For the people – if by people you mean Georgia Power

June 25, 2012 8:00 am

by Bridget Cantrell · 12 comments

To set the right tone, let’s remember that The Southern Company (Georgia Power) made $1.98 BBillion in 2010.

Now, let’s also remember that Public Service Commissioner Stan Wise’s son Adam works for Troutman Sanders – Georgia Power’s law firm.  This same article notes “[three] Troutman attorneys recently appeared before the PSC in a hearing that reviewed the costs and schedule of Georgia Power’s Plant Vogtle expansion project.”

And now -  a little more kindling for the Ethics Fire.

Here we have a press release lost in a Friday news cycle:

“Georgia Public Service Commission candidate Pam Davidson sharply criticized Incumbent Stan Wise for casting the deciding vote Thursday to let Georgia Power off the hook for $3.2 million in damages related to service disruptions last year at the Plant Vogtle and Plant Hatch nuclear generation facilities.”

“In the 3-2 vote, Wise and two other commissioners ignored the findings of the PSC’s own expert witness, William R. Jacobs, who described the outages as having been “clearly the result of imprudent management.”

For my own general knowledge, I wanted to see Stan Wise’s background in relation to William Jacobs background if Commissioner Wise was going to ignore Jacobs’ professional opinion in relation to a vote.  I’ll let you form your own opinion.

Davidson’s press release went on to say:

“Commissioner Wise said he was concerned about being ‘fair’ to Georgia Power,” Davidson said. “Hard-working consumers across this state are no doubt wondering when Mr. Wise will be concerned about being fair to them.”

I’m just saying – It IS a fair thing to wonder.

A little extra tidbit of humor: of the 3-2 vote, Bubba McDonald and Tim Echols voted together against it.  I guess we can assume this was a verbal vote and not written on fancy stationary? ha

As follow-up to some of the things in Davidson’s press release, it’s interesting to note that according to Politifact Georgia, Stan Wise had an interesting (or stale) mix of contributors between 2001 and 2012.

Our analysis shows about 66 percent of the contributions were made by people who work for companies regulated by the PSC. An additional 25 percent came from attorneys who work for law firms with clients who do business before the commission. Some of those law firms are the largest in Georgia, and attorneys who work there regularly donate to political candidates in all sorts of campaigns.

About 9 percent came from donors we believe have no ties to any utilities. There were some contributions we could not determine whether or not the donors worked for or represented any utilities, and we did not include them in our analysis.

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As for Vogtle 3 and 4, get ready for those extra costs to start coming in.  Westinghouse has lost their mind.  Rebar is a critical path item…and it’s already showing delays.  For the engineering dorks, you can read more about rebar on Page 8 of this .pdf.

Here’s an update on the project in I-Nuclear from earlier this month:

The Westinghouse spokesman said a routine Nuclear Regulatory Commission inspection in April identified that certain details of the nuclear island rebar construction at Vogtle were not consistent with the DCD [design control document]” that was approved by the NRC. (Bridg Notes: they didn’t install it as designed and approved and are now having to do it over.)

Westinghouse said issues have arisen that may impact the budgets and schedules of the projects, including costs associated with design changes to the DCD, and costs associated with delays in the schedules of the projects related to the timing and approval of the DCD and issuance of the COLs.

“Westinghouse expects negotiations with the owners about cost overruns to continue over the next several months during which time it will attempt to reach mutually acceptable agreements,” the spokesman said.

In his testimony, Jacobs was also sceptical about the project meeting schedule and costs, partly because he said that Shaw Modular Solutions (SMS), manufacturer of the AP1000 modules, had yet to demonstrate the required production rate of high quality modules to meet schedules.

Sidenote: Does it scare the beejeezus out of anyone else that the resident expert has yet to see the required production of high quality modules?? I don’t want to alarm the neighbors, but….

 

David Staples June 25, 2012 at 8:47 am

From what I’ve read on this, I would have voted with Bubba and Tim. State law says that costs such as these shouldn’t be passed along to consumers when they are clearly the result of imprudent management.

