GA PSC questionnaire: David Staples

David Staples The Georgia Sierra Club sent a questionnaire to all candidates for Georgia Public Service Commission. None of the incumbents answered. The two challengers did. Here’s the one from David A. Staples for District 5. -jsq

  1. As a Candidate for Public Service Commission, what is your campaign strategy for achieving 50% +1 of the votes cast?

    [I’m omitting the answers to this question. -jsq]

  2. How should the Public Service Commission consider and weight the impacts to community health (asthma, cancer rates, etc.) and on Georgia’s environmental (water quantity, air quality etc.) when making decisions about a utility’s generation portfolio?

    Impacts to community health and the environment have to be considered very carefully. I know there are a number of different ways of viewing the situation but the explanation I’ve found that works best with Republicans in trying to get their support is that it comes down to a private property matter. The right to swing ones fist ends at the other person’s nose. Does anyone have the right to pollute the air that I breathe or the water that I drink?

    If I buy a piece of property for instance along the Savannah River or Ogeechee River, does someone upstream from me have the right to pollute the water that then flows onto my land, carrying those pollutants with it?

    Absolutely not.

  1. As a Public Service Commissioner, would you enforce utility resource diversification by mandating a continued expansion of Georgia Power’s energy efficiency and solar energy capacity? If so, what would your mandates look like?

    In the absence of a free market for electricity, I think the Commissioners have to work closely with Georgia Power to examine what sources of electrical generation make sense for Georgia.

    We have to keep in mind that there are no perfect sources of electrical generation available. If there were, we’d already be using them. There are pros and cons to every type of electrical generation. I don’t really like the word mandate though.

    Alternatively, I think Georgia Power could be incentivized to make more responsible decisions. Right now, as I understand it, Georgia Power has a guaranteed profit margin of roughly 12%. don’t think guaranteed profits are appropriate. I think profits should be tied to performance. Certain key performance indicators could be the expansion of their energy efficiency program whereas another could be tied to their solar energy capacity. The better they perform in these areas, the more they are allowed to profit. The worse they perform, the lower their profits.

    However, any solar projects the company takes on should also be monitored. Doing solar for the sake of doing solar doesn’t suffice. It needs to be done wisely and using the right technologies.

    The type of technology, efficiency and capacity factor need to be taken into account as well to ensure that the ratepayer is protected and that people don’t have reason to call any particular solar project a boondoggle because one project or another wasn’t managed appropriately.

  2. Do you believe that the Georgia Territorial Act allows for renewable energy power purchase agreements and third party sales? As a Public Service Commissioner, what would you do to ensure Consumers retain the right to generate electricity from renewable energy on their own property?

    I’ve read through the act a few times now. I can see each side’s argument for why third party power purchase agreements are or are not legal. I suppose at this point what matters is what a court would decide. If a court decides that these types of agreements are not legal, then the law should be changed and I would proactively fight for that law’s passage. From a private property perspective, people should have the right to enter into these agreements with companies they wish to do business with so long as it doesn’t inflict harm on someone else. The only harm these types of agreement inflict are less business going to whatever monopoly currently is assigned to that area. However, nobody is suggesting outlawing solar or distributed generation altogether, so really all we’re talking about here is the method of financing and who retains ownership. Should the government or a monopoly utility have any say over a private contract between a property owner and one of these companies? Absolutely not.

  3. Would you advocate for the repeal of the Nuclear Construction Work in Progress Tax? When Georgia Power Seeks additional cost-recovery for the expansion of Plant Vogtle would you, as a Public Service Commissioner, require risk-sharing mechanisms or deny those requests in order to shift the economic burden of construction cost-overruns from rate-payers to share-holders? At what degree of cost overrun would the cost-recovery be denied?

    From what I’ve read, it appears to me that most of the money collected as CWIP isnt necessarily going towards prepaying the financing costs, but instead is going to Georgia Power as extra profit. As I stated earlier, I don’t approve of guaranteed profits for any business. I’ve talked to a number of people about these issues and it seems I’ve gotten different information from a variety of different sources. One person explained to me that the current process is already pretty much a risk sharing mechanism in and of itself and to hold the company and shareholders more responsible for such things as fluctuations in the prices of commodities (fuel for the construction equipment, price of copper, concrete, other building materials, etc.) wasn’t fair. However, I don’t think holding the ratepayer solely responsible is fair either.

    With that in mind, I’m open to discussing what is fair and putting into place a risk sharing mechanism to ensure that ratepayers aren’t footing the entire bill upfront for an electrical generation plant that some of them may not ever use.

  4. High-risk investments into new nuclear and traditional fossil fuels development are taxing to our state’s water resources. In cases of severe drought, water dependent generating facilities will be forced to shut-down operations. As a Public Service Commissioner, what will you do to ensure a diverse energy portfolio which protects Georgia’s vital water supply and the Georgia Public from rolling brown-outs?

    The drought issue is actually one of the greatest benefits of solar to Georgia I believe. It is those hot summer days where the temperature reaches past the 100 degree mark where air conditioners all over the state are kicked into high gear that solar is readily available to meet that need. This is also one of the factors that should be taken into consideration upon looking at the appropriate mix of technologies that are appropriate for Georgia Power’s electrical generation portfolio.

  5. Do you support prohibiting campaign and lobbying contributions to PSC Candidates or incumbents from utilities regulated by the PSC as well as from both their employees and law firms?

    Currently it is already illegal for utilities to donate to PSC candidates from what I have been told. Perhaps it’s not a bad idea to enact legislation preventing at least the utility executives of a certain level from contributing to PSC candidates or incumbents. Georgia Power has quite a few employees, so I’m not sure whether we should restrict their rights to donate to a PSC candidate or not. I don’t believe the average employee is where the problem lies, though I suppose there is a potential for abuse should there be a change in the law. I suppose there are always ways to get around the system though. Executives could create a PAC that they donate to and then donate from the PAC to the candidate and then run their own campaign.

    In the same spirit of preventing utility executives from donating to candidates / incumbents I would support the same type of rules for the lobbyists and law firms hired by the utility.

    Ideally, if we elect people that have certain moral and ethical standards, these types of issues n’t even come into play. I don’t believe accepting money from an entity that is regulated by the PSC is ethical and will not accept contributions or gifts from people associated with those entities.

Update 2012-10-15 11:40: Added back missing apostrophes. -jsq

Update 2012-10-15 15:10: Added vertical space between paragraphs. -jsq

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