Georgia’s utility leaders talk about water and oil spills
By Maria Saporta
It was a power day at the monthly board meeting of the Commerce Club.
Michael Garrett, president and CEO of the Georgia Power Co., was the speaker of the private luncheon on Thursday.
After the meeting, Garrett said he gave the Commerce Club board an update on the latest in the water negotiations between Georgia, Alabama and Florida.
Garrett was named by Gov. Sonny Perdue last summer to head the efforts to reach a multi-state agreement on the allocation of water.
At that time, Georgia had just been handed a devastating ruling by a federal judge saying that the metro area did not have the right to use the Lake Lanier reservoir as a source of its drinking water.
If an agreement between the states can’t be reached and if Congress does not authorize the use of Lake Lanier for Atlanta’s water, then the judge said the metro area would have to revert back to the level of water it used nearly 40 years ago.
For months, Garrett has been saying he continues to believe an agreement can be reached. But he also admits that he had hoped an agreement could have been reached before the end of last year.
But the internal state politics in Alabama and Florida have not been playing in Georgia’s favor.
“I remain guardedly optimistic,” Garrett said after the Commerce Club meeting. “We are still having discussions. We remain encouraged that we will find the other two states willing to talk.”
Garrett said that the legislative sessions in all three states have wrapped up their work, which he said is a good thing.
“Everyone now can turn their attention to this,” Garrett said. “We continue to negotiate, and we are hopeful to have an agreement soon.”
Meanwhile, board members wanted to talk to Garrett and Commerce Club Chairman David Ratcliffe, CEO of the Southern Co., about the disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana.
John Somerhalder, CEO of AGL Resources who also is on the Commerce Club board, spoke about how unusual it is to have such a serious accident and spill.
Although it’s an oil leak and not a natural gas incident (AGL’s business), Somerhalder said it hurts the whole energy industry when such a dramatic breakdown like this occurs.
“Any kind of disaster like this whether it’s a coal disaster, a nuclear disaster, an oil spill…,” Ratcliffe said, “it hurts all of us.”