Today’s Courier Herald Column:
Chuck Eaton finds himself at the end of his first term on Georgia’s Public Service Commission with not one but two challengers. Democrat Stephen Oppenheimer and Libertarian Brad Ploeger are each contesting the race. Eaton, however, has earned another term on the Commission.
As I wrote when giving him the nod in his primary race this summer, “One of Chuck Eaton’s strong points is that he is intellectually curious. He is a person who is willing to admit he doesn’t have all of the answers, and solicits opinions regularly on topics that interest him. This is not to say he doesn’t understand the issues – Far from it.
“He has a keen grasp on the various risks associated with coal as the EPA continues to push coal powered electric plants toward extinction. He understands that while natural gas prices are at historic lows right now, the history of the fuel is one of price volatility which could lead to wide variances in power costs. He understands that nuclear is cheap once the power plants are operational, but getting a plant built after 30 years since the last plant was built will present unique challenges.
“Eaton prefers a balanced approach, with Georgia not putting all eggs in one basket. He’s generally pragmatic about the needs of the state, and balances the needs of Georgians with the requirements that those the PSC regulates are entitled to earn a profit as defined in state law.
“While not someone I always agree with, Eaton is someone who can explain and is willing to defend his positions based on fact and underlying law. That’s a rarity in politics.”
I stand by all of that, and for that he remains my choice.
His challengers do not rise to the level of seriousness required for the position that is ignored by too many Georgia voters. Democrat Stephen Oppenheimer’s candidacy seems to be as much about trying to establish a Democratic foothold in a down ballot race as it is about the Public Service Commission. His answer in Sunday’s Atlanta Press Club debate regarding President Obama’s EPA regs requiring three GA Power coal plants to be shuttered was partisan enough that he quite literally blamed George Bush. He also appears quite hostile to nuclear power which represents the near term future for Georgia’s electric needs.
Libertarian Brad Ploeger’s candidacy appears inspired by typical ideological fare and should not be confused with that District 5 Libertarian candidate David Staples who has also earned my vote. Ploeger admitted in the Sunday debate that he has never attended a PSC meeting and finds the documents relating to the job posted on the PSC’s website too hard to find. He noted that his job does not accommodate observing daytime meetings at the PSC. For someone asking the citizens of Georgia to invest a 6 year term to his responsibility for a position that pays over six figures, perhaps he should have invested a sick day to attend at least one.
Those looking to send a message for change would best vote against the incumbent in the District 5 race. For someone who attends meetings, asks relevant questions of all parties involved, and even occasionally votes against the stated wishes/demands of the large utility providers, voters will do well sticking with Chuck Eaton.
For this election, as in the primary, Chuck Eaton gets my vote for the Public Service Commission.