Political Notes – PSC sets hearing dates for nuclear cost reviews

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The Public Service Commission has scheduled this year’s round of hearings to review the progress and costs of construction for Georgia Power’s two nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle.

At issue is whether the PSC will verify and approve what Georgia Power spent on the massive nuclear project during 2013.  Decisions would be made later on whether any of the costs were “imprudently” incurred and would have to be eaten by the utility’s owners rather than passed along to ratepayers.

The PSC released an order setting hearings on June 3 and 4 where Georgia Power executives will testify about the Vogtle project; testimony from PSC staffers and intervenors will be heard on July 1 and 2, with the commission making a final decison on Aug. 19.

Commissioners had been holding these cost monitoring hearings every six months, but reached an agreement with Georgia Power last year to consolidate them into one annual hearing.

These will be the first cost hearings held by the PSC since Georgia Power finalized an agreement with the U. S. Department of Energy in February for $6.5 billion in federal loan guarantees to help finance the project, the first new reactors to be built in the U.S. in more than 30 years.

Georgia Power is managing the construction of Vogtle’s nuclear units 3 and 4, a project estimated to cost just under $15 billion. The PSC has regulatory authority over Georgia Power’s share of those costs, which currently are about $6.11 billion.

The completion date for the reactors has slipped by about 18 months since construction began and Georgia Power has indicated that its costs have increased by about $737 million, an amount that the PSC has yet to approve. There are also an estimated $900 million in costs tied up in a legal dispute between Georgia Power and some of its contractors.

Name change for Armstrong

Armstrong Atlantic State University in Savannah is going to shorten its name somewhat by dropping the “Atlantic” part of it, a change approved last week by the Board of Regents.

College officials said “Atlantic” was added to the college’s name nearly 20 years ago but tends to cause confusion with the city of Atlanta. The cost of implementing the new name, which takes effect July 1, is estimated at $40,000.

Lewis on food stamps

Georgia’s problems in administering the food stamp program have caught the attention of U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-Atlanta), who lambasted the state this week for putting itself in a position where it might lose $15 million in federal funding for the program.

“Georgia is the only state issued an advance letter of warning, within the past ten years, which has not been able to become compliant within the allotted period,” Lewis said in a statement released by his office.

“There also appears to be a series of compounding problems beyond the backlog that bring into question the state’s ability to effectively meet the needs of families and individuals who depend on food stamps to survive,” Lewis said.

Gov. Nathan Deal says the state Department of Human Services is attempting to resolve the administrative problems that caused a backlog of food stamp applications estimated at more than 3,200.

“The state needs to fix the systemic and backlog problems immediately,” Lewis said.

© 2014 by The Georgia Report

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Tags: Armstrong Atlantic State University , food stamps , Georgia Power , John Lewis , nuclear project , Plant Vogtle , PSC