Georgia Watch challenges Plant Vogtle decision

By J. Scott Trubey – Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Consumer group Georgia Watch filed a legal challenge to the December decision by the Georgia Public Service Commission to allow Georgia Power and partners to complete two unfinished nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle in east Georgia.

In a petition filed in Fulton County Superior Court, Georgia Watch alleges the unanimous decision by the utilities regulator benefits shareholders of Georgia Power, a subsidiary of publicly traded Southern Company, over Georgia ratepayers.

The decision was finalized in January.

The challenge is at least the second filed against the PSC by consumer groups in recent weeks. A trio of advocacy groups challenged the PSC’s decision on Georgia Power’s new cost estimates, alleging commissioners violated state laws and the commission’s own rules approving spending that would nearly double the estimated costs of the project.

Georgia Watch alleges commissioners violated the law by “[communicating] with Georgia Power behind closed doors in the days leading up to the final decision without notifying other parties or giving them an opportunity to respond to the substance of the communications.”

“The Commission’s decision puts nearly all of the higher cost burden and risks of further cost increases on the backs of Georgia consumers,” Georgia Watch Executive Director Liz Coyle said in a news release. “Incredibly, Georgia Power will actually earn billions in extra profit while their customers foot the bill for the mismanaged project.”

The law group of former Gov. Roy Barnes is representing Georgia Watch on a pro bono basis.

In a statement, Georgia Power said, “We believe the decision by the Georgia PSC to continue the Vogtle project was well within its authority and complied with all applicable laws.”

The pair of reactors are billions of dollars over budget and years behind schedule.

Georgia Power insists keeping Vogtle construction going is the best economic option for customers. Customers have financed construction of the units in Waynesboro, near Augusta, since 2009. Consumer groups have argued that ratepayers should not shoulder the burden of reactors plagued by delays and overruns.

A PSC spokesman said he could not comment on a pending legal challenge and directed a reporter to state Attorney General Chris Carr’s office, which represents state agencies in legal matters.

A spokeswoman for Carr said the AG’s office could not comment on a pending legal matter.

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Source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution