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New GOP tax bill includes lifeline for troubled Vogtle project

WASHINGTON -- Boosters of Georgia's troubled Vogtle nuclear project notched a major win in the House GOP's tax bill on Thursday in the form of a much-needed tax credit that will save operators some $800 million.

The authors of the tax plan, dubbed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, included language pushed by Georgia's congressional delegation that would remove the 2020 sunset date for previously-promised nuclear tax credits. That was a must for Vogtle's operators, who have baked the savings into the project's bottom line, since its two new generators are not expected to come online before then.

The tweak exclusively benefits Vogtle since it’s the sole remaining new nuclear project under construction in the U.S.

All 10 of Georgia's House Republicans and two Democrats lobbied GOP leaders to change the sunset date, arguing that Vogtle's success would benefit the entire country since it's a first-of-its-kind project.

Augusta-area Republican Congressman Rick Allen, whose 12th Congressional District is home to the Vogtle plant, said the provision's inclusion is "great news for Georgia’s 12th district and for the future of nuclear energy in America."

"We need to get this important legislation over the finish line to overhaul our tax code and help all Americans," Allen said in a written statement.

The Trump administration doubled down on its commitment to Vogtle last month when it gave initial approval to $3.7 billion in additional loan guarantees to help cover the project’s recent cost overruns. That’s in addition to the $8.3 billion in federal loan guarantees Vogtle previously received.

Vogtle boosters say the loan guarantees and tax credits are critical to the project’s survival after its main contractor Westinghouse filed for bankruptcy in March. Critics say the federal government is propping up an increasingly expensive and untenable project that will cost taxpayers if it fails.

Read more: Ga. reps lobby colleagues to give Vogtle lifeline in tax overhaul

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About the Author

Tamar Hallerman is The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Washington correspondent, covering Congress, federal agencies and other government activities that impact Georgia.