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Emory Law News Center


Turner Clinic files FOIA requests to reveal Plant Vogtle financing details

Emory University School of Law |

Turner Environmental Law Clinic recently filed Freedom of Information Act requests with both the U.S. Department of Energy and the Office of Management and Budget to obtain further details about the DOE’s proposed $8.3 billion loan guarantee to Southern Company for the construction of two additional nuclear reactors at Georgia’s Power’s Plant Vogtle.

The clinic filed on behalf of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy on Sept. 27. The request is part of ongoing legal action that argues not only does the Vogtle project fail to consider the ramifications of the Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan (which occurred after the loan offer was made in February 2010), but it also hinges on government financing that is a risk for taxpayers, who would be guarantors for the loan in the event of default or cost overruns.

"In light of the government’s current shutdown over funding disputes, it is difficult to understand why DOE refuses to walk away from the $8.3 billion in loan guarantees it offered to Southern Company and its utility partners years ago," said Clinic Director Mindy Goldstein. "But as long as DOE insists on pursuing these guarantees, we will continue to seek information about their terms and conditions. It is imperative that the agency is transparent in its decision making and accurately assesses the risk of default."

The current request is for records related to an increase in the credit subsidy fee. The default by Solyndra (the bankrupt solar energy materials company), the Fukushima disaster, a decrease in applicant credit ratings, construction delays and cost overruns at Plant Vogtle make it likely the fee has increased, SACE says. The fee represents what a utility must pay to the federal government for the loan guarantee, and is calculated based on the borrower’s risk of default.

Last month, the DOE extended the deadline for the loan offer from Sept. 30 to Dec. 31. It is the fifth such extension, SACE noted.

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