The Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) is made up of 5 elected officials whose job it is to ensure that consumers receive safe, reliable, and reasonably priced telecommunications, electric, and natural gas services. However, the commission has failed on delivering “reasonably priced” energy. Your commissioners have voted over and over again to allow Georgia Power to make bigger profits at the expense of customers like you and me.
This November 3rd, there are TWO Public Service Commissioners up for re-election on your ballot:
- District 1, held by Jason Shaw
- District 4, held by Bubba McDonald, Chairman of the Georgia Public Service Commissioner
Learn more about the actions they have taken before you head to the polls.
1. They have allowed Georgia Power to add COVID-19 Costs to your energy bills
On Tuesday, July 6, Georgia Public Service Commissioners voted to allow Georgia Power to charge customers for the millions of dollars they spent on personal protective gear, overtime and meals, and extra cleaning services for the company’s frontline essential workers.
If the current rising costs that we pay weren’t bad enough, the utility will be allowed to eventually recoup those costs – $7.7 million for the months of March, April, and May – from customers like us.
“I can’t see how we can tell them that they’ve got to keep people’s electric running without getting paid, while at the same time not allowing them to recover the costs,” said Public Service Commissioner Tricia Pridemore, who introduced the motion to allow Georgia Power to eventually bill customers.
This simply isn’t true. Consumer advocates and the PSC’s own staff have argued that the company does not need the money.
2. They have given Georgia Power the “Ok” to resume shutting off power for people who are behind on their bills
We’re in the middle of a global pandemic that has made more than 10 million people sick and killed hundreds of thousands. The United States of America is undergoing the worst financial crisis in almost a hundred years and millions of people are out of work. In Georgia, there are over half a million people who are unemployed, with the unemployment rate currently hovering around 10%. The situation is even worse for minority groups like African American families. It’s possible, and even likely, that you or someone you know is out of a job.
Further, many communities are experiencing the hot Georgian summer. Energy consumption naturally goes up during hot summer days and, in some situations, a cool home is vital to ensuring the safety of individuals like the elderly. While some states are passing rules to prevent power cutoffs if the temperature outside is 99 degrees or higher, our commissioners have decided to put corporate profits over the needs of struggling families that are feeling the squeeze.
3. They voted to increase how much you pay for energy every month and added new charges to your bill
In December 2019, in the middle of the holiday season, Georgia Public Service Commissioners gifted you with higher energy bills. Georgia Power customers will see their monthly electric bills rise, with some of the increase kicking in next month and growing over three years.
The increases come from three main things:
- Higher fixed monthly fees: Nothing you do changes how much you pay for these fees
- Higher energy rates: They are charging you more for the same energy they provided before
- New demand charges: These won’t start until January 2021, but when they do, you will notice. Basically, you will be charged extra for the period of time when your electricity use is highest every month, such as when they happen to be washing clothes, running the dishwasher, etc. at the same time.
Public Service Commission Chairman Tim Echols estimates that the increase next year alone would be about $71 per average household. It may not be much to someone making over $100,000 each year on the taxpayers dime, but it is too much for communities that are already struggling.
Energy and Policy Institute – Georgia Power Set to Automatically Enroll New Residences in Demand Charge Rates
4. They are allowing Georgia Power to charge you for cleaning up toxic coal ash
Coal ash is basically the waste produced from burning coal in coal-fired power plants. For years, Georgia Power has stored this waste in unlined “ponds” that have been shown to contaminate groundwater. Some communities, like Juliette, GA rely on this groundwater for their drinking water.
Environmental groups and consumer advocates have called on Georgia Power to excavate the coal ash and put it into lined landfills where the toxic waste cannot contaminate drinking water. Georgia Power has decided to do some clean up, but has not been clear about how they are going to do it. And the company insists that they need to charge customers more to clean up the waste that the company created.
According to Utility Dive, “The utility has estimated its plan to excavate 19 of its 29 coal ash ponds and leave the remaining 10 capped and in place could cost up to $2 billion.”
Public Service Commissioners have admitted that the December 2019 increase in rates was mostly to help the company clean up coal ash, though they are unclear on what exactly those plans are.
Georgia Recorder – Juliette residents leave Capitol frustrated by coal ash politics
5. They allowed customers to pick up the cost of the construction of Georgia Power’s over budget and behind schedule nuclear Plant Vogtle Units 3 & 4
In April 2009, the Georgia Nuclear Energy Financing Act (SB 31) was signed into law. The Act allowed Georgia Power to charge customers in advance for the construction of two new nuclear reactors in Burke County, Georgia: Plant Vogtle Units 3 and 4.
After years of construction delays, one of their partners went bankrupt and the total cost of the project skyrocketed to more than $25 billion. Georgia Power was on the hook for an estimated at $8.4 billion, and they are passing the extra costs onto their customers (you).
Your Georgia Public Service Commissioners voted again and again to allow Georgia Power to continue with the project on your dime. Georgia Public Service Commissioners are supposed to protect paying customers from corporate greed and mismanagement. Yet, they have voted to let Georgia Power customers pay more while the company continues to make record profits.
While legislators did pass a bill in March of 2018 to sunset the Georgia Nuclear Energy Financing Act of 2009, the bill only stopped customers from paying for future nuclear plants after January 2018. This means Georgia Power customers are still on the hook to pay for Plant Vogtle. There has been no cost cap placed on how much Georgia Power can charge its customers.
Georgia Public Service Commissioners Bought and Paid For
We believe that all elected officials should be making decisions about the environment and clean energy without monetary influence from the fossil fuel industry. For years, Georgia Power has pumped cash into the campaigns of Georgia legislators and public service commissioners. As a result, their decisions have not been driven by what’s best for the people of Georgia, but instead by what’s best for Georgia Power’s profits.
Our commissioners have NOT been willing to stand up to corporate interests when they conflict with the interests of everyday Georgians. Learn more about the influence of campaign donations from Georgia Power at psc.gcvoters.org