Politics & Government

Bill allowing Georgia Power to raise rates clears House, awaits Perdue's signature

The House of Representatives has passed legislation that will allow Georgia Power to raise its electric rates early to finance expansion of nuclear facilities near Augusta.

Senate Bill 31, one of the most controversial and fastest moving bills of this session, had already cleared the Senate. It now moves to Gov. Sonny Perdue for his signature.

The vote in the House was 107-66. The legislation allows Georgia Power to raise rates starting in 2011 to build new reactors at Plant Vogtle. That's six years before the reactors will come online, according to the current construction schedule.

Georgia Power and bill supporters have said the early financing will save some $300 million by raising rate payer costs in the short term but avoiding larger increases down the line. Paying early, they said, saves on interest costs.

Opponents have said the complicated bill moved too fast through the General Assembly in an end-run around the Public Service Commission, which regulates Georgia Power and other utilities.

"I don't know how many of y'all out here know what a kilowatt is. ..." state Rep. David Lucas, D-Macon, said Thursday from the well. "They've got staff over there. They've got folks who are trained."

There are also concerns — denied by bill supporters — that individual rate payers will be affected more than big businesses, whom some say were carved out of having to pay the increases in a complicated exemption to the bill. There are concerns that company stockholders will unduly benefit.

"They keep telling you everybody's going to pay," Lucas said. "They sure are. But are the big boys going to pay proportionately?"Macon Mayor Robert Reichert, in Atlanta today for Macon Day at the Capitol, said he supports the bill because it will save rate payers money.