Despite a concerted pressure campaign by leaders of Jacksonville’s electric utility, the directors of a Georgia power agency emerged from a closed-door session Monday and voted to move forward with a controversial nuclear power project in that state.
Our Florida Times-Union news partner reports the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia was under pressure from the state’s most powerful politician, Gov. Nathan Deal, to move ahead with the Plant Vogtle nuclear expansion project despite a raft of cost increases and time delays, and over the objections of JEA, which holds a 2008 purchase-power agreement obligating Jacksonville ratepayers to subsidize and eventually purchase power from the reactors. That obligation is set to cost JEA in excess of $2.5 billion.
A recently announced cost increase to the some $27 billion Vogtle project triggered a vote among the co-owners on whether to keep moving forward. Ninety percent ownership interest is required to keep the reactors on track.
Georgia Power, the largest minority shareholder in Plant Vogtle, had already voted to proceed with the project, which along with the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia, represents about 68 percent ownership interest. Oglethorpe Power, which owns 30 percent of the units, has yet to vote.
In brief remarks following a closed executive session Monday that lasted about an hour, authority board members acknowledged they were about to make a decision of large importance that affects ratepayers in Georgia, Northeast Florida and parts of Alabama. The board then quickly and unanimously approved a motion to continue Vogtle.
JEA and the authority are in the middle of dueling lawsuits against one another over the 2008 purchase-power agreement. In addition to the lawsuit, JEA sought to shame authority board members in the days ahead of Monday’s vote by purchasing ads in Georgia newspapers and billboard space. The relationship between the two agencies has soured significantly in recent weeks over Vogtle as JEA shifted course from its once publicly reticent stance on the project to outward opposition under interim CEO Aaron Zahn.