Bill would keep customers from paying profit on delayed Vogtle project


A Rome lawmaker has proposed legislation to keep Georgia Power customers from continuing to pay for profits made due to the increased costs and delays of constructing two nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle.

State Sen. Chuck Hufstetler, a Republican, introduced what he calls a “reasonable” solution to ease some of the burden customers have felt from the troubled project, which has been delayed by at least five years and could potentially double its initially estimated cost of $14.3 billion.

“This is a very fair bill,” Hufstetler said. “It doesn’t stop Plant Vogtle. It doesn’t stop the overruns from being paid. But it does set some limits on it. I’m hoping that it will be looked at reasonably.”

The proposed legislation, Senate Bill 355, would cause Georgia Power to change the formula it uses to bill customers, which builds in an automatic profit, Hufstetler said. Ratepayers would continue to pay for cost overages, but none of that money could be used to create a profit for the energy company.

“The way things are set up now, the more (Georgia Power is) over budget, the more profit they make,” he said.

Georgia Power spokesman John Kraft said officials were reviewing the bill that was filed Wednesday, repeating that the project is important to providing a new energy source to the state.

Vogtle has suffered severe project delays and cost overruns that could potentially double the estimated cost of completion, now projected at $23 billion. The project initially scheduled for completion last year now is estimated to be completed by 2022.

Hufstetler’s proposal also would require utility companies to get approval from the General Assembly to pursue any new nuclear projects and exempt public and charter schools from being subject to tariffs used to pay for the construction.

“Taxpayers fund public schools, and then for schools to also have to pay the fee, it’s like ratepayers are being double taxed,” said state Sen. Elena Parent, D-Atlanta, who is co-sponsoring the bill.

Georgia’s Public Service Commission last month voted to allow construction of the reactors to continue, with the condition that it would reconsider if the federal government does not approve roughly $800 million worth of tax credits for the project.

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