Dave Bennett, a senior policy adviser to Mayor Kasim Reed, told CL last week that the city wants to determine how much it'll cost to turn the proposal into reality - and operate it - before revealing the winner. Bennett says, things are quickly moving along. While he has no set timeline, the city's "operating as fast as we possibly can."
"I want to be completely confident that we have it all nailed before we stand in front of a microphone and say, 'Here's the plan,'" he says. "Who manages the construction? Do we operate it? Does the contractor operate it? What happens to the food when it's produced?"
Pam Davidson today announced her campaign to unseat longtime PSC Commissioner (and Golden Sleaze award winner) Stan Wise in the Republican primary. From her press release:
“Georgia needs new leadership on the PSC to effectively address rising energy costs for the ratepayers of our state,” said Davidson. “Over the past 18 years, the incumbent candidate has received about 95 percent of his campaign money from the utilities he is supposed to be regulating, fostering a cozy relationship with those utilities while Georgia consumers have paid the price.”
Pledging not to accept campaign contributions or gifts from the entities regulated by the PSC, Davidson said she would lead the effort for serious ethics reform to ensure that protecting the consumer is always a top objective in investor-owned utility rate case considerations.
Davidson’s experience as a renewable energy consultant and advocate has spanned more than a decade and has helped lead to substantial, positive changes in the state’s energy policy. She was appointed in 2001 to the Rural Development Council, an experience that gave her keen insight as to Georgia’s biomass energy potential. She traveled to the State Capitol to advocate for affordable, home-grown fuel sources that keep jobs and dollars in Georgia. She quickly became a sought-after energy policy consultant and project facilitator. Her government affairs efforts also included addressing rising energy costs, consumer protection and ethics reform. [...]
Davidson previously worked as an administrator for Shriner’s Hospital for Crippled Children and as a patient advocate and long-term care ombudsman serving seniors on a volunteer basis for more than 10 years. She then managed a large family medical business before moving to Blue Ridge, Ga., in 1999.
Davidson's name might ring a bell from her 2008 PSC Republican primary race against Lauren "Bubba" McDonald, a contest which she narrowly lost. The former Blue Ridge, Ga., resident now lives in Paulding County, which sits in Wise's district, with her husband and their three children.
The incentive-based program is part of the Atlanta Better Buildings Challenge, a voluntary effort based on the Better Building Initiative launched last February by President Barack Obama to make the country's buildings more energy efficient. Atlanta's set a goal to make commercial office buildings 20 percent more efficient by 2020 - and by doing so, attract more tenants and new businesses to the area.
Under the rough guidelines we came across (PDF), private property owners can apply to use the grants to conduct energy audits of their buildings. Invest Atlanta will then invite owners to apply for additional grant funding to "complete specific energy and water efficient upgrades identified in the audit." Property owners would have some skin in the game and be required to provide "at least 60" percent of the project's cost to receive the public cash. The Invest Atlanta board would still have to approve requests for the public funding.
Cash for the program comes from the Westside Tax Allocation District, or TAD. TADs are complex redevelopment tools that issue bonds to incentivize developers to build in what are supposed to be "blighted" areas. The debt is paid off with future property tax revenues in that area. A TAD helped transform a former steel supply company and brownfield into Atlantic Station. More than half of the Atlanta Beltline's funding will be generated by a TAD that borders the 22-mile loop.
The Westside TAD was created in 1992 and includes such impoverished neighborhoods as Vine City and English Avenue. Its area was expanded in 1998 to include downtown, which has allowed projects such as the World of Coca-Cola, the Glenn Hotel, Allen Plaza, and other buildings to benefit from the TAD funding. According to a 2012 audit, the financial tool's been a "tremendous success." Apparently there's enough cash to offer incentive programs such as what the Invest Atlanta board approved this morning.
Researchers with GreenLaw, an Atlanta-based environmental law firm, broke the 14-county metro region up into equal-sized square blocks and analyzed the overlap between demographics and types of pollution including brownfields, landfills, and facilities emitting pollutants, inside each. (If you're curious how your neighborhood stacks up with others, you're in luck.)
The team identified five of metro Atlanta's "environmental justice hotspots" — the worst of which is the area where Douglas, Fulton and Cobb counties converge near Fulton Industrial Boulevard and the Chattahoochee River.
