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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Georgia PSC goes rogue

Posted By on Wed, May 6, 2009 at 9:55 PM

There must be something in the ventilation system over at the Public Service Commission that's making those folks more than usually loopy. Yesterday, the PSC voted 3-2 to elect Commissioner Stan Wise as board chairman for a two-year term. There's just one problem with this maneuver: It's illegal as hell.

click to enlarge Bobby Baker
  • Bobby Baker

And it's not as if PSC members are unaware of the law that mandates how chairmen are selected, because they tried to get the law changed during the recent General Assembly. That attempt failed; it appears this is their back-up plan.

Since 1992, Georgia law has called for the PSC chairmanship to rotate on an annual basis. Legislation sponsored by Rep. Don Parsons, R-Marietta, (but reportedly written by newly elected Commissioner Lauren “Bubba” McDonald) would have allowed the board to elect its own chairman for a three-year term. The bill passed the House, but stalled in the Senate.

As reported by the increasingly invaluable Atlanta Unfiltered, current PSC Chairman Doug Everett announced Monday that he was resigning from that post as of July 1. He then made a motion nominating Wise as chairman for the next two years, with McDonald to serve as vice-chairman. The motion passed 3-2, with members Chuck Eaton and Bobby Baker voting against it. Eaton has written a letter asking Attorney General Thurbert Baker to weigh in on the matter.

But you don't need to be an attorney to know the vote violates state law, which states that "each such chairman shall serve for a one-year term of office as chairman."

Rep. Mike Jacobs, R-DeKalb, who is an attorney, admits he's perplexed by the board's actions.

"How an elected official can look at a statute that clearly lays out how a chairman is selected, and then do something else, is beyond me," says Jacobs, who voted against Parson's bill to change the statute.

What's the point of all this? Well, it's widely believed that some members of the PSC want to change the rules to deny the chairmanship to Bobby Baker, who is the most consumer-friendly member of the Commission. But, again, why?

We don't like to promote conspiracy theories, but at this point, this one makes as much sense as any other explanation, so here goes: Under the current rotation schedule, Baker would become PSC chairman in 2011, the same year that Georgia Power has been authorized to begin raising residential utility rates to pay for two new nuclear reactors. Could it be that someone at Georgia Power has reason to suspect that the increase will exceed the estimated $1.30/month and therefore wants a friendly chairman on the PSC?

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