FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Jennifer Rennicks, Director of Policy & Communications, 865.235.1448, email@example.com
As the Government Shuts Down Over Budget Disputes, the Department of Energy Refuses to Walk Away from the Risky Deal with Southern Company and Partners
Atlanta, Ga. (October 2, 2013) – New Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests were filed by the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) to unearth important details on the risks posed to U.S. taxpayers by a controversial $8.3 billion conditional federal loan guarantee for new nuclear reactors at Southern Company’s Plant Vogtle in Georgia. The separate FOIA requests to the Department of Energy (DOE) and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) were filed days before the DOE extended the September 30 deadline to finalize the Obama Administration’s offer to the utility giant and its partners, which was originally made in February 2010. This is now the loan offer’s fifth deadline extension.”That the Department of Energy continues to offer billions of hard-earned taxpayer dollars to one of the most powerful and influential utility companies for a troubled new reactor project that has already experienced cost increases and delays is maddening,” said Sara Barczak, high risk energy choices program director with SACE. “That the nuclear loan guarantee program continues to operate under a shroud of secrecy is unacceptable. We believe it is imperative that until all the terms of the loan guarantee are made transparent, the agency must not finalize the Vogtle loan guarantee. And if those terms do not protect taxpayers in the event of default, we urge DOE to walk away from the deal. The agency must stop working so closely with these utilities and start protecting the public.”
The newly filed FOIA requests focused on the credit subsidy fee, which represents the “price tag” a utility must pay to the federal government for the loan guarantee, and is calculated based on the borrower’s risk of default. In previously released documents that SACE acquired due to successful FOIA litigation, the fee ranges appeared too low to protect taxpayers. Additionally, despite continuing changes to the loan terms, the deteriorating power market over the past two years and the ongoing Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan that is impacting the nuclear industry worldwide, there is no indication that DOE has adjusted credit subsidy fees to reflect these new realities.
“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 Mindy Goldstein, Director of the Turner Environmental Law Clinic at Emory University’s School of Law, who filed the recent FOIA requests and has successfully represented SACE in previous FOIA litigation. “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.”
For additional background, please view the report released earlier this year analyzing some of the loan guarantee documents SACE received from previous FOIA litigation here and the supplemental memo. The group has made thousands of pages of documents received publicly available through an online library, which includes the newly filed FOIA requests. For a summary of the Vogtle loan guarantee, view this factsheet from Taxpayers for Common Sense.
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Founded in 1985, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy is a nonprofit organization that promotes responsible energy choices that create global warming solutions and ensure clean, safe, and healthy communities throughout the Southeast. Learn more at