Green Tea Coalition Launches in Georgia
(APN) DECATUR — The Green Tea Coalition (GTC) was launched Tuesday, August 06, 2013 at the Atlanta Friends Meeting House, 701 West Howard Avenue in Decatur, Georgia.
Over one hundred people attended from the right, left, and middle of the political spectrum, from all around the State of Georgia, from Savannah in South Georgia to Ringgold in the north.
It is an unexpected mongrel mixture of advocates coming together to raise awareness for cooperation to achieve everyone’s mutual goals. The GTC attendees do not agree on many issues, but plan to focus on common ground to protect the environment, the economy, their children and grandchildren, and to help Georgia move into the twenty-first century with clean, safe, renewable energy solutions.
One GTP goal is to free energy customers from the unfair 1973 “Territorial Act” which allows Southern Company to retain a monopoly over the purchase of energy throughout much of Georgia.
As previously reported by Atlanta Progressive News, the Territorial Act is a law that has the effect of making the free market illegal, and that stifles the development of renewable energy in Georgia that would bring in much needed jobs and would lower utility bills.
Speakers were Shane Owl-Greason, founder of Georgia Solar Utilities; Debbie Dooley, Tea Party Patriots National Coordinator; Daniel Blackman; and Seth Gunning with Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign.
“We find in politics and on TV it’s an ‘us’ or ‘them’ strategy, and as a result, no progress is made and we wind up with gridlock… There’s some percentage [of issues] we can agree on and that is where we should focus as a people for our economy, our communities.” Owl-Greason said.
This GTC began to form during the recent ethics hearings at the Georgia Legislature, and really pulled together during Georgia Power’s Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) hearings earlier this year.
Georgia Power’s IRP represents the next twenty years of Georgia’s energy future. The Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) every three years reviews the IRP and revises it to make sure the path is in the best interest of the ratepayers.
“Georgia Power had zero clean energy in their twenty-year energy plan…. I have no doubt that [without a strong coalition] we still would not have clean energy in this IRP in Georgia for the next twenty years,” Gunning said. “Together we built the pressure for the PSC to allow 525 MW of new solar.”
“What happened in the last IRP hearing is that Georgia Power did not give the most current or most accurate data on renewals. They did not include solar in the IRP even though it can bring downward pressure on electric rates. The PSC was given an IRP that was erroneous that did not include all the resources and all the most current data in order to run the models… Georgia Power testified that they had never modified the computer models to accommodate solar as a fuel class,” Owl-Greason explained.
“We were all against one product, one service, or one technology being incentivized in ways others were not. Some [technologies] were more disadvantaged than others [like heavily subsidized nuclear] and there was not a level playing field,” Owl-Greason said.
Between 1994 and 2009, US oil and gas industries amassed nearly 450 billion dollars in corporate welfare subsidies, compared to a relatively paltry six billion dollars for renewable energy over the same period, according to Occupy.com.
As previously reported by APN, Atlanta-based Southern Company has been conditionally approved for 8.3 billion dollars in loan guarantees from the federal governemnt for two new nuclear reactors to be built at Plant Vogtle in Burke County, Georgia. If completed, the Vogtle expansion would be the first new nuclear reactors in the US in thirty years.
The Vogtle project is subsidized by the government and by ratepayers because the banks and Wall Street consider it too risky to invest in.
“I have said all along there are elites on the Right and on the Left that wants to keep us [the people] apart. It’s time we stopped listening to them and let’s get together and work on issues we can agree on and make real progress,” Dooley said.
“I’m a conservative but an American first, our Tea Party focuses on policy not party. We can agree that energy should compete in a free market with a level playing field without subsidies. We have had energy subsides since the 1940’s. Subsidies and monopolies is the government’s way of picking winners and losers. The GTC is here to protect the little guy, the ratepayers,” Dooley said.
“I’m a Georgia Power ratepayer, and I’m infuriated to see the CWIP [Construction Work in Progress] taken out of my power bill to pay in advance,” for Vogtle, Dooley said.
On ratepayers’ power bills, the CWIP is listed as Nuclear Construction Recovery Cost, and depending on a household’s total bill, can run from as little as two or three dollars to over twenty dollars or more each month. This fee or tax is charged to ratepayers. It is not for energy service, but to build Vogtle 3 & 4; and many believe the company and shareholders should absorb this cost.
“In the state of New Hampshire CWIP was ruled unconstitutional,” Blackman said.
“When you get an itemized bill… every penny matters… and I got even more involved after meeting some seniors that were deciding between their light bills and their medical bills. When you are on a fixed income… it’s very important for people like us to stand up and fight on their behalf.”
“I was infuriated when I read in 2011 that Southern Company’s CEO’s compensation package was nine million dollars a year. If that had been in a free market situation without government subsidies I would not have a problem with that. But this is from the ratepayers. They take money from us to lobby the legislators and Congress [for] what’s in their best interest, not us,” Dooley said.
“Georgians should be entitled to the same protection as ratepayers in Mississippi – their liability is capped… Georgia Power has made the ratepayers their cash cow,” Dooley said.
During the open forum portion for questions and comments the first participant, Roy Lynch from Savannah, said, “We are being sodomized in the pocketbook by Georgia Power.”
“We are paying for the fleet of limousines that ride up to the State Capitol when the Georgia Power lobbyists get out. The bottom line is that we are paying for that because of that 2011 bill that allows them to directly buy the best politicians money can purchase,” Lynch said.
In 2011, the forty year ban on Georgia Power giving directly to legislators was lifted. “Customers who are captive ratepayers are paying a utility who can turn around and use the money to influence the legislators. You don’t have to be a Tea Party or a Green or a progressive to know that is not a proper place to be in this state,” Owl-Greason said.
Glenn Carroll, coordinator with Nuclear Watch South passed around a petition to Stop CWIP for everyone to sign. “You can sign online at www.stopcwip.com,” Carroll said. ‘We need to stop paying up front for a nuclear plant that we don’t need. The billions maybe even twenty billion dollars – the way its going – could be used for solar or wind or efficiency.”
The majority of the GTC members, at the end of the launch party, agreed to attend the next PSC meeting on Tuesday, August 13 at 10:00 am, 244 Washington Street, Atlanta, Georgia.