Starting Friday night at 9 p.m. and lasting until Monday morning at 5 a.m., construction crews will shut down the busy thoroughfare between Glen Iris Drive and Ponce Place to literally lift the bridge spanning the street, install scaffolding, and begin stripping lead paint. Nearby businesses, Midtown Patch reports, will remain open. Expect Ponce to be closed for several weekends when workers lower the bridge, which will be repainted and feature security fencing required by the Georgia Department of Transportation. The 2.5-mile bike trail's opening date is still sometime this summer.
Beltline officials are suggesting motorists use Freedom Parkway and Boulevard as detours. But who's willing to bet that Somerset Terrace and Ponce de Leon Place are gonna be chaotic?
Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle assigned the bill to the Natural Resources Committee two weeks ago, but it has not been scheduled for a hearing. Sen. Buddy Carter has attached the legislation as a substitute to another bill that falls under the same section of state law scheduled to be heard by the Regulated Utilities and Industry Committee on Thursday.
"I requested it to be in that committee initially," Carter said. "I've been told that it wouldn't be coming up in Natural Resources. In fact, that was the reason it was put in that committee."
Natural Resources Chairman Ross Tolleson has said lawmakers may need more time to study the proposal. Carter said moving the bill will give the proposal the best chance to be heard during this legislative session.
Keep your eyes on this legislation, which enjoys a lot of support but faces an uphill battle against Georgia Power and electric co-op lobbyists.
An outdoors enthusiast and nature lover, Benfield has been a vocal environmental advocate during her 14 years as a member of the Georgia House’s Natural Resource Committee. Her commitment to clean water and clean air issues grew even stronger after her son was diagnosed with asthma. “When I learned that Robert has asthma, it really hit home that pollution can hurt our most vulnerable citizens, our children,” said Benfield. “For the past 20 years, GreenLaw has been a leader in protecting Georgians from pollution, and I am excited to be able to focus my attention on cleaning up our air and water for our families.”
“Stephanie was picked from an impressive pool of candidates due to her outstanding legal and public service credentials,” said Greg Presmanes, Chairman of GreenLaw’s Board of Directors. She received both an undergraduate and law degree from the University of Georgia. She graduated cum laude from the University of Georgia School of Law in 1992. Benfield served as a public defender and then went into private practice before being elected to the Georgia General Assembly in 1999. Benfield was given the Outstanding Lawyer in Public Service Award by the Atlanta Bar Association in 2011.
Stuckey Benfield replaces Justine Thompson, the quick-witted and straight-talking attorney who led GreenLaw in a successful 10-year battle against a proposed southwest Georgia coal power plant. She's moving to Florida to be closer to her family but will remain a staff attorney.
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission signed off Thursday on Atlanta-based Southern Co.’s request to build two 1,100-megawatt reactors at its Plant Vogtle site in Burke County.
Commissioners voted 4-1 to approve the project. NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko, who has supported the project throughout the process, dissented, saying he was concerned that the reactors would not meet certain safety requirements put in place since Japan's Fukushima Daiichi accident.
"Significant safety enhancements have already been recommended as a result of learning the lessons from Fukushima, and there is still more work ahead of us. Knowing this, I cannot support issuing these licenses as if Fukushima never happened," Jaczko said.
On that same note, a coalition of environmental advocates, including Georgia WAND, plans to challenge the application in federal court on the grounds that the NRC did not take the recent Fukushima disaster into account and consider modifying the new reactors' plans.
As we mentioned above, the reactors were eased along by the state and federal government. In addition to the pay-in-advance financing program state lawmakers approved (with the gentle arm-twisting of an army of Georgia Power lobbyists), the reactors enjoy a $8.3 billion federal loan guarantee. The reactors — the country's first in more than 30 years — are expected to switch on in 2016 and 2017.
Turns out they were right.
Barnes — who, prior to being appointed EPD director in 2009 by then-Gov. Sonny Perdue, Barnes was an environmental law partner at King and Spalding — is now listed on the Tanner firm's website as "President and CEO."
We doubt Barnes will be winin' and dinin' state lawmakers for the firm. Last we checked the state had a revolving door policy that requires a one-year "cooling off" period before state officials and agency heads can register as a lobbyist.
Nonetheless, we asked Barnes last night via email about his plans — and if he'd still continue to sit in on closed-door negotiations with Alabama and Florida about water-sharing rights. We'll update if we hear back.
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