Second Georgia bill would exempt schools from Vogtle construction tariff

Photo from Plant Vogtle construction site. Photo by Johnny Edwards / AJC File Photo.

Photo from Plant Vogtle construction site. Photo by Johnny Edwards / AJC File Photo.

The Georgia Senate’s top education lawmaker wants to exempt public schools from the cost of Georgia Power’s Plant Vogtle nuclear construction.

Senate Bill 393, introduced by Sen. Lindsey Tippins, R-Marietta, Wednesday, would delete the nuclear construction cost recovery tariff that appears on school power bills. “The financing costs not collected from such public schools shall not be collected from other customers,” the legislation adds.

That wording in the bill by Tippins, chairman of the Senate Education Committee, is identical to language in a bill introduced in January that also takes aim at the project costs. Senate Bill 355 by Sen. Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome, is a broader measure that would keep all Georgia Power customers from continuing to pay for profits made due to increased costs and delays.

Hufstetler, who chairs the Senate Finance Committee, is a co-sponsor of the newer, narrower bill by Tippins.

“I think this bill probably has a better chance of passing,” Tippins said. “If they’re making a profit on overruns, schools don’t need to be paying a surchage.”

It’s unclear how much the exemption would save Georgia’s 180 school districts and also its state charter schools. Tippins said he’s heard estimates ranging from $11 million to $13 million saved per year, but said he’s not gotten a formal fiscal analysis yet.

An article by The August Chronicle in June gives a rough idea. The newspaper reported that Dade County Schools in the northwest corner of the state was charged $3,000 for the tariff on its monthly electric bill for September 2016. The district is tiny by comparison with metro Atlanta districts, enrolling just over 2,000 of the state's nearly 1.8 million public school students.