Clarke County residents, many of whom were literally “in-the-dark” due to electrical power outages Wednesday night, may have opted to accept a phone conference call from Rob Marmet as Rappahannock Electric Cooperative (REC) crews worked to restore power. Marmet’s campaign for REC Board of directors conducted an interactive conference call seeking to shed some light on REC’s future energy production plans that Marmet described as “going back to the 19th century”.
Marmet, an attorney who works at the Piedmont Environmental Council in Warrenton, is a candidate for the board of directors of the Rappahannock Electric Cooperative. Marmet’s job at PEC focuses on energy and electric transmission issues on the local, state, and national levels.
“I was hired by PEC to oppose a major power line that was planned to cut right through the heart of PEC’s territory and the Manassas Battlefield,” Marmet said in Wednesday night’s call. “Ultimately we were unsuccessful in preventing the line which is really just transporting ‘coal-by-wire’ from the Ohio River Valley to the Mid-Atlantic region.”
Marmet believes that coal generated electricity plants, like REC’s proposed $6 billion, 1,500 MW Surry Coal Plant in Hampton Roads, is a “white elephant” and bad investment for REC power consumers. Marmet is running for the seat on the REC Board of Directors in hopes of changing the course of the yet-to-be-approved Surry facility.
“Many other utilities across the country are canceling coal-fired power plants because they are bad investments,” Marmet said. “There are better ways to power the future than going back to 19th century technologies.”
More than 100 coal-fired plants have been canceled, delayed, or rejected in the United States since 2001 due to similar concerns Marmet says.
Instead of a coal-fired approach, Marmet hopes to steer REC toward cleaner electricity generation options.
“Virginia has some of the best offshore wind generating possibilities on the East Coast,” Marmet said, adding that Massachusetts and Delaware are already applying for wind generation permits. He also cautioned that building a new coal-fired plant on the Eastern Shore will make it more difficult for future wind-generation power facilities to compete.
If Marmet gains a seat among REC’s Board of Directors, he still will have an uphill climb in reversing the substantial financial momentum already in motion to build the Surry facility. According to Marmet’s campaign website, REC has already spent well over $16M on the initial phases of what ultimately would be a $6B undertaking:
Land purchased for coal plant: $14.3 million
Land purchased for water intake facility: $1.1 million
Clean Air Act application: $1.1 million
Rezoning fee: $10,000
Money promised to the town of Dendron, proposed site for the plant:
Water repairs: $600,000
New sidewalks: $65,000
Designing plant, attorney fees, modeling and analysis for permitting applications
Total Spent: About $16 million dollars
Projected additional costs: More than $5 billion
If the Surry plant goes forward, Marmet believes that cooperative members will be locked into a 40 to 50 year financial obligation and ultimately paying $8,989-$13,483 per household for the cost of the plant.
“REC board members have been making these decisions behind closed doors and providing little information about the project and its potential effects on members’ rates,” Marmet says on his campaign website.
Is it already too late to change the electric cooperative’s course on what Marmet describes as “the largest coal plant in Virginia and the most expensive plant ever constructed in the U.S.?”
Marmet says, “No.”
“REC has not yet formally applied to the Virginia State Corporation Commission nor have they applied for a certificate of public necessity, so it will be quite awhile before construction can start.” Marmet said.
Even though REC has procured the land for the facility, Marmet says that the investment doesn’t have to be lost if the coal plant plans are canceled.
“I think that a gas-fired power generation plant would be a good alternative for the site,” Marmet said.
If elected, Marmet hopes to persuade REC’s Board of Directors that its plan for the new coal-fired plant is both a bad business idea and a bad idea for the environment.
“REC’s directors have a fiduciary duty to do what’s in the best interest of the cooperative,” Marmet said in Wednesday night’s conference call. “If I’m not persuasive then I’ll surely be persistent.”
“In light of all of the decisions to reverse plans for coal-fired plants I hope that REC’s directors are already reconsidering this idea. If they’re not then they’re not doing their jobs,” Marmet said. “This is a really bad idea and we need to look at the alternatives. I’d want to reconsider the plan and make sure that we are doing what’s right for REC’s members.”
REC elections will take place on August 14th at Courtland High School in Spotsylvania, Virginia. Voters electing to mail a ballot must ensure that their ballot is received by REC on August 12.
Ballots can be found in the July 12th issue of REC’s “Cooperative Living Magazine” mailed to all members.