Here’s the article I read on Friday about this:

http://jacksonville.com/news/georgia/2012-06-22/story/georgia-power-customers-will-see-lower-bills

As for the completion of the two new reactors, from the testimony I heard not long ago, the person testifying couldn’t even provide an estimated completion date at the moment due to the various issues that have arisen.

Jas June 25, 2012 at 9:53 am

Holy non sequitur

deverett June 25, 2012 at 10:11 am

The paper did not accurately report the facts in the case. The law has two standards to determine whether or not a cost disallowance is appropriate. The first standard , is the cost imprudent, and the second standard, is the cost CLEARLY imprudent? In a fuel case such as this the standard we must by law consider is CLEARLY imprudent, the more stringent standard. Mr. Jacobs testified under oath that “I can’t make a distinquishing difference between clearly imprudent. I don’t know what that means.” Thus, if the only person representing the PSC in the meetings with GA Power to determine if any expenses should be disallowed could not state that the cost were CLEARLY imprudent then how could they be declared such?

Bridget June 25, 2012 at 10:28 am

Wow – that sounds very Clintonesque.

Calypso June 25, 2012 at 10:49 am

You know, dead versus CLEARLY dead. Pregnant versus CLEARLY pregnant. At fault versus CLEARLY at fault. Screwing the public versus CLEARLY screwing the public.

The Last Democrat in Georgia June 25, 2012 at 12:57 pm

Depends on what the definition of “CLEARLY” is.

Jackster June 25, 2012 at 7:13 pm

@Calypso – Well actually, I’m pretty sure most of the abortion legislation centered around if a woman’s pregnancy was imprudent or CLEARLY imprudent. Are you suggesting then that healthcare should be a public utility? Something to be used as a necessity, with cost over runs for health outages charged back to the ratepayers only if the breach was CLEARLY imprudent?

@deverett – Thanks for choosing to set up your consultant as a strawman here; it’s quite obvious his opinion will be minimized when SoCo comes back to the table to ask for their VOLTgle cost increases to be passed on….

CobbGOPer June 25, 2012 at 10:49 am

Yeah, that’s not a great argument, Commissioner Everett. What is the definition between imprudent and CLEARLY imprudent? I would have given you the same answer Mr. Jacobs did: “What?”

If the law does not have a better definition for what qualifies as CLEARLY imprudent, then it’s bad law and needs to be changed.

deverett June 25, 2012 at 12:39 pm

To CobbGOPer,

Words do mean something and if they are the law they should be followed, don’t you agree? Also, I agree with you, it is bad law and should be changed. The sad thing is there is even another standard relating to the cost disallowance, it is called the Rocky Mountain Standard or what a reasonable man would think (this standard did not apply in this case). I wish the Legislature would pass another law giving us only one standard and make that standard clear with no gray areas.

CobbGOPer June 25, 2012 at 1:26 pm

You did what you thought best under the current law. But it’s obviously bad law. Hopefully yourself and the other commissioners can encourage the General Assembly to do something about that.

And thanks for talking to us, by the way!

seekingtounderstand June 25, 2012 at 3:56 pm

The government on all levels uses regulated utilities to shadow tax us so that makes them dependent on PSC to be fair. It only hurts the customer if they are not.
Floridas PSC went all political and against the power company……..what did the people get? crappy service and we do not care about anything as there is no incentive power company.
So either way, nothing is free and you either work together for the common goal or fight it and then still pay more just for a crappie power system which will eventually need a hugh investment and drive rates even higher. How do you want it to play out, cooperation or screw it up and then fix it later for more money.
Buford has a city run gas company that is making them rich while they gouge the little guy.
How do you think they get to build those two TRUMP TOWERs with marble floors and all the other new goodies for their city. Either way your going to pay, just choose your poison. And they have no accountability to the PSC. ZERO and as a customer who is forced to use them it stinks!

David Staples July 18, 2012 at 6:11 pm

I’m sure there’s also no correlation between the $10k in campaign donations just two days before from Georgia Power’s attorneys, Troutman Sanders, right?

http://votestaples.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/donations.jpg

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