– June 29, 2022 –

Ga. Power wants a rate increase

Georgia Power has asked regulators at the Public Service Commission to approve an increase in rates of 12% by 2025, Dave Williams of Capitol Beat reports. The hike would tag on more than $16 to the average residential monthly bill. That’s nearly $200 a year. The PSC won’t decide on the rate case until after the November general election in which two PSC seats — those of District 2 Commissioner Tim Echols and the recently appointed District 3 Commissioner Fitz Johnson — are up for grabs.

The proposed rate hike doesn’t account for costs at Plant Vogtle, where a nuclear expansion is years late and billions over budget. Ratepayers are already paying Vogtle financing costs and additional Vogtle costs will be factored in after the reactors start producing electricity, now predicted to be next year. Georgia Power’s partners in the Vogtle expansion are losing patience with the ballooning price tag, though. A second company, The Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia, has filed a lawsuit against Georgia Power in an effort to cap the minority partner’s costs, as Dave Williams of Capitol Beat also reports. Oglethorpe Power froze its Vogtle costs last week.

The Plant Vogtle nuclear expansion is billions over budget and years behind schedule. Credit: John McCosh/Georgia Recorder

Property tax settled

A nearly two-year saga that pitted the Georgia Coast’s Congressman against tax authorities in the southernmost county of his district is over for now. U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter bought land near the proposed spaceport in Camden for $2.05 million then balked at an assessed value of about an eighth of what he paid. Complications ensued after the Congressman didn’t show for his Board of Equalization hearing. But in May, the county agreed to settle, freezing the assessment at the bargain rate through 2022. Carter, a pharmacist who is running for re-election against Savannah attorney Wade Herring, is the 10th wealthiest member of the House, with a net worth of $66M in 2019, according to a ranking by OpenSecrets.org

U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter Credit: Craig Nelson/The Current

Mining company calls foul

The Alabama-based mining company that plans to mine for titanium dioxide near the Okefenokee is pushing back against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. In early June, the Corps announced it had erred in waiving its authority over the wetlands in the proposed mining footprint. In particular, the Corps said it failed to consult properly with the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. It looked like a re-do of the federal permitting process was coming. Now Twin Mines Minerals is suing the Corps, insisting a consultation with Tribes was never required. The mining is controversial because of its proximity to the Okefenokee, the largest refuge in the Eastern U.S. The Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge and the Okefenokee Swamp Park recently partnered to increase efforts to have the blackwater swamp declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Okefenokee is the largest wildlife refuge east of the Mississippi. Credit: Photo courtesy office of Sen. Jon Ossoff

Voting battle over regulators

The race for Georgia’s Public Service Commission, which regulates Georgia Power, is getting more attention than usual this election year. Chairman Tricia Pridemore and Vice Chairman Tim Echols, both Republicans, traded text messages about the home address of Echols’ main Democratic opponent, Patty Durand, before Pridemore helped the legislature draw new districts that put Durand’s eligibility in question, as The Current reported. Meanwhile a similar question of eligibility based on residency got a pass in the District 3 PSC race. And now Stanley Dunlap of The Georgia Recorder reports on another PSC voting matter that had its first airing in federal court Monday. Four Black Fulton and DeKalb county residents allege that the voting strength of Black people is eroded by a statewide election process used to elect the PSC. Only one Black person has ever been elected to the panel.

Scales of justice
The voting strength of Black people is in question in statewide PSC elections Credit: Unsplash

BEACH ADVISORIES: As of this writing, there are no new beach water bacteria advisories in Georgia. Permanent advisories are posted for Clam Creek Beach and St. Andrews Beach on Jekyll Island; and for King’s Ferry County Park on the Ogeechee River at the Chatham/Bryan County line.
Before you head to the beach, check the link to see current notices.

If you have feedback, questions, concerns, or just like what you see, let us know at thecurrentga@gmail.com.

U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter settles property tax issue in Camden

US Rep. Buddy Carter paid $2.1 M for his Camden property but has his assessment frozen at $274,000.

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U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter’s property tax squabble continues

Buddy Carter has challenged the property tax assessment for property he bought near the proposed Spaceport Camden site

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Mining company sues Army Corps over project near Okefenokee

Mining company sues Corps of Engineers over Okefenokee permitting setback saying that agency made new policy in consulting with Native Americans about the project.

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U.S. Army Corps revokes approval of mining near Okefenokee

A proposal to mine near the Okefenokee gets a setback with requirement to consult with Muscogee Nation.

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Federal trial starts claiming Black voters disenfranchised by Georgia PSC elections

Attorneys for the plaintiffs Monday laid out plans to prove that the state’s systemic racial dilution violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Black Georgians  represent more than 30% of the voting age population, yet have not had a candidate they overwhelmingly support elected in the last decade.

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Redistricting left 2 PSC candidates out of their districts. One got to keep her candidacy, one didn’t.

Redistricting reshape races for powerful commission seats as board challengers face residency rules.

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Last minute election snafu in Georgia’s public service commissioner race

Georgia’s Republican Secretary of State disqualified PSC candidate Patty Durand hours before Tuesday’s primary. She claims she’s a victim of partisan politics.

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Georgia Power looks to raise rates 12% by 2025

Officials say the increase would strengthen Georgia Power’s electric grid, add more renewable energy to its power-generation portfolio, while critics say it’s an excessive request.

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Georgia Power hit with second lawsuit over Plant Vogtle

Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia (MEAG Power) has filed a lawsuit against Georgia Power in Fulton County Superior Court asserting its right to trigger a 2018 agreement freezing its capital costs in building two additional nuclear reactors at the plant south of Augusta.

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Mary Landers is a reporter for The Current in Coastal Georgia with more than two decades of experience focusing on the environment. Contact her at mary.landers@thecurrentga.org She covered climate and...