Lawsuit against Plant Vogtle delayed by judge’s conflict

Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2009 11:38 AM
Last updated 4:24 PM
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ATLANTA -- A lawsuit challenging prepayment of construction-finance costs for two reactors at Plant Vogtle stalled this morning when the judge removed himself from the case.

The environmentalists’ suit claims a law is unconstitutional that permits Georgia Power Company to charge its customers before operation of the reactors. It also claims the Public Service Commission exceeded its authority in also granting the company permission for the early billing.

Before the short trial was to begin, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Marvin Arrington said a review of his personal finances Tuesday night revealed that some of the mutual funds he invests in own shares of Georgia Power Company stock and bonds.

“If anybody wants me to recuse myself, I would be happy to do so with the stroke of a pen,” Arrington said.

Lawyers for the company and the Public Service Commission had no objections, but a lawyer for the environmentalists who filed the suit did.

“We think recusal would be the appropriate way to proceed at this time,” said Michael Carvalho, who represents the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.

“I will recuse,” Arrington said.

Carvalho asked that the case be quickly reassigned to another judge so that it can be settled before construction proceeds much further.

Many observers had said that it would be nearly impossible for the company to find investors to back its share of the $14 billion project without the ability to guarantee the bonds would be repaid through pre-billing. Last month, the company told the commission that the pre-billing will save its customers $300 million in interest that would have built up on the bonds during construction.

Construction continues while the suit winds its way through the courts. Arrington said he has no control over how quickly it is reassigned because it is up to the chief judge.


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