APN Endorses Staples, Ploeger for PSC

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(APN) ATLANTA – The Board of Directors of Atlanta Progressive News is pleased to announce that APN is endorsing David Staples and Brad Ploeger for the General Election for Public Service Commission Districts 5 and 3, respectively.

Staples and Ploeger are both Libertarian nominees.  This marks only the second and third time in APN’s nearly seven year history that we have endorsed a Libertarian candidate.  The first time we endorsed a Libertarian in a General Election was in 2010 when we endorsed David Chastain for Secretary of State due to his strong advocacy related to elections integrity and criticism of electronic voting.

DAVID STAPLES FOR DISTRICT 5

Endorsing David Staples for District 5 was an easy choice.  We agree with Colleen Kiernan of the Sierra Club of Georgia–which, by the way, has also endorsed Staples–that Republican incumbent Stan Wise is the worst Commissioner on the worst Commission in the country.

Staples is the only candidate running against Wise; no Democrat qualified for the race.

In 2006, the last time Wise ran, APN endorsed “Not Stan Wise,” noting that we could not bring ourselves to endorse the Democratic nominee at the time due to their support for nuclear power.  While there was a Libertarian candidate in that election, APN was simply not aware of it at the time; and Brett Bittner of the Libertarian Party of Georgia has since noted that the Party was not campaigning as hard in 2006 as they are now.

Stan Wise has supported everything Georgia Power has asked for including two new nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle and incessant rate increases.  He has received nearly all of his campaign contributions from executives, lobbyists, and attorneys for utility companies.

Staples, on the other hand, has pledged not to accept campaign contributions from such sources.

Staples told APN he would not have supported Plant Vogtle Units 3 and 4, two proposed new nuclear reactors, and instead would have supported building out Georgia’s solar capacity to meet daytime demand for energy.  Staples is a strong supporter of solar energy and renewables.

Staples also wants to end the trend of ratepayer-subsidized, guaranteed profits for Georgia Power and wants to use the PSC’s ability to set profit levels for Georgia Power as an incentive system to encourage Georgia Power to meet goals such as greater renewable energy targets and cleaner sources of natural gas.

Staples does not believe in mandating anything of Georgia Power, a position that APN does not agree with.  The fact is, we do not have a free market for power in Georgia; we have a regulated monopoly.  Therefore, while no one seems to be willing to mandate anything of Georgia Power, the fact is that the PSC is already mandating things of Georgia consumers and ratepayers: we are mandated to use Georgia Power for electricity [unless we can afford the up-front costs of our own solar panels]; we are mandated to pay the rates mandated by the PSC; and we are mandated to pay in advance for construction of two new nuclear reactors that many Georgians do not want.

And while we are wary of supporting a Libertarian in a position like this–Public Service Commissioner, whose whole purpose is to regulate utilities on behalf of Georgians and the need to protect the environment–because we do not want to be seen as supporting the anti-regulation ideology.

However, as we will note below in regards also to the District 3 race, there isn’t a single incumbent or candidate out of the five of them who are running for Districts 3 and 5, who supports mandating anything of Georgia Power.  Therefore, by that standard, we probably wouldn’t be able to endorse anyone, until either (a) the Green Party gains ballot access in Georgia, (b) a progressive independent gains ballot access in Georgia, or (c) a Democratic nominee comes along who is willing to stand up for the principle of regulation on behalf of the environment.

As we’ve shared with both Libertarian nominees, we believe the idea that we just have to allow the utility companies to come around to being good corporate citizens and to voluntarily protect the environment instead of their own corporate profits, is founded upon an erroneous notion of human nature that ignores history and class conflict.

Still, we think Staples would be a good addition to the PSC because first, Stan Wise needs to go; second, Staples would be a pro-solar and anti-nuclear voice on the Commission; third, his election would bring partisan diversity to the Commission and to state politics; and fourth, electing a Libertarian to a statewide position could generally help the cause of ballot access in Georgia, paving the way for more independent and minor party candidates, especially Green Party candidates.

BRAD PLOEGER FOR DISTRICT 3

Unlike the District 5 race, there are two candidates challenging the incumbent, Republican Chuck Eaton, in District 3.  Those two candidates are Steve Oppenheimer, a Democrat, and Brad Ploeger, a Libertarian.

APN is endorsing Ploeger mainly because of his criticism of nuclear power.  Ploeger said he is “not a fan,” of nuclear power, while Oppenheimer says he believes nuclear power is perfectly safe.  Oppenheimer has taken the time to meet with several individuals from Georgia Women’s Action for New Directions (WAND), to discuss their concerns about nuclear power, so it is unclear how he could possibly believe nuclear power is safe.

Now, it has been quite troubling to APN that Ploeger is also not willing to mandate anything of Georgia Power because of his philosophical opposition to doing so.  And so, Ploeger’s opposition to nuclear power really isn’t worth as much as it could be when he isn’t willing to enforce his position in any way.  To be sure, Ploeger wants to use the Integrated Resource Plan to set targets for different types of energy, but with no consequences for the utility if they fail to meet that target.

However, in one interview with APN, Oppenheimer stated that he also wants to set renewable energy targets as part of the IRP, but he still does not believe in mandating anything of Georgia Power.  And so, as stated above, by that standard–a standard of insisting that a Commissioner be willing to actually regulate–APN would not be able to endorse any of the current five candidates.  Pretty sad, isn’t it?

Therefore, with all candidates being equal on their willingness to regulate, APN has decided to endorse the candidate who has presented the best positions on Georgia’s current and future energy mix, and that is Ploeger.

Ploeger has an ambitious longer-term target for renewable energy in Georgia, of ten percent of statewide energy consumption within fifteen years.

Now, Oppenheimer does have some good qualities as well.  He has been very responsive to interview requests, having at least three different conversations with two APN reporters over a span of several weeks.  He would be a better Commissioner than the incumbent, Mr. Eaton, by far.

Oppenheimer’s support of natural gas causes APN to be wary; however, he told APN that he would premise his support of natural gas upon the enactment of federal regulations regarding fracking.  Ploeger, on the other hand, said he does not support federal regulation, so it is not clear how his concerns regarding fracking are more than empty words.

Readers may also want to consider that Oppenheimer has a chance to become the only statewide Democrat in Georgia, whereas Ploeger is less likely to win.  And having both a Libertarian (Staples) and a Democrat (Oppenheimer) on the PSC would bring a new level of diversity of ideas and ideologies to the Commission.

Still, Oppenheimer is unlikely to win without a Run-off.  Thus, a vote for Ploeger instead of Oppenheimer in the General, would not hand the election to Eaton because Eaton will either break fifty percent or not, no matter how the non-Eaton voters are split.

Unlike some organizations, APN does not consider likelihood of winning in our endorsement process.  Sometimes our endorsed candidates do win, but that’s not the reason we endorse them.  The simple bottom line is that our interview and/or questionnaire process matters; candidates’ answers to APN’s questions matter.  We strive to make our endorsements transparent and based on meaningful, substantive criteria, rather than personal relationships, subjective traits, or a hedging of bets based on who is likely to win.

(END/2012)

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