An imaginary conversation last Friday morning:
“The government shut down again.”
“Nah, it was only for a few minutes in the middle of the night.”
“But they fixed it, and we won’t have to worry about it for another two years.”
“Nah, there’s another deadline of some sort in March.”
“But they got the money to run the government.”
“Yeah, but they raised the debt limit again. It’s now over a trillion dollars.”
“So what? That doesn’t bother me. I don’t have to pay it.”
“Big mistake, my friend. You are paying for it every day of your life.”
Most of you reading this letter are on a budget. If it isn’t written out, it still exists. You can’t just throw your money around and get away with it for long. But the government can, and it does.
You’ve heard about “bridges to nowhere?” Merriam-Webster calls this kind of activity a boondoggle: “a wasteful or impractical project — overbudget, behind schedule and unnecessary.”
This is a perfect description of the two new reactors under construction at Plant Vogtle in Waynesboro. They are now five years behind schedule and $10 billion over budget.
And every single one of you who get your electricity from Georgia Power and its partners are paying for it “... every day of your life,” or at least every time you turn on your lights.
How? Through a funding process called Construction Work in Progress enabled by the Georgia Nuclear Energy Financing Act of 2009
One of the reasons I call it a boondoggle is because these payments are structured to continue until the project is completed and it comes on line. In other words, the longer the project takes, the more money Georgia Power and its partners make.
This is more than a bridge to nowhere. This is a continuous drain on the ratepayers’ pocketbooks. Furthermore, you and I aren’t the only people paying this tax. Small businesses and public schools must pay their power bills as well. The Savannah-Chatham County Public School System reported it paid more than $251,000 toward the Vogtle expansion in the last fiscal year.
That is school money that could have funded four full-time teachers.
Restructuring Vogtle’s reimbursement plan will stop this egregious money grab, and a bill to do this has been introduced in the state Senate (Senate Bill 355). It is now in committee. Unfortunately, it will die there unless it’s passed on to the General Assembly before the end of this month. This is where you can help.
Gainesville state Sen. Butch Miller is on the Regulated Industries and Utilities Committee to which SB 355 has been assigned. Please contact him and ask him to support SB 355 and send the bill to the full legislature. You can reach him by email at email@example.com or by phone at 404-656-6578.
Joan O. King