Tag Archives: Georgia legislature

Watered down Plant Vogtle bill passes General Assembly

Unknownby Dave Williams
ATLANTA 3/20/18: Utilities building future nuclear power plants in Georgia will not be able to collect financing costs from ratepayers before the projects are completed without the approval of the General Assembly.

The Georgia House of Representatives unanimously passed a bill containing that provision on Wednesday. The measure already had passed the Senate overwhelmingly late last month.

The original version of the legislation introduced into the state Senate in January was aimed at Georgia Power Co.’s nuclear expansion at Plant Vogtle. It would have prohibited the Atlanta-based utility from continuing to recover financing costs associated with the long delayed, over-budget project after the original timetable for completing the work had arrived.

Since the original completion dates for two additional nuclear reactors being built at the plant south of Augusta, Ga., have passed, the measure effectively would have repealed the nuclear “tariff” Georgia Power collects on customer bills each month.

However, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome, the bill’s chief sponsor agreed to remove Plant Vogtle from the legislation as a condition to getting it through the Senate Regulated Industries and Utilities Committee.

As a result, the final version of the bill applies only to any future nuclear plants Georgia Power or any other utility may contemplate building in Georgia. The legislation now goes to Gov. Nathan Deal.

Read the whole article: Atlanta Business Chronicle

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Effort to end financing law gains steam in Ga.

by Kristi SwartzUnknown-2
ATLANTA 2/27/18 — A bill that would end the controversial financing law that’s being used to expand Plant Vogtle passed the Georgia Senate yesterday.

The measure would apply only to future nuclear reactors and would not affect Georgia Power Co.’s Plant Vogtle expansion project. Still, while the proposal (S.B. 355) does no immediate financial harm to Georgia Power, a unit of energy giant Southern Co., it carries major political significance.

Georgia Power is a political heavyweight at the state Capitol. The utility had roughly six dozen lobbyists help move the Georgia Nuclear Energy Financing Act through the Legislature in 2009, allowing the electric company to bill customers for Vogtle’s reactors as they were being built.

At the time, Georgia Power and nuclear supporters argued that doing so would pay down interest costs and save customers money over time. It would also send a signal to Wall Street that the Peach State stood behind Georgia Power building the nation’s first nuclear project from scratch in nearly 30 years.

Vogtle is now the lone nuclear project under construction in the U.S. It is years behind schedule and billions above its forecast budget. The financing costs have now roughly doubled, causing many to question whether the Legislature needed to review the 2009 law.

“If you had asked me at the beginning of the session if any legislation would move in this area, I’d say, ‘Absolutely not,’” said state Sen. Josh McKoon, a Republican from Columbus. “It’s one thing to stir up a hornet’s nest. It’s another to constructively engage Georgia Power, the other players, to come up with something that moves public policy in a direction that [the bill's sponsor] and I think it should be moving in.”

Read the whole article: E&E News

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Utility lending bill runs into opposition

5a594b8544f69.imageby Jill Nolan
DALTON 2/23/18: A proposal to let local governments borrow money for electric utility projects without a public vote has run into resistance at the state Capitol.

The statewide bill is essentially tailored for Dalton Utilities, which owns 1.6 percent of the costly Plant Vogtle expansion project. The utility wants state lawmakers to eliminate a public referendum that is currently required before they can issue bonds for electric system-related projects.

Dalton Utilities’ chief executive officer, Tom Bundros, told lawmakers Friday that the utility does not need to borrow money to cover its share of the cost to finish two new nuclear reactors at Vogtle near Waynesboro. That project is years behind schedule and billions of dollars over budget.

Bundros said the utility’s share, which is expected to run another $80 million, would come from “internally generated cash flow.” He also said the utility does not anticipate the need to borrow money for the next five years.

“Well, if you don’t want to borrow any more money, why do you need this?” said Rep. Penny Houston, R-Nashville.

Read the whole article: Daily Citizen-News

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Ga. panel votes to scrap project financing law with Vogtle carve-out

Unknown-1by Kristi Swartz
ATLANTA 2/16/18 — A Georgia Senate panel swiftly passed a bill that ends a controversial financing law for nuclear power plants but leaves Georgia Power Co.’s Plant Vogtle expansion project alone.

