PSC gives Plant Vogtle a vote of support as legal fees rise, creditors sue for payment
By David Pendered
Georgia’s utility regulating agency voted Tuesday for an action intended as a show of support for the struggling Plant Vogtle. Meanwhile, in bankruptcy court, filings show lawyer fees are mounting and creditors are claiming they aren’t scheduled to paid for labor and supplies.
“This vote today sends a message to the company, the company’s partners, ratepayers, and Wall Street that the commission continues to be supportive of this project – provided it can be done economically,” Stan Wise, chairman of the Georgia Public Service Commission, said in a statement.
The partly built nuclear power plant is in distress amid cost overruns and the bankruptcy filing of Westinghouse in March. Westinghouse, a division of Japan-based Toshiba, continues to oversee design, engineering and procurement services for Plant Vogtle. Georgia Power’s Southern Nuclear division has assumed management control of the project.
In addition, the PSC voted Wednesday for an action that requires Georgia Power, the primary owner of Plant Vogtle, to state in its next Vogtle monitoring report whether or not it intends to proceed with Vogtle’s construction. The PSC expects that report to be filed on Aug. 31. Wise sponsored the action.
Wise’s action includes an amendment that enables the PSC to revise or rescind any future PSC action if Plant Vogtle is abandoned. PSC Vice-Chairperson Tim Echols sponsored the amendment.
Wise’s measure cites 14 issues that must be addressed in the upcoming report. They include:
- “Should the commission approve revisions to cost and schedule?
- “What is the company’s new estimate to complete the project and what is the new schedule for commercial operation of the two units if the commission decides to go forward with one or both units?”
“This information will help us in deciding the appropriateness of whether this project should go forward or not go forward,” Wise said.
Echols’ statement referred to the construction stoppage at a sister-site near Columbia, S.C. Work was halted July 31. Congress and President Trump’s administration have been abuzz ever since, according to a report by foxbusiness.com.
“My concern is that if what happened in South Carolina, with the partners voting not to go forward, happens here, that without additional clarification our ratepayers could be put at a disadvantage,” Echols said. “My amendment clarifies that this commission can undo this or a future order and that everyone including Georgia Power are aware of that.”
Meanwhile, the bankruptcy process continues in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York.
Over 1,150 dockets have been filed since Westinghouse Electric Co. LLC filed voluntary petitions for relief under Chapter 11 of the bankruptcy code. Here are highlights of a few dockets filed just since Monday:
- Legal fees of $1.3 million for the month of May were submitted by one law firm. Proskauer Rose LLP represents just a segment of the litigants, the Statutory Committee of Unclaimed Stakeholders. Rates reached $1,425 an hour for lawyers with 40-plus years experience. Associate lawyers billed at up to $900 an hour. The senior para-legal on the job was billed at $415 and hour.
- A company that provided materials for Plant Vogtle has complained it is being cut out of $407,951 it is owed. R-V Industries contends it is due payment for gutters related to the core cooling system in the reactor, the containment refueling water storage tank.
- A pipe company claims it is being shorted up to $2.5 million. Consolidated Pipe and Supply Co. contends it has delivered $720,485.118 in materials and has open orders for an additional $1.3 million.
- Westinghouse is trying to reduce its overhead by giving up space for office and shop. A current lease of 99,840 square feet of space is to be reduced to 51,957 square feet of combined space. Total savings through March 31, 2024 are projected at $7 million.