Plant Vogtle allies spend big to buy Georgia PSC runoff for GOP

Jonathan Grant

The latest outrage

I was in the middle of writing another post when this comes into my DMs from my buddy, former State Rep. and PSC candidate John Noel, accompanied by appropriate salty language—a link to an AJC article:

Pro-nuclear power group pumps $750,000 into Georgia PSC runoff

An “independent committee” funded by a nuclear-power industry group is plowing at least $750,000 into next week’s Public Service Commission runoff in support of incumbent utility regulator Chuck Eaton, an advocate of Georgia Power’s Plant Vogtle project.

The group, which was formed the week after the general election, reported receiving the money from a Washington D.C. group called Nuclear Matters, part of the Nuclear Energy Institute. The committee began running ads on Facebook last week, including one stating that Eaton helped reduce power rates for senior citizens as a member of the public-utility regulating board.

Lindy Miller

These folks are alarmed because Democratic PSC candidate Lindy Miller—a well-educated, analytical woman who is not beholden to utility interests—received 48 percent of the vote on Nov. 6, enough to force a Dec. 4 runoff with Eaton, a 12-year GOP incumbent and Vogtle enabler. The irony in all this is that Miller isn’t even anti-nuke. She’s just anti-waste. OK. Maybe that’s the same thing, after all.

Fearful of a fair fight in regulatory proceedings, the nuclear industry is dropping serious cash into the mix at the last minute to make sure Eaton stays in office, where he can shepherd in the double-digit rate increases and rate shock that the $28-billion-and-counting Plant Vogtle will entail. Not that you aren’t already paying for Vogtle, thanks to Eaton and his cronies at Georgia Power and in the GOP-dominated General Assembly.

Chuck Eaton:

It’s disturbing that utility interests would spend so much to make sure the PSC remains unanimously Republican. Then again, regulators and regulated (and at this point, which is which?) are so cozy in the sack together, Commissioner Tim Echols called Vogtle Units 3 and 4 “our reactors” while making last year’s motion (passed unanimously) to back completion of the only nuclear power plant still under construction in the U.S. The other plants turned out to be bad deals, and despite Georgia Power getting everything it wanted from politicians, Vogtle may not be completed, either.

With the plant plagued by delays, cost overruns and partners threatening to pull out of the project, Vogtle has Georgia Power’s allies on edge, especially since the establishment has repeatedly signaled that Vogtle is too big to fail, when, unfortunately, Vogtle is also in danger of becoming too expensive to complete. That’s why they need a so-called “friendly regulatory environment” with regulators willing to overlook mistakes–and catastrophic political arrogance.

Quorum at the PSC

Swamp Thing is Back!

Speaking of catastrophic arrogance, who do you think is in on this Swampishness? No surprise: The AJC reports, “Among those listed as being on the ‘advocacy council’ for Nuclear Matters is former PSC Chairman Stan Wise.” Wise, an old  Cobb politician, showed his contempt for voters and ratepayers last year by railroading through approval for Plant Vogtle, then resigning early so Gov. Nathan Deal could stack the PSC membership with Republican Party hack Tricia Pridemore. She narrowly won her election against feisty but underfunded Dawn Randolph. Here’s some symbolism: Pridemore listed Bill Dahlberg, Georgia Power’s lead witness in its 1987 Vogtle Units 1 and 2 rate case, atop her first donor report, leaving no doubt how she’d vote.

Along the same lines as the Pridemore travesty, Deal recently announced that he would replace resigning 81-year-old PSC member Doug Everett with a younger but presumably equally subservient model: Rep. Jason Shaw from old-time PSC member Bobby Pafford’s hometown of Lakeland.

Tell 10 Republicans to vote for Lindy Miller

An all-GOP PSC is the best way to protect Georgia Power’s monopoly. As for protecting ratepayers, it’s not such a great deal.

Miller, with a business background and a pro-consumer outlook, would instill a semblance of checks and balances to Georgia’s regulatory system. And that’s what has Georgia Power and its allies scared. They can’t afford to have even one independent thinker on the PSC. If she won, Commissioner Miller would have authority to demand documents and start digging. Who knows what she would find?

This latest outrage, along with the fast-paced maneuvering by utilities and the GOP to keep a lock on the PSC, is one more reason to vote for Miller. Not just Democrats, but real conservatives and honest Republicans should cast ballots for her in the runoff. After all, the Libertarian in this race say’s he’s voting for her (read why here), and usually Libertarians lean Republican.

Bottom line: After 12 years of abdicating his duties and happily voting to saddle us with this economic nightmare to come, it’s time to kick Chuck Eaton to the curb. Don’t let the nuclear power industry buy him another term. Miller represents voters’ last chance to begin housecleaning before the Vogtle boondoggle hits the fan. To vote for Eaton, a tainted lapdog of the utilities, or not vote at all—that would be stupid.

Disclosure: I was the Public Service Commission’s first Public Information Officer (1982-1987).


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