Georgia utility regulators on Thursday conditioned their approval of the Vogtle nuclear project on no small caveat: that Congress approves roughly $800 million worth of tax credits.
As part of its decision allowing Georgia Power and its partners to pass more project costs onto ratepayers, the Public Service Commission unanimously approved language that would allow the five-member body to reconsider if federal lawmakers do not greenlight the tax credits.
“My motion to go forward is based on the assumption that these (tax credits) will, in fact, be extended,” the PSC stated in an approved provision authored by Commission member Tim Echols. “But, if they are not, or if other conditions change and assumptions upon which the Company’s (Vogtle construction monitoring report) are based are either proven or disproven, the Commission may reconsider the decision to go forward.”
U.S. senators began laying the groundwork for approving the tax credits on Wednesday afternoon, when the tax-writing Finance Committee introduced legislation that would effectively guarantee the $23 billion project the credits. Republican leaders, however, have not laid out a timeline for action.
Nuclear industry lobbyists have been pushing for lawmakers to consider the language as part of a stopgap government spending agreement that must pass by Friday, but that is becoming more unlikely by the hour. Georgia U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, a co-sponsor of the legislation, suggested earlier this week that Congress could wait until January and then make the credits retroactive.
Lawmakers have regularly approved such tax credits in batches as part of a flurry of year-end activity, and they generally are not considered controversial. But they have sometimes gotten tripped up in larger legislative gridlock.
The PSC on Thursday also authorized new community solar projects at the Vogtle site near Augusta.
“Our future correctly includes both new nuclear as well as solar and other renewables,” the PSC said.