The measure is a pared-down version of a bill (S.B. 355) that would limit how much Georgia Power could profit from Vogtle, whose reactors are years behind schedule and billions of dollars above their original forecast budget. Georgia Power — known for its political muscle at the Capitol — did not oppose the new version passed yesterday.

Consumer advocates also did not testify but said after the meeting they hoped this measure would open the door for future inquiries by the Legislature.

“We remain hopeful that the Legislature will continue to look at the issues, and as they dig deeper, they will realize that we need to do something more,” Liz Coyle, executive director of Georgia Watch, said in an interview after yesterday’s Georgia Senate Regulated Industries and Utilities Committee hearing. “At least we can say that something has gotten done where the Legislature is acknowledging that we can’t just keep this going unchecked.”

Read the whole article: E&E News

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Bill limiting Georgia Power profits would not apply to Vogtle delays

Unknown-3by Anastaciah Ondieki
ATLANTA 2/16/18: A newly proposed Senate Bill that would have limited charges on Georgia Power customer bills for the Vogtle nuclear expansion project has been amended, to apply only to future nuclear projects.

The amended version of Senate Bill 355, which received unanimous support from members of the Regulated Industries and Utilities committee Thursday, will target projects commissioned after January 1, 2018.

The bill, introduced by Rome Republican lawmaker Chuck Hufstetler also requires Georgia Power and other utility companies to seek prior authorization from Congress before pursuing new nuclear projects.

Hufstetler said Vogtle was not included in the bill as there would be no support to see it through the legislature.

He however said his decision to seek consumer protections for ratepayers stems from recent efforts by Georgia Power to seek a location for a new nuclear site in Stewart County.

The bill is now headed to the Senate Rules Committee.

“At least we can say something has gotten done with the legislators acknowledging we can’t let this keep going unchecked,” said Liz Coyle, the Executive Director of Georgia Watch.

Read the whole article: Atlanta Journal & Constitution

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Opinion: An answer for Ga. Power

vogtle_ajcby Jay Bookman
11/13/17 ATLANTA: More than a decade ago, our good friends at Georgia Power conceived the idea of building two new nuclear reactors — the first to be built on U.S. soil in a generation — at its Vogtle site outside Augusta.

Georgia Power recruited the partners it needed from electric co-ops and city utilities around the state. It convinced its obedient servants at the state Public Service Commission to rubber-stamp the project, which they did by a 4-1 vote. (All four “yes” men are still on the PSC  today, still collecting their six-figure salaries, their durability testament to the wisdom of not crossing Georgia Power.)

The company hired the most powerful lobbyists in the state to supplement its own standing army of lobbyists, then strong-armed a law through a compliant state Legislature that forced consumers to start paying for the nuke projects immediately, long before they produced any power. Getting the signature of then-Gov. Sonny Perdue on that bill also proved to be no problem, since the man whom Perdue had hired as his chief of staff happened to have been Georgia Power’s top lobbyist for decades.

Georgia Power chose the design. Georgia Power hired the contractors. Georgia Power assured everyone who would listen that the problems that had long dogged nuclear power — the safety concerns, the massive cost-overruns and construction delays — had been resolved, and that the units would be up and producing power by 2017 just as scheduled. Critics who noted the difficulty and risk of trying to restart a complicated, zero-defect industry from scratch were steamrollered.

The message from the company was steadfast: “Don’t worry, we got this.”

Well no, they didn’t. They were wrong, spectacularly wrong, and their critics have been proved right. Under the original schedule, both new nuclear units should have been producing power by now. Instead, they are less than half built. The cost overruns have been enormous, basically doubling in cost even if nothing further goes wrong. And what is the price to be paid for such failure?

For Georgia Power, the price is none. No price, and to hear Georgia Power tell it, no failure. In a meeting last week with reporters from the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Georgia Power CEO Paul Bowers was asked whether the company deserved any blame or responsibility for imposing this financial catastrophe on the people of Georgia.

“The answer to that question is no,” Bowers said.

