APN Chat with Brad Ploeger, PSC District 3, Libertarian Nominee

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(APN) ATLANTA — Brad Ploeger, the Libertarian nominee for Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) District 3, will be on the General Election ballot this coming November 06, 2012.  He faces incumbent Chuck Eaton, a Republican; and Steve Oppenheimer, a Democrat.

The present article reviews APN’s interview with Ploeger.  APN has already published its interview with Oppenheimer.  Also, APN has made numerous requests to Eaton’s campaign for an interview.  Following APN’s most recent request, on October 03, 2012, Todd Rehm, a campaign consultant for Eaton, said he would check, presumably with Eaton, but APN has not yet received a response.

As previously reported, the PSC is an extremely important Georgia agency, which regulates the utilities for the State of Georgia.  The Commissioners have an enormous impact on the rates we pay for energy, and even more importantly, on our environment.

This is Ploeger’s first time on the ballot, although it is his second time running for office.  In 2010, he attempted to gather enough signatures to challenge incumbent State Rep. Margaret Kaiser (D-Atlanta), as a Libertarian, but he did not end up qualifying.

Due to a provision in Georgia’s generally very restrictive ballot access laws, the Libertarian Party of Georgia does not currently have to gather petition signatures to run for statewide offices, such as PSC, but does have to gather petition signatures to run for non-statewide offices, such as State House.  This is because the Libertarian Party receives enough statewide support every two years to perpetuate themselves back onto the statewide ballot for the next election.

Ploeger is a small business owner of a company called Arkturis that provides automation, technology, and consulting for other small businesses.  

Ploeger serves on the Board of Directors of the RLC Corporation Lutheran Towers, which provides affordable housing for low-income seniors in Georgia.

Ploeger, who is openly homosexual and is married to his partner, Joey, has also been highlighted in local gay publications such as Project Q Atlanta.

Ploeger said it is a common misperception about Libertarians that “we hate the environment.”

“It’s bad business to hate the environment.  What good is it to build a business and not have an environment to live in?” Ploeger noted.  “Environmental issues are something you have to look at.  The science shows that global warming exists.”

DO YOU SUPPORT OR OPPOSE NUCLEAR POWER?

“My issue is we’ve never fully accounted for all the costs, including waste disposal.  I’m not a fan.  They [nuclear plants] are not passively safe.  There are technologies that could be adapted [to make them safe] but they’re not being pursued,” Ploeger said.

“It was completely irresponsible of the PSC to allow Georgia and Southern Nuclear to put future costs on ratepayers not knowing what the costs were going to be,” Ploeger said.

Plant Vogtle “Units 1 and 2 were built in the aftermath of Three Mile Island [nuclear disaster].  Per unit they are some of the most expensive in the US.  And after what happened in Fukushima [nuclear disaster], it is going to put a lot of scrutiny,” Ploeger said, noting that the proposed “Units 3 and 4 are a model never used in the US.”

WHAT IS YOUR POSITION ON NATURAL GAS?

“It’s a great energy source for America,” Ploeger said.

“It’s cleaner but it’s still burning something out of the ground that’s not renewable.  If I had to choose between coal and natural gas, I’d take natural gas,” Ploeger said.

“Fracking is a huge issue – not in Georgia, we’re not fracking here,” Ploeger said, referring to the process by which companies pump natural gas out of the ground, which has been associated with methane gas pollution and chemical leaks into nearby water supplies.

“I would live nowhere near where they’re conducting fracking operations,” Ploeger said.  “There are environmental costs that haven’t been accounted for.”

When asked whether Georgia is responsible for the environmental consequences associated with the energy demand it creates, “I totally believe that,” Ploeger said, although he stopped short of saying that he would condition his support of natural gas upon federal regulations to address the problems with fracking.

“I do want fracking to be addressed.  It will continue to be a huge issue,” Ploeger said.

Natural gas “does require burning things at this point.  We have renewable energy but there are downsides with wind and solar as well,” Ploeger said.

WHAT IS YOUR PLAN TO INCREASE SOLAR AND WIND ENERGY IN GEORGIA?

“I do want to see more renewables – I think it’s the future.  There’s no supply issue with renewables.  As a PSC we should set longer goals, of at least ten percent renewable energy in fifteen years,” Ploeger said.

Ploeger said one of the issues with solar energy, seeing as how we cannot collect solar energy at night, is “matching supply to demand.  It must immediately be used.”

“Wind is a resource we have to look at in Georgia.  There an issue with bird strikes, especially down near the coast,” Ploeger said.

Ploeger said that out of the two solar energy proposals currently in front of the PSC–the Chuck Eaton conservative solar energy plan and the Georgia Solar Utility plan–that Ploeger prefers the latter, wherein a new utility company, Georgia Solar Utility, would compete against Georgia Power and would provide two thousand solar megawatts in Georgia.

“I’m all for increased competition.  I think it encourages efficiency.  I welcome additional competition.  The conservative plan for solar energy is more of the same – when we put all our eggs in one basket with Georgia Power, they have little or no incentive to be efficient,” Ploeger said.

The Eaton Plan is to accept voluntary measures from Georgia Power to increase their three year target for solar energy by 210 megawatts, to 260 megawatts, not including the 4.4 megawatts Georgia Power already purchases through green energy credits funded by customers.

IS IT A TARGET OR A REQUIREMENT?

Ploeger criticized incumbent Chuck Eaton for not wanting to establish requirements for Georgia Power to meet certain renewable energy targets as part of the PSC’s Integrated Resource Plan or a longer term plan, yet Ploeger says he has a “philosophical disagreement” with wanting to “beat Georgia Power over the head” for not meeting the targets Ploeger does want to set.

As previously reported by APN, the Democratic nominee, Steve Oppenheimer, was not any different in this respect, wanting to establish renewable energy targets but not making them mandatory for the utility companies to comply with.

In explaining his position, Ploeger said that Eaton “does not want to challenge the status quo.  He sees no reason to look at the future.  We need to look at our roadmap as a state.”

“The PSC has a little bit of authority to influence their [Georgia Power’s] thinking.  You have to make it [renewable energy] part of their energy plan.  Really what the PSC exists to do is to speak on behalf of the citizens.  Right now we just want to drift along, but does Georgia Power say where they wanna be?” Ploeger said.

OTHER CONCERNS

Ploeger also says he supports conversion to “distributed generation” via a smart grid in Georgia where there could be more sources of generation of power for Georgians, including small, medium, and large scale operations, both renewable and nonrenewable.

(END/2012)

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