Chuck Eaton (cq), left, the new chairman of the Public Service Commission, talks with now-former commissioners Stan Wise (cq), center, and Doug Everett (cq) after presiding over an administrative session. (BEN GRAY / Staff)

Pro-nuclear power group pumps $750,000 into Georgia PSC runoff

An “independent committee” funded by a nuclear-power industry group is plowing at least $750,000 into next week’s Public Service Commission runoff in support of incumbent utility regulator Chuck Eaton, an advocate of Georgia Power’s Plant Vogtle project.

The group, which was formed the week after the general election, reported receiving the money from a Washington D.C. group called Nuclear Matters, part of the Nuclear Energy Institute. The committee began running ads on Facebook last week, including one stating that Eaton helped reduce power rates for senior citizens as a member of the public-utility regulating board.

The Republican Eaton, who faces Democrat Lindy Miller in the runoff, said he learned of the advertising only a few days ago. “Somebody just forwarded me their website yesterday,” he said. “That really is the extent of my knowledge about that group. I don’t know who the group is.”

Among those listed as being on the “advocacy council” for Nuclear Matters is former PSC Chairman Stan Wise, who resigned earlier this year but hung onto his post long enough to join Eaton and three other members in green-lighting Georgia Power’s plan to continue construction on two new nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle, a project now running five years behind schedule with billions of dollars in cost overruns.

Eaton, who has served on the commission since 2007, has been a staunch supporter of the project, arguing the plant will provide clean energy to the state while diversifying the state’s energy mix.

Miller said she is not opposed to nuclear power but doesn’t want Georgia ratepayers being saddled with the project’s cost overruns. She said the commission has not held Georgia Power accountable over the delays and cost overruns that have been synonymous with the project.

By law, independent committees are not allowed to coordinate with campaigns directly, but they can play a major role in elections. Some of them disclose little or nothing about who is paying for advertising. Several were formed this year to support the gubernatorial candidacy of Stacey Abrams and a Washington D.C.-based committee spent more than $3 million in negative advertising to help defeat Sen. David Shafer in his Republican runoff for lieutenant governor.

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