Many Georgians have never given a thought to the Georgia Public Service Commission, which regulates telecommunications, transportation, electric, and natural gas services, yet what they do touches our lives more than almost anything else our government does.
Two of our five Commissioners, Stan Wise (R) and Chuck Eaton (R), are up for election this year, and both have drawn primary opponents. Pam Davidson, who nearly beat Lauren "Bubba" McDonald in the 2008 GOP primary is challenging Stan Wise, and Matt Reid, an electrical engineer, is taking on Chuck Eaton.
One of the few news stories about the election appeared in the Marietta Daily Journal last week, detailing campaign contributions of $10,000 made by Georgia Power's attorneys two days before Commissioner Wise voted to pass $3.2 million of costs to consumers in June.
This is an especially important election, because Georgia Power will be filing their next Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) in January. This plan will detail how the company plans to meet expected demand for the next 20 years. Many of Georgia's aging coal-fired power plant fleet will be retired in coming years, and the question before the Public Service Commission will be whether those retiring plants will be replaced primarily with natural gas or whether we take this opportunity to really invest in efficiency, solar and wind.
While natural gas seems like much less of an evil, as it is enjoying historically low rates and is cleaner than coal, it contributes to global warming and using fracking to release the gas threatens water supplies in New York, Pennsylvania, and even up the road in North Carolina. We have the opportunity to demand best-in-class energy efficiency and a true commitment to renewables, and we can do it with a Public Service Commission that takes the long view.
Georgia has what is known as an "open primary" which means that voters in Georgia do not register by party affiliation. If you haven't already voted and you go, you can select either a Democratic, Republican or Nonpartisan Ballot – and that choice is not limited in any way by the ballots you have selected in previous elections. Whatever you do, make your voice heard! Get out there and vote!