Plant Vogtle opponents seeking details of alleged closed-door meetings (Video)

By Dave Williams  – Atlanta Business Chronicle (Watch Now)

Opponents of the planned nuclear expansion at Plant Vogtle have filed a motion seeking to uncover evidence of illegal closed-door meetings between representatives of Georgia Power Co. and state energy regulators.

In a “discovery” motion filed late last week, the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC), Georgia Watch, Georgia Interfaith Power and Light and the Partnership for Southern Equity allege such violations of the state Public Service Commission’s “ex-parte” rule occurred. The three groups are appealing a decision by the PSC late last year to let Georgia Power finish the Vogtle project despite lengthy scheduling delays and massive cost overruns.

The ex-parte rule, which the PSC adopted in 2007, forbids members of the commission or the agency’s staff from meeting privately with any party after evidentiary hearings on a matter conclude. If such meetings occur, the parties engaged in those meetings must notify and give other parties a chance to respond.

“We don’t know the extent and substance of those conversations,” said Kurt Ebersbach, senior attorney for the SELC. “As a result, [we] cannot know how seriously they may have impacted the commission’s final decision.”

“Discovery is warranted to uncover the full nature and extent of these apparently improper ex-parte communications, which denied all parties a fair process and produced such an unfavorable result for Georgia Power customers,” Georgia Watch Executive Director Liz Coye added.

Georgia Power issued a statement Tuesday denying any wrongdoing in the proceeding.

“The recommendation to move forward with the Vogtle project was thoroughly discussed and evaluated through Georgia’s open and transparent regulatory process,” the statement read.

“Georgia Power complied with all rules and laws throughout the proceeding and we strongly disagree with any claims to the contrary – we will vigorously defend this position, as well as the decision to complete the Vogtle expansion as the best way to serve our customers.”

The PSC voted unanimously four days before Christmas to finish the construction of two additional reactors at Plant Vogtle, south of Augusta, Ga., but require Georgia Power to absorb some of the cost overruns from four years of delays that have nearly doubled the project’s original price tag to $25.2 billion. Opponents argue the project should be canceled.

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Source: Atlanta Business Chronicle