PSC Candidate John Noel to Georgia Power: Give tax savings to consumers

PSC Chairman Stan Wise

As a result of the federal government’s recent corporate tax cuts effective this year, utilities will save millions of dollars on their tax bills. Many electric utilities are announcing plans to pass on recently-enacted federal tax cuts to their customers.

The New York Times reports:

In recent days, electric companies in Massachusetts, Illinois, Oregon and other states have announced plans to pass their tax cuts on to customers through lower rates. On Tuesday, Pepco, which provides power to nearly 300,000 customers in Washington, D.C., said it would cut rates beginning in the current quarter.

But with Georgia Power and its parent, Southern Company, scrambling to find cash to complete the $25-billion-and-counting Plant Vogtle boondoggle near Augusta, you gotta wonder if they have other ideas in mind. So far, silence.

And the way things work in Georgia, I wonder if Vogtle fanboy Gov. Nathan Deal would offer lower electric rates funded by the tax cuts only to Amazon to lure the e-commerce giant here: “Hey, Jeff, free electricity!”

Maybe I just have a suspicious mind. But look at how Atlanta taxpayers were forced to pay for the Mercedes Benz stadium, and Cobb County taxpayers fleeced to for Suntrust Park—not to mention all the other deals states are putting together for Amazon—and it’s not hard to envisioning Deal at news conference touting “JOBS!” as Georgia Power lobbyists surround him, beaming. Word is that the state has to come up with a billion dollars somehow, so … who knows?

PSC candidate John Noel has a better idea. Noel, a Democrat, is a former Georgia state legislator and energy-efficiency expert who’s running against Republican incumbent and Vogtle enabler Chuck Eaton.

Noel admits that he’s also running against the Commission and its swampish way of doing business with the companies it’s supposed to be regulating. He recently called on PSC Chairman Stan Wise to resign due to his general and unending horribleness. Wise responded by banning Noel from testifying as a public witness. However, Noel persisted, showing up during a lunch break and delivered his outlaw testimony into a hot microphone. Georgia Power attorneys huddled in PSC offices must have really enjoyed that. Wise did not, however, and kinda sorta threatened Noel with arrest, but to this day Noel remains a free man. I hope the woman who sang “50 Ways to Stop Plant Vogtle” writes a song about this one day.

John Noel

Noel thinks customers should get the tax break. “These tax cuts should be reflected in lower gas and electric bills here in Georgia, as well,” he said. “Without action by Georgia Power Company and the Georgia Public Service Commission, the utility will reap windfall profits and its ratepayers will be gouged. That’s why I’m calling on the PSC to immediately open docketed proceedings for the purpose of lowering utility rates.”

Noel considers Georgia Power’s silence on the issue deafening. “I wish I had confidence that (these rate cuts) would happen in Georgia, but I don’t. Not when PSC Chairman Stan Wise is more concerned with protecting Georgia Power than its consumers.”

Harsh but true: Wise’s main concern during recent proceedings was the tax bill’s effect on completion of his beloved Plant Vogtle, which Noel argues should have been scrapped years ago, before its cost rose to $25 billion.

I don’t think Noel shares my concern that Deal is going to hand the money over to Amazon. More likely, he’s concerned that, given the PSC’s current membership, Georgia Power’s tax savings would be poured into its money pit on the Savannah River.

“I believe the PSC staff, which has worked hard to represent the public interest, will want to take action on this issue,” Noel said. “But the commissioners are notorious for ignoring staff recommendations, as they showed us last month, when they voted unanimously to do what Georgia Power wanted: complete Plant Vogtle, no matter the cost.”

“In fact,” Noel said, “Wise went out of his way to short-circuit due process and rush a decision on Plant Vogtle just in case the tax bill would benefit Georgia Power. This is why the people need a voice at the PSC. That’s why I’m running.”



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