PSC candidates spar over Plant Vogtle funding

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ATLANTA - The four men vying for the Republican nomination to the Public Service Commission sparred over funding for Plant Vogtle and ethics during their only televised debate Friday.

The matchup was the first of the primary season for the series sponsored by the Atlanta Press Club and Georgia Public Broadcasting. Most will be televised live on statewide public stations, but their debate is only available online at both organizations' websites.

Former Sen. Joey Brush, Rep. Jeff May and Sen. John Douglas all sounded their support for a law change that allows Georgia Power Co. -- one of the owners of Plant Vogtle near Augusta -- to charge its customers during construction of two reactors. Under prior commission policy, utilities couldn't begin charging until power plants were generating electricity.

Tim Echols, a former campaign aide to John Oxendine, disagreed. He said the company's shareholders should have borne the upfront costs of constructing the reactors.

"It wasn't a vote about nuclear power. I'm pro-nuclear power. It was about pre-charging Georgia consumers," he said.

May said that building reactors should be encouraged because the cost of operating them is less than other fuels, many that are imported. And upfront payment will ultimately save consumers the financing costs that would have mounted during construction.

"Any time you can save the consumers, the ratepayers, who are ultimately going to pay for it, money, I think it's a good idea," he said.

Douglas chided Echols for not having to make tough choices the others faced as legislators.

"Nuclear power is good for Georgia. It's here. It's efficient. It's not some voodoo power source like they want us to use in Washington," Douglas said, adding he was glad he voted for the bill.

Brush, who noted that he was a construction manager when Plant Vogtle's current reactors were built, said he also favored charging customers in advance.

"I'm for it because I believe it will speed up getting our nuclear reactors online and help us increase the portion of our energy from nuclear," he said.

Echols and Douglas traded shots over campaign donations and meals from utility companies. Echols asked the legislator if he would return all the contributions he'd received during his eight years in the General Assembly. Douglas replied that he's been honored with top lawmaker awards by eight groups.

"You don't get to be senator of the year by being somebody's lapdog, being lazy or not paying attention to what's going on," Douglas said.

Echols promised, "I pledge not to even take a drink of water with those people that I regulate."

Whichever of the four wins the Republican nomination will face Democrat Mary Squires and Libertarian James Sendelbach in November.

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Taylor B
Taylor B 06/25/10 - 08:35 pm
WOW! They mentioned the

WOW! They mentioned the Libertarian! Great job! James is a great guy too.

corgimom 06/25/10 - 09:45 pm
No utility company has the

No utility company has the borrowing power or the cash flow to finance nuke plant construction for a 10 year period.

And no utility company will build another one if the law is changed.

homeschool23 06/25/10 - 11:50 pm
Don't be ridiculous. Utility

Don't be ridiculous. Utility companies will build regardless of who finances them. They are not some Mom and Pop outfit that can't get a loan. With record profits and huge dividends paid to shareholders they are perfectly capable of financing their own construction. If the costs are put on the backs of the people who can barely make the electric bill now it will cause an outrageous burden on the taxpayers who are already burdened with skyrocketing costs. And then when it is built another rate raise will be requested because there always is one when plant is built. Look at what happened to rates everytime something was built or improved. It is only an excuse to raise rates and boost profits that are already huge.
Tim Echols seems to be the only candidate not fooled by these shenanigans of the power company execs trying to fatten their bank accounts on the backs of the people. He is also the only one who is not a career politician it looks like. Maybe someone will actually represent the people for once in an arena where it seems we have no power. The utility arena.

ColdBeerBoiledPeanuts 06/26/10 - 05:27 am
A good understanding of

A good understanding of economics could create a wise post!

reader54 06/26/10 - 08:58 am
Nobody is promised

Nobody is promised "tomorrow". I prefer to pay when or if I use the power. Why pay now? Suppose you move away? Will they then reimburse your prepayment w/interest? I trust that you know the answers. They think that "the little people" are ignorant. Or gullible.

tombee 06/26/10 - 09:53 am
Tim Echols is right. Ga

Tim Echols is right. Ga Power has plenty of financing opportunities other than taxpayers being forced to loan it to them. He has my vote.

dashiel 06/26/10 - 02:36 pm
Mine too! The law was

Mine too!

The law was railroaded through before Obama showered them with additional billions in easy credit. Georgia Power wants it both ways: The easy way--AND the fun way.

Unless you are a customer AND a stockholder, vote for Echols. Does any poor fool actually believe their electric bill will ever go DOWN?!

Little Lamb
Little Lamb 06/26/10 - 06:11 pm
The mere fact that these four

The mere fact that these four candidates wasted breath arguing about something that has been passed into law shows none of them should be elected. I'm voting for Sendelbach in November. However, it would be good not to vote for Tim Echols in July, because he is the one whining about what the General Assembly did a couple of years ago instead of planning to execute his own duties in the future.

jamberry28 10/28/10 - 12:14 pm
The up front cost and risks

The up front cost and risks of a nuclear power plant is so large, 5-7 billion each reactor, that only very large company will prepose it. Financially this is a good time with rates so low to build more. The 'risks' for the Southern Company would be a court siding with some environmental group causing a delay. Time is money. While the solar and wind options with gas or coal backup generators tickle the ears, the southeaster US is not a good fit for experimental power production. Whereas nuclear power has proven itself, Votgle.

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