APN Chat with David Staples, PSC District 5, Libertarian Nominee

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(APN) ATLANTA — In our continuing coverage of two statewide races this year for Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC), Atlanta Progressive News sat down for an interview with David Staples, the Libertarian nominee for the District 5 PSC seat, which is currently held by incumbent Stan Wise, a Republican.

No Democrat qualified for the race, meaning that Wise and Staples will be the only two candidates on the ballot for the seat during the November 06, 2012 General Election.

Staples has a decent shot at winning, should he attract enough support from independent voters, Republican voters dissatisfied with Wise, and voters on the left.  If Staples does win he will be not only the first Libertarian elected statewide in Georgia, but in the US.

Commissioner Wise did not immediately return a message left on his campaign voicemail requesting an interview.

Previously, APN published interviews with two out of three PSC candidates for District 3, including Steve Oppenheimer, a Democrat, and Brad Ploeger, a Libertarian.  Incumbent Chuck Eaton’s campaign has not taken the opportunity to reach APN readers through the interview process.  

Recently, APN extended a third invitation to Eaton, and his campaign consultant Todd Rehm replied, “Lol.  After you’ve already said twice he declined.”  [Eaton also did not respond to the Sierra Club of Georgia.]

Staples so far has picked up a diverse list of endorsements including Debbie Dooley, Atlanta Tea Party Co-Founder and Board Member of Tea Party Patriots; Jim Powell, 2008 Democratic PSC Candidate and former Regional Director of the US Department of Energy; Trevor Southerland, former Annual Fund Director for the Democratic Party of Georgia; and the Sierra Club of Georgia.

Colleen Kiernan, Executive Director of the Sierra Club of Georgia, told APN they supported Staples in part because the incumbent, Mr. Wise, “is the worst Commissioner on the worst Public Service Commission in the country.”  She added the organization felt they could work with Staples and that they supported some of his positions, many of which will be expanded upon below.

Stan Wise has been a staunch supporter of nuclear power and has approved every rate increase that Georgia Power has asked for.  According to a photograph posted on Facebook, Wise has fallen asleep during at least one PSC hearing.

91 percent of Wise’s campaign contributions came from executives, lobbyists, and attorneys for utility companies that the PSC regulates.

According to the Georgia Report, Wise accepted ten thousand dollars in campaign contributions from attorneys handling a case before the PSC, just two days before the same attorneys presented the case to the PSC.

Staples, on the other hand, has promised not to accept any campaign contributions from executives, lobbyists, or attorneys of utility companies with business before the PSC.

Staples is a web technologies architect for a large equipment manufacturer.  He lives on a farm in Cobb County and has been active in local issues there such as opposing a recent Cobb County SPLOST vote, and fighting for the right to have backyard chickens.

DO YOU SUPPORT OR OPPOSE NUCLEAR POWER?

“I’ve read quite a bit on both sides.  We don’t have the perfect form of generation.  Nuclear is certainly going to be part of our mixture,” Staples said.

“Vogtle Units 3 and 4 we don’t need quite yet.  We could have done that [met that energy demand] with solar,” Staples said.

Staples says it makes more sense to use solar energy to meet daytime demand, when the availability of solar energy is highest and the demand for energy is also highest.

“Look at the wholesale power rate curve.  It’s cheaper overnight and more expensive during the day.  Peak hours are more expensive because Georgia Power is spending more, because they’re using their cheapest options first, then purchasing wholesale power or turning on a plant,” during peak hours when demand increases, Staples said.

Staples said that had he been on on the PSC at the time, he would have opposed Vogtle units 3 and 4, although he says he may have considered them down the road depending on demand.

“With the information I’ve seen, I would’ve delayed at least until a later date, instead providing other methods for peak power.  We’ve already got Vogtle 1 and 2 already running, and Vogtle 1 and 2 works best when running at full power,” which is at night when the demand for energy is down, Staples said.

WHAT IS YOUR POSITION ON NATURAL GAS?

“Natural gas is certainly going to be part of our mix for a long time, there are certainly benefits,” Staples said.

“We have to take into consideration the method of producing… as far as other issues, fracking, I certainly think there need to be things that need to be fixed there.  We need to consider the source,” Staples said.

“I live on a farm, I have a well – I don’t want anything leaking into my groundwater.”

When asked whether Staples would premise his support for natural gas upon the enactment of federal regulations regarding fracking, Staples said, “I don’t think federal regulation is necessary.”

“We can do a better job in the states.  Why should I purchase natural gas from someone producing groundwater leaks?” Staples said.  

However, when asked whether the PSC should not do business with such producers–seeing as how individual consumers do not get to make those decisions–Staples said the PSC’s preference could be reflected in an incentive system governing Georgia Power’s profits.

“We shouldn’t just give an 11.25 or 12 percent profit.  I don’t believe in guaranteed profits.  The way we should treat Georgia Power, the better they operate, the better they do,” Staples said.

Staples believes in establishing performance indicators, or targets, for Georgia Power to meet.  These could include environmental goals, such as not doing business with natural gas companies that are polluting local water supplies.  Georgia Power’s profits should depend on whether or not they meet the PSC’s performance indicators.

Staples says he prefers renewables to natural gas.  “Natural gas prices aren’t mandated to stay low.  Something could hit the pipeline tomorrow and the rates would go up.”

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

“Solar has no fuel costs.  I like solar – it’s time we join the rest of the world,” Staples said.

“Instead of spending 8.1 billion, Georgia Power’s share of Vogtle [Units 3 and 4], we should have spent on solar capacity instead.  The good thing about solar is after you pay for the asset, it keeps generating,” Staples said.

When asked what target for solar energy the PSC should set in its next three year Integrated Resource Plan, Staples said, “One percent solar is reasonable.”  This is the target that Georgia Power has already proposed and that Steve Oppenheimer proposed as well in an APN interview.

Staples said he had not thought about a longer range goal.

“I’m not coming at solar from a mandate perspective but from a market perspective,” Staples said, adding that he believes solar power makes good business sense.

Staples has not taken a position on the two new solar energy proposals being considered by the PSC, saying he wants to hear from both sides.

Again, encouraging solar energy could be part of the incentivization system where Georgia Power could receive certain profits only if they meet the PSC’s renewable energy goals.

Staples also said he wants the Territorial Act to be repealed and for Power Purchase Agreements to be allowed in Georgia.  This would help allow individual homeowners and small businesses to finance their own solar panels, thus reducing consumers’ reliance on Georgia Power.

“I’m a fan of distributed generation.  People creating their own power is better than one location and a huge distribution system,” Staples said.

IS IT A TARGET OR A REQUIREMENT?

As noted above, the targets for renewable energy, under Staples’s plan, would not be mandates but would be incorporated instead as part of incentive systems governing Georgia Power’s profits.

However, Staples’s unwillingness to mandate things of Georgia Power is not unique to him: Oppenheimer, Ploeger, and the current PSC incumbents have all taken the same position.

(END/2012)

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