoor storage area and a large, stocked warehouse. “A storm comes up – we’ve got what we need. We plan for the worst and hope for the best,” Sinclair explained.
Sinclair also told Westmoreland the EMC works collaboratively with other energy companies. The EMC and Georgia Power are competitors only for users of large amounts of electricity.
“If they (Georgia Power) had a major outage today, we could go help them, and they would do likewise,” Sinclair said.