No? The answer to that question is no?

Read the whole article: Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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Georgia Power vs. the law of holes

Plant-Vogtle-construction-2014by Lyle Harris
10/16/17 ATLANTA Georgia Power is likely to get another shot-in-the-arm after announcing plans to complete construction on those ill-fated nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle near Waynesboro.

A more appropriate response to this epic boondoggle, of course, would be a swift kick in the pants. But don’t count on it.

The Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) has scheduled hearings on November 6 to discuss the troubled project, Along with the Southern Company (Georgia Power’s corporate parent) and the smaller utilities that are partners on the Plant Vogtle expansion, there’s little reason to worry about some silly old hearings. While the PSC is ostensibly charged with balancing the interests of the utility with those of its customers, the scales are reliably tipped in Georgia Power’s favor.

The planned reactors at Plant Vogtle were supposed to be up and running by now but they’re only about one-third complete. A series of major snafus and setbacks (including the bankruptcy of Westinghouse Electric which designed and was building the reactors) has increased chances that Georgia households will be picking up more of the tab.

Read the whole article: Saporta Report

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Conservative group taking Georgia Power to task on Vogtle costs overrun

4364312_web1_0901NuclearLeadby Tom Corwin
10/11/17 AUGUSTA: A conservative Georgia group is calling out Georgia Power on the cost overruns on two nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle and wants to repeal a state law that allows the company to pass along those costs to ratepayers while construction is underway.

The call puts the Atlanta Tea Party Patriots on the side of some more liberal groups opposing the project but President Debbie Dooley said some issues appeal to all sides. The group is also vowing to make it an issue in next year’s Public Service Commission elections.

The Atlanta Tea Party opposed Senate Bill 31 in 2009 that allowed Georgia Power to recoup the nuclear expansion costs at Vogtle and has supported efforts since to repeal it. But with the failure of a somewhat similar project in South Carolina at the V.C. Summer nuclear site, and the ensuing fallout over its ongoing burden on those ratepayers, Dooley said she believes there is renewed momentum to make the change in Georgia.

“I think there is a bigger demand for it this time because it is in the news,” she said. In the past, “I think people wanted to give Georgia Power the benefit of the doubt. But there’s no benefit of the doubt now.”

Read the whole article: Augusta Chronicle

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Georgia nuke backers scramble for reasons to keep going

newsEngin.19674583_Southern-AGL.JPEG-0b4bdby Matt Kempner
8/26/17 ATLANTA: There’s a mad scramble underway to come up with new reasons for why Georgians should continue to pay billions of dollars to expand nuclear power in the state. National security! Push back against Russia and China! Healthcare!

Seriously? Yeah, if you believe elected officials, who in the next few days are supposed to get new cost estimates and recommendations from the state’s biggest electric provider.

It seemed like only yesterday when Georgia Power convinced politicians on the Georgia Public Service Commission that a primary reason for expanding Plant Vogtle was because it was the cheapest way to cool our homes, charge our iPhones and keep industry chugging.

Proponents can no longer say that without twitching.

Four years ago, the PSC’s outside financial monitor warned that because of cheap natural gas and, to some extent, rising Vogtle costs, “if a decision had to be made today to build a new nuclear project, it would not be justified on the basis of these results.”

Read the whole article: Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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Millions collected from schools, taxpayers for Vogtle construction

2812409_web1_Plant-Vogtleby Thomas Gardiner

6/11/17: Since 2009, Georgia Power customers have been paying up front for construction costs at the Plant Vogtle nuclear expansion.

Some public entities will have paid more than $1 million for construction before a single kilowatt hour of energy is generated by the expansion.

Georgia Power extended its interim agreement with Westinghouse by 24 hours recently to give the two companies time to finalize a transition agreement as the utility company takes over in the wake of the Westinghouse bankruptcy. That bankruptcy was fueled by cost overruns at the Plant Vogtle and VC Summer nuclear expansion projects.

According to legislation passed in 2009, Georgia Power shall collect costs related to nuclear construction financing and interest to support the plant’s construction, even though the project failed to meet its operational deadline in 2016.

Read the whole article: Savannah Morning News

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