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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Georgia Power nuke bill clears Senate, moves to House

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The state Senate today passed a bill 38-16 that would allow Georgia Power to begin collecting fees from customers to help pay for two proposed nuclear reactors prior to their construction. (The Senate Press Office included in its release about the bill's passage this hilarious photo to the right of the bill's sponsor, state Sen. Don Balfour, R-Gavelville.)

The bill now moves to the House, where Jim Galloway of the AJC says lawmakers are generally warm to the idea.

Supporters of the bill say it'll save the utility — and in turn, customers — money in the long run.

But many lawmakers and consumer groups oppose the move because they say it sidesteps the Public Service Commission  — and partially exempts big business and industrial customers from the increased rates.

For an excellent rundown of the controversial legislation, view my esteemed colleague Scott Henry's post.

After the jump, Dave Williams of the Atlanta Business Chronicle reports some lawmakers' thoughts about the bill.

So sayeth Williams:

Sen. David Adelman, D-Decatur, noted that the state Public Service Commission is considering the same early cost recovery request from Georgia Power. The PSC is due to issue its decision next month.

“They have a full-time professional staff and a budget to hire outside consultants,” Adelman told his colleagues “It’s a bad idea for you to substitute yourselves for the judgment of five statewide elected officials.”

Senate Minority Leader Robert Brown, D-Macon, criticized a change the Senate Regulated Industries and Utilities Committee made to the bill giving a partial exemption to large industrial and retail ratepayers, which would put more of the burden on small –business and residential customers. He said the change led those large customers to drop their opposition to the measure.

“They got a deal,” he said.

But Balfour said the legislation still would leave the PSC with the right to monitor the project as it moves forward and ensure that costs the project is incurring are “prudent.”

He also denied that any quid pro quos were made with large power customers.

“I was in the room, and no deals were cut for anyone,” he said.

(Photo courtesy of the Senate Press Office)

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