Georgia Legislature Sunsets Prepayment of Future Nuclear Plants

By Gloria Tatum – Atlanta Progressive News

With bipartisan support, on March 21, 2018, the Georgia Legislature passed SB 355, which will sunset the Georgia Nuclear Energy Financing Act of 2009 for any future nuclear plants after January 2018.

This means that in the unconscionable situation that should Georgia decide to pursue any additional nuclear plants other than the current Plant Vogtle, the utility company will not be able to bill customers in advance for the project as they have done for Vogtle.

Previously, Georgia Power said they were exploring the potential development of smaller nuclear plants, but currently the company says they are not considering that.

In 2009, the Georgia Legislature passed SB 31, the Georgia Nuclear Energy Financing Act, to allow Georgia Power to bill customers in advance for two new nuclear reactors, Vogtle 3 and 4, at Plant Vogtle in Burke County, Georgia.

SB 31 was sponsored by then-State Sen. Don Balfour (R-Snellville) and went into effect on January 01, 2011, which added approximately ten dollars per month to the average Georgia Power utility bill.

On ratepayers’ electricity bills, it is listed as Nuclear Construction Cost Recovery or NCCR.  The controversial practice is known nationwide as CWIP (“Construction Work in Progress”).

The CWIP nuclear tax managed to offend both conservatives and progressives for different reasons in Georgia.  The Tea Party saw the bill as anti-free market, and progressives said it was anti-consumer.

“This is a sunset of Senate Bill 31 from 2009.  It has no effect on current contracts; it only affects any construction in the future.  It has no opposition from Georgia Power. It just means it [the utility company] would have to come back to the Senate and House on any new construction with this type of financing method,” State Sen. Chuck Hufstetler (R-Rome), sponsor of SB 355, said at the House Energy, Utilities and Telecommunications Committee on March 12, 2018.

“The average ratepayer has already paid five hundred dollars and that money could have been used for other things.  Especially for Georgians who are living from paycheck to paycheck, that ten dollars a month is significant,” Liz Coyle, Executive Director of Georgia Watch, said after an earlier committee meeting in an interview with reporters.

Coyle would also like for lawmakers and investigators to dig deeper into the Westinghouse bankruptcy to learn more about when Georgia Power knew about the bankruptcy.

“Some of the things coming out of South Carolina almost certainly would have happened in Georgia,” Coyle said.

Originally, a much stronger version of SB 355 was introduced, but it was watered down significantly.

Before it was amended,SB 355 included the immediate stop of CWIP tax collection from public and charter schools, even for current projects.

According to the Aging Raging Ratepayers, one million dollars a year in surcharges are taken from Atlanta Public Schools by Georgia Power for the nuclear plants.

“That bill went in like a lion, and left like a lamb,” John Noel, a candidate for the Democratic nomination for Georgia Public Service Commission District 3, told Atlanta Progressive News.

But Coyle tells APN that despite the amendments, the bill is still a victory.

“I think it’s a victory because it signals… this year, in light of what’s happening with Vogtle 3 and 4… the Legislature is concerned and paying attention,” Coyle told APN.

“This is not the first time, GA Watch has been working to stop SB 31 and then thru various bills, and as recently as last year, and we couldn’t get it anywhere.  In part, it’s because some leaders who were around when it was passed [CWIP in 2009] didn’t want to go through that bloodbath again,” Coyle said.

“Georgia Power needed authorization from the Legislature to use the CWIP financing mechanism, allowing them to collect the financing charges in advance in order to attract capital.  Wall Street had been thru the previous nuclear debacle.  It was risky investment. Wall Street needed to know that the ratepayers–us–were taking the risk,” Coyle said.

“While we agree things should have gone further, if things keep going the way they have been, we expect to be at the Legislature next year to take another look at what needs to be done on Vogtle 3 and 4 with the collecting of the nuclear tariff,” Coyle said.

Now SB 355 waits Gov. Nathan Deal’s signature.

The Stop CWIP Coalition–with members representing Aging Raging Rate Payers, Atlanta Grandmothers for Peace, Center for Sustainable Coast, Georgia Women’s Action for New Directions (WAND), and Nuclear Watch South–delivered a petition to the Governor’s office with over three thousand signatures to repeal the CWIP tax.

Copyright © 2018 Atlanta Progressive News

Source: Atlanta Progressive News