Ratepayers Need A New Fearless Voice on the Public Service Commission

Democrat Daniel Blackman is challenging Incumbent Republican Lauren “Bubba” McDonald in a runoff election for Georgia Public Service Commission District 4 on January 5, 2021.

McDonald received 49.91% of the vote, Blackman received 46.97% and Libertarian Nathan Wilson received 3.12%. 

This runoff was originally scheduled for December 1st but was changed to January 5th due to the presidential election recount in Georgia.

The Public Service Commission (PSC) regulates the state’s monopoly utilities, like Georgia Power and their decisions influence how much you pay for electricity and whether we have more nuclear power or more solar power. 

The Georgia PSC is currently made up of all white Republicans that don’t necessarily represent the multi-racial demographic of the state. Ratepayers need new blood on the PSC with an independent and fearless voice to speak for those left out and left behind.  

Blackman is not in the pocket of the fossil fuel industry because he will not take money from that industry. He will be that fearless voice on Georgia’s PSC who will fight for working families and senior citizens from the mountains of North Georgia to the ocean in South Georgia

Who Is Daniel Blackman

Blackman is the former Democratic Chairman of Georgia’s 7th Congressional District. 

Blackman worked with the U.S. Congress as an Energy Policy Advisor to address clean energy investments, utility regulations, and public health issues in underserved communities in the United States.  

He served on an Environmental Policy Commission to address renewable energy and public health issues in disadvantaged communities throughout the U.S.

He served as the Senior Vice President for Environmental Affairs and Sustainability at Capital Fortitude Business Advisors where he managed client relationships on social responsibility and intergovernmental affairs.

He partnered with the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan and Power Africa Initiative, served as an advisor to the Congressional Black Caucus and EPA on Environmental Justice issues.   

He was honored as one of 65 global leaders to be invited to Vatican City to discuss the global impact of the climate crisis ahead of the Paris Climate Accords.

Daniel has appeared on and been featured in many TV, radio, and newspapers. He has been a guest lecturer at many universities and the U.S. Institute of Peace.

He is the author of “Nationalism without Compassion.”  He is from Columbus, Georgia, and lives in Forsyth County with his wife and three sons

Blackman discusses with the Streets of Atlanta his position on climate change, renewables and public health.

Blackman on Climate Change

The Clean Power Plan was aimed at combating the human impact on climate change.  It was repealed by the Trump administration and that had a severe impact on the industry because federal funding was removed to fight climate change. We need to work with the Biden Administration to restore the funding because it is federal standards that drive policy standards in Georgia.  

 As a Public Service Commissioner, he will scrutinize everything that is not giving us an opportunity to be in the best position to fight back to mitigate climate change. 

The PSC has to not only look at the impact [of policies] but the short term and the long term consequences. For example, the coal ash cleanup is a five million dollar clean up that is on the backs of the ratepayers. When utility companies have an adverse impact on the climate, we must find a way to work with the legislative body in Georgia to make sure there are consequences when regulations are not kept or not met.

We need to rethink the current model that continuously puts ratepayers on the hook for any mistakes and challenges that have to be fixed or cleaned up. 

Blackman on Renewables to Fight Climate Change 

We need to look at other resources that will work in Georgia outside of solar. Biofuels have a big opportunity to drive the conversation in Georgia.

Biofuels are derived from agricultural crops, corn, plant waste such as corn stalks and wheat straw, switchgrass, algae, and methane emitted from microbial activity in landfills. Biofuels have the potential to be a cash crop for Georgia farmers. There are more than 80 advanced biofuel companies in the world.

Blackman will look at the biodiesel laws that exist and biofuel opportunities for our landowners and look at incentives that are current and that have expired. He will also look at what states have done that is effective in how they are deploying alternative fuels for energy. 

If there is a program that will allow us to advance hydro, biofuels, solar expansion we need to replicate that. We don’t need to keep reinventing the wheel. We can look at what other states have successfully done. 

What we see today is an aging industry not interested in innovation, they are interested in profits. When you have an industry dominated by white men it is not a diverse industry and ideas and traditions of these industries are passed down and we need to get past that.   

Groups like the American Association of Blacks in Energy and organizations like Anthony Van Jones Green for All will build a green economy with green jobs that can lift citizens out of poverty. We need to start bringing these alternative ideas into the conversation. The technology that is coming out now is what will drive the innovation of the future.

