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Letter to the Editor: Gov. Deal's Proposed Public Service Commission Cuts

Steve Oppenheimer, candidate, Georgia Public Service Commission, District 3, says the point that further cuts to the PSC staff will directly result in the watchdog agency’s inability to monitor utility rate increases is a good one.

 

Nearby Sandy Springs

In this week’s edition of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Georgia Public Service Commissioner Bubba McDonald made a gutsy public appeal to Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal to omit the PSC from Deal’s most recent round of proposed budget cuts.

While I normally wholeheartedly endorse the idea that a smaller government is a better government, McDonald’s point that further cutting to the PSC staff will directly result in the watchdog agency’s inability to monitor utility rate increases is a good one.

McDonald pleaded with Deal to not reduce the Georgia Public Service Commission budget because cuts would hamper the PSC’s ability to handle major cases and could render the PSC less prepared to protect the interests of the people of Georgia.  With the possibility of unwelcomed budget reductions looming on the horizon, why are the other commissioners –– particularly the self-proclaimed consumer advocate Chuck Eaton –– silent? 

Georgia’s homeowners, business owners and rate-payers should be up in arms about the Governor’s proposal to further gut the watch-dog agency. Not only would it cause undue harm to the people of Georgia, but it also defies common sense.  The most recent round of proposed cuts comes on the heels of the defunding of the Consumer Utility Council by Gov. Perdue’s office. And the ongoing danger of silencing the only remaining watchdog agency for Georgia homeowners, business owners and ratepayers is one of the reasons I decided to run for the PSC.

If elected to the Commission in November, I would fight to preserve the power and integrity of the Commission to independently and objectively make Georgia’s energy policy. 

For those not already aware, the PSC sets our monthly power bills, determines how tomorrow’s energy will be made and what it will cost us. The 2013 Integrated Resource Plan, to be determined by the Commission and the utility companies, will shape Georgia’s energy future and determine if a modern energy job sector will grow in Georgia or be outsourced to neighboring southern states. The PSC has no small job ahead of it, and further slashing staff comes close to guaranteeing they cannot do this important job.

Good energy policy is not partisan, it is for the common good and will make Georgia a more energy secure state.  The PSC professional staff was decimated by Gov. Perdue's 2008 budget cut, which eliminated the state’s Consumers’ Utility Counsel. The Counsel represented the interests of residents and small businesses in cases when utility giant’s attorneys proposed higher rates before the Public Service Commission.

Since 2008 Georgia families and small businesses have paid more than $4 billion dollars in cumulative rate increases.

Further cutting the PSC staff in the face of the impending preparation for the 2013 Integrated Resource Plan and the tsunami of 2013 rate increases Georgians will be confronted with, including a Georgia Power rate case, telephone company rate cases and cost overruns and delays at the Plant Vogtle expansion project –– all of which have conveniently been postponed for incumbent commissioners until after the 2012 election.

 

Now for the common sense.  While Gov. Deal’s proposed cuts would save $235,000 in appropriations, but how does that compares when the next round of utility rate increases is imposed on Georgia’s largest electric customer, our government?  Visualize all those utility bills for our state, county, city, school and university buildings. These are all our hidden liabilities as Georgia citizens.

Gov. Deal, please think of the people first and increase the budget for the PSC to reactivate the Consumer Utility Counsel so the people  have a professional advocate in the days of  this Great Recession.  Rate increases hurt people in three ways; at home, at work and paying our government’s utility bill. 

Steve Oppenheimer, Candidate

Georgia Public Service Commission, District 3

Steve Oppenheimer is a retired dentist and small business owner, the father of three son and has worked on energy and energy security policy nationally and locally.  Steve serves as a Task Force Coordinator for Clean Cities-Atlanta which advances the economic, environmental, and energy security of the United States by supporting local decisions to adopt practices that contribute to the reduction of petroleum consumption in the transportation sector.

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