Senator Nan Orrock and Representative Becky Evans have introduced the “Ratepayer Surcharge Relief Act” in both the Senate and the House. Passage of either SB607 or HB1503 would end the Plant Vogtle monthly surcharge for an estimated 2.5 million Georgia Power customers.
The nuclear finance surcharges were controversial in 2009 when then-Governor Sonny Perdue signed into law the Georgia Nuclear Energy Financing Act that legalized billing customers a Nuclear Construction Cost Recovery tariff to underwrite the financing to construct two nuclear reactors, Plants Vogtle 3 and 4. The monthly surcharge, also known as CWIP (Construction Work In Progress), began in 2011. Since then, almost $4 billion has been paid by customers while Georgia Power has posted $12.8 billion in profits, a jump of more than 20% over pre-Vogtle construction profits.
Proponents of the legislation, Representative Becky Evans and Senator Nan Orrock, say the surcharges have gone on six years longer than originally proposed. Senator Orrock said, “This surcharge is especially unfair to our senior citizens. They have been paying for power for 12 years that they may never use. I voted against the surcharge legislation in 2009 because it is an unfair burden on Georgians. I’ve seen reports that the typical household has already paid around $850. I have bi-partisan support for SB607 because repeal of this surcharge is long overdue.”
Representative Evans says, “This repeal will benefit residential and small commercial customers, who pay the lion’s share of costs. This unfair surcharge is like a triple tax -– we pay it at home, at schools and small businesses, and in our houses of worship, while Georgia Power shareholders enjoy record profits. Large industrial and retail customers were mostly exempted from paying these costs. It’s time to provide relief to our hardworking Georgia families and small businesses.”
The CWIP charges have been opposed by several organizations including Nuclear Watch South, an organization that has regularly intervened at the Georgia Public Service Commission against putting the huge and growing costs of the delayed reactors onto customers. Nuclear Watch South Coordinator Glenn Carroll emphasized that the reactors are not nearly as complete as the owners say, and that the ongoing blank check for them must stop. In 2018 the organization presented then-Governor Nathan Deal with more than 3,000 signatures calling for an end to the surcharges. The unfair law was amended in 2018 to sunset with Vogtle 3 & 4. Ms. Carroll says that the call to stop the surcharges is about surcharge unfairness and is not about nuclear power.
Georgia Conservation Voters Executive Director Brionté McCorkle says, “Enough is enough. Georgia Power should be forced to take responsibility . . . the Georgia Legislature should act now to stop Georgia Power from charging hardworking Georgians — who are already feeling a financial squeeze — for its costly and gross mismanagement of the Vogtle project.”
A critic of the surcharges, Robert Searfoss of Atlanta, says, “Testimony at the Georgia Public Service Commission confirms that much of the work going on at Vogtle now is costly correction work fixing mistakes. The company, not the customers, should pay for this. We have learned that thousands of pages of required safety documentation are missing or incomplete. The surcharges go on and on while Georgia Power’s mistakes cause delay. We should not be made to pay for this. Repealing the surcharge law would put the cost burden on the company where it belongs, and immediately save money for Georgia electricity customers.'”
The Ratepayer Surcharge Relief Act has been assigned to committees in both chambers. The sponsors and supporters are seeking immediate hearings for the bills to move forward in the Senate Committee on Regulated Industries and the House Committee Energy, Utilities and Telecommunications.
Websites with more information are:
Written by: Glenn Carroll, Coordinator, Nuclear Watch South
Photo by Gloria Tatum