My position on SB 31 was NOT against GA Power as a company. Indeed, as was said by virtually everyone on the floor of the House yesterday – both for and against the measure -, GA Power is a good corporate citizen. NO ONE denied that. All of the GA Power employees I’ve ever known have also been some of the nicest people I’ve ever known. Again, I don’t remember anyone on the floor of the House or even in the blogosphere denying that.
Our concerns were simple:
1) SB 31 causes ratepayers to experience a rate increase in a time when paying their power bill is hard enough already. GA Power can borrow the money at 4% interest rate, yet the average GA family has $6,000 in credit card debt with an average interest rate of 14%. This means that for every dollar that GA power is paying $0.04 in interest on for its construction debt, that family is having to pay $0.14 on its credit card debt. Looking at it in just those terms, this means that the family is paying 350% more interest than GA Power.
Furthermore, apparently many of the pro-SB 31 crowd were worried about GA Power’s credit rating (for a company that size, it is called a ‘bond rating’). And here I ask: Which is more likely to experience a lowered credit rating: A company that makes BILLIONS of dollars a year or a family that makes $30K per year? Ga Power has been known for GENERATIONS as one of the safest companies to invest in. This means that people have known for DECADES that Ga Power was going to be there, be stable, and be productive. And that is quite a testimony to the overall company, as not very many companies – particularly in the current economic climate – can say that anymore. So again I ask, who is in more danger of a lowered credit rating and the negative consequences it entails: A mutli-BILLION dollar a year, highly stable, highly reliable company that has been around for decades, or a family of four making $30K a year with $6,000 in credit card debt and who knows how much in a mortgage?
The answer to that seems clear to me.
2) Regardless of the financing issue, there was an equally valid question of exactly whose job it is to rule on said issue. You see, the Constitution of the State of Georgia mandates a Public Service Commission to regulate all public utilities. Its Commissioners are elected to 6 year terms, and this is a full time job. This is contrasted with the General Assembly, who meets for 40 days per year and is explicitly given one function per the Constitution: to pass the annual budget. Anything else the General Assembly does is icing on the cake. It MUST pass the budget. The Public Service Commission’s staff is made up of full time bureaucrats whose sole job is to be experts in all things related to public utilities and to make recommendations to the Commission of any issue that comes before it. The General Assembly and its staff is is composed more of a wide variety of backgrounds and specialties. Indeed, there are members of the General Assembly in such wide ranging fields as doctors, lawyers, preachers, farmers, real estate agents, and many more.
The issues SB 31 deals with were already scheduled to go before the PSC soon, and given its history they more than likely would have passed that board, quite possibly without the public or even us bloggers who watch these type things being aware.
So why then, did the General Assembly – composed of such a wide range of members – need to take up an issue so complex as nuclear power plant financing, rather than leave it to the experts of the PSC?
In the PSC, its regulations often carry the weight of law without the mass of law. Meaning that a PSC regulation can be changed at the very next meeting of the PSC if it so desires. Folks, I’m pretty new to actually watching the General Assembly, but I can tell you already that if they get something wrong, it dang near takes an act of God to change it. Therefore, I’d MUCH rather the PSC screw up than the General Assembly.
Regardless of the issues relating to financing in and of themselves, this issue should have been settled by the PSC, not the General Assembly.
Again, our opposition to this bill was NOT, in any way, an opposition to GA Power on the whole as a company. We very simply objected to this particular idea for the reasons I’ve stated.
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