Blackman on Security Issues That Affect Public Health

We have a real problem when federal funding for water sources, ecological systems are compromised. A part of security is water security and soil security; these are all areas we can bundle in a federal program. We are not prepared for the very real threat of an attack on our grid or a nuclear facility. Vogtle’s evacuation plan is a joke. 

Blackman on Public Health

All nuclear plants routinely releases tritium in either liquid or gaseous forms and it likes to bond with water. Tritium affects a woman’s reproductive system and it can have harmful effects on infants exposed in the womb and this is not talked about. Blackman testified before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission seven years ago, about these radioactive issues which are not being addressed. It is contaminating water and affecting communities and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) backed that up.

There is evidence of water contamination in communities with higher numbers of Black and Brown people.  The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other civic organizations have shown an overwhelmingly large amount of contamination in those communities. 

People of color and low-income Americans often suffer from the effects of toxic pollution because they are often surrounded disproportionately by polluting facilities like the placement of landfills, truck depots, and incinerators, according to GreenLaw. 

The public health issue is a real issue. Look at the coal ash issue – there are high levels of lead and mercury in the drinking water. In Monroe County, they found uranium in the drinking water. Ingesting uranium can cause kidney dysfunction, according to the EPA.

Lead in drinking water can cause damage to the brain, nervous system, and serious harm to a child’s health and development.   Exposure to Mercury can cause neurological disturbances, memory problems, skin rash, kidney problems.  Exposure to radioactive elements can cause cancer, including leukemia, according to the CDC.

“We have to protect the public health of our communities,” Blackman concluded.  

Issues Important to Blackman from his Campaign Website

High-Speed Internet For Every County in Georgia

Blackman will work to close the technology gap by bringing high-speed internet to all 159 Georgia Counties. Access to high-speed internet is critical in rural areas for economic growth, for small businesses, access to healthcare, and for all children to have reliable internet connectivity.

Blackman believes the expansion of rural broadband is as vital as rural electric and telephone networks were decades ago. “To make solar and other technologies a reality, we have to make rural counties equipped with broadband, high-speed internet, and the infrastructure that will allow them to have that opportunity. They need a workforce trained on how to use it and sustain it,” Blackman told the Streets of Atlanta. 

Protect Workers and Prepare Them for New Energy Jobs

Blackman will ensure safety and job security for the energy workforce of today and build a pipeline of skilled Georgians for the energy jobs of the future.

He will focus on how education is fundamental to provide technical skills, academic skills, and employability skills to help workers and students succeed in a 21st-century energy economy.

“Why aren’t we activating our rural Georgia colleges? Imagine if we activated the University of North Georgia and Georgia Southern University and started to turn them into research and development hubs. We could drive public and private investment to these schools that would allow them to have a better chance of rolling out new ideas,” Blackman told the Streets of Atlanta   

Electric Grid Security and Resilience

Blackman’s top priority is security because the threat of cyber attacks is rising. A hack into data systems can cause disruption in the flow of power.

Climate change has caused extreme weather including intense rain downpours, strong winds, more flooding, ice storms, tornadoes, hurricanes, and heatwaves. This extreme weather has resulted in more power outages and cost the state billions of dollars in damages and closed businesses.  

Blackman promises to work to improve our grid’s efficiency, capacity, reliability, and resiliency with investment from public and private partnerships to make the grid less vulnerable to weather-related outages.

Strengthen Utility Assistance Programs

Blackman will advocate for lower utility bills and assistance programs for senior citizens and hard-working families on fixed incomes that need it the most. Over one and one-half million Georgians are living in poverty. Blackman believes no one should have to choose between paying the utility bills and feeding their families.

Blackman will work with and advocate for gas, electric, and telephone companies to offer stronger payment plans to customers who qualify. Also, he will work with civic groups, charitable organizations, and churches to provide payment assistance. 

The Trump Administration has eliminated funds for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) in the 2021 budget. With the Biden Administration in power, there is hope LIHEAP will be restored.

Champion Cleaner More Efficient Energy Solutions

Climate change is here with extreme weather in Georgia. We don’t need more climate deniers in office or more dirty fossil fuel money corrupting our political system and blocking bold action on climate change.   

Blackman will advocate for a cleaner, more efficient, and safer energy solutions for a renewable energy future for everyone.

by Gloria Tatum

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