By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great local journalism.
Candidates for PSC talk tough
Both Republicans tout nuclear power
John Douglas
John Douglas - photo by Submitted
The two men seeking the Republican nomination for the District 2 post on the state Public Service Commission shared their views on a variety of topics Wednesday night.

John Douglas and Tim Echols fielded questions chosen by the Forsyth County Republican Party that covered issues such as nuclear power, ethics and regulation of public service industries.

Voters will decide Tuesday which of the candidates will face Democrat Keith Moffett in the Nov. 2 general election.

The five-member Public Service Commission oversees and regulates utilities in Georgia. Its mission is to ensure consumers receive safe, reliable and reasonably priced telecommunications, transportation, electric and natural gas services.

The debate was the local party’s second of the week. On Monday, it heard from Republican candidates for attorney general and the District 9 U.S. House seat.

Wednesday night, Echols said he has visited Plant Vogtle in Waynesboro, one of Georgia Power’s two nuclear facilities. The U.S. Regulatory Commission is expected to decide next year if two additional nuclear reactors can be built at the site.

“It’s about 16 percent of our energy, and I am very excited about nuclear power,” Echols said.

But he took issue with legislation that allowed Georgia Power to charge in advance for construction of the new reactors at Vogtle.

“I believe that given the president that we have and how speculative this project is, if he shut down Yucca Mountain [in Nevada] after spending $30 billion he could shut our project down after we spent $8, $10, $12 billion,” Echols said.

Douglas said he’s also a fan of nuclear power and supports the use of any kind of American resources rather than spending money overseas.

“I believe that we should use as much coal as we can and keep the air clean,” Douglas said. “I believe that we need to be a leader in biofuels in this state. I believe that nuclear power is, as I like to say: clean, safe, efficient and it’s here.”

Douglas said he also supports offshore drilling.

“When you have to drill in 5,000 feet of water, of course there’s going to be a problem when you have an accident,” Douglas said. “If that had happened in Alaska on dry land they’d have had it fixed in an hour, but they won’t let us drill in Alaska. Yet we give $2 billion to help the

Chinese drill off of Brazil and we have a moratorium on new wells in the Gulf of Mexico.”

Douglas said ethical people make ethical decisions.

“If you have a penchant to cut corners, if you have a penchant to do things in Atlanta that you may not do at home, like some people have been doing here recently, then you’re not going to be ethical in making decisions,” Douglas said.

Echols said he’d like to influence other commissioners not to be cozy with the people they regulate.

“The way to really level the playing field on this is to just say, ‘Look I’m not going to take any of this stuff. I’m going to sit here behind this judge’s bench and I’m going to hear these rate requests and I’m going to make the decision on the merits of these things and I’m not going to allow what you give me or where you’ve taken me to influence my decision,’” Echols said.

Douglas said he thinks the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority is over-regulated and should compete in the marketplace, while he thinks Georgia Power, Atlanta Gas Light and small telephone companies are regulated fairly.

Echols said he thinks there’s a reason those groups are regulated and eliminating the regulation of the transportation authority could be detrimental.

State insurance and safety fire commissioner candidates Ralph Hudgens and Maria Sheffield were invited to Wednesday night’s debate, though neither Republican was able to attend.

Tom Knox, who finished third in the state insurance and safety fire commission primary, spoke on behalf of Hudgens, with whom he had served in the state legislature.

Knox, a longtime state representative from Cumming, said he is supporting Hudgens because of his experience and commitment to conservative principles. Knox also endorsed Douglas.

Whoever wins the Hudgens-Sheffield runoff Tuesday will face Democrat Mary Squires in November.