In this blog, we examine the policies and positions of Daniel Blackman, Democratic candidate running for District 4 on Georgia's Public Service Commission. Also in this series we profile Lauren "Bubba" McDonald, the Republican candidate for District 4 on Georgia's Public Service Commission. On November 3, 2020 neither candidate in this race secured the 50% of the vote necessary for victory under state law, and therefore this election is moving to a runoff on January 5, 2021.Heather Pohnan | December 18, 2020
This post is an update to a series of blogs examining where 2020 Southeastern candidates for state and federal offices stand on key energy and climate issues. Note: The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy does not support or oppose candidates or political parties. Links to debates, town halls, interviews, reports, and outside sources are provided as citizen education tools.
In this blog, we examine the policies and positions of Daniel Blackman, Democratic candidate running for District 4 on Georgia’s Public Service Commission. Also in this series we profile Lauren “Bubba” McDonald, the Republican candidate in the same race. In the November 3, 2020 General Election, neither candidate secured the 50% of the vote necessary for victory under state law, and the race was therefore moved to a runoff on January 5, 2021.
While the exact roles and responsibilities of a Public Service Commissioner (or Public Utility Commissioner) vary from state to state, their general role is the regulation and oversight of essential utility services such as energy, telecommunications, and water. Some states, such as Georgia, elect the members of the Public Service Commission (PSC) while other states appoint their members through the Governor or the General Assembly.
Blackman earned a Bachelor’s degree from Clark Atlanta University. He has held several positions related to energy and policy, including Chairman of the National Wildlife Federation to serve on an Environmental Policy Commission to address renewable energy and public health issues in disadvantaged communities. Blackman also worked with the Environmental Working Group to advance mandatory Genetically Modified Organism labeling legislation, served as the Senior Vice President for Environmental Affairs and Sustainability at Capital Fortitude Business Advisors, and served as an advisor to the Congressional Black Caucus and EPA on Environmental Justice issues. (For full disclosure, candidate Blackman worked as a diversity organizer for the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy from 2010 to 2011.)
Note: This post was updated in December 2020 in advance of the January 5 runoffs. Additions were made based on recent debates and town halls to include quotes on relevant topics below.
Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency
Blackman’s campaign website states, “Daniel will use his voice consistently towards advocating for cleaner, more efficient energy solutions ensuring a climate-safe, renewable energy future for everyone.” In an interview, Blackman stated, “We need to look into renewables now. We have one coal plant [in Georgia] that spews 21 million tons of carbon into the atmosphere… that’s more than the entire state of Maine.” On solar, Blackman said, “I am committed to expanding solar in Georgia.”
On energy efficiency, Blackman was quoted in a recent town hall saying that, “We need to understand that a lot of the homes throughout Georgia are just not weatherized the way they should, so I just want to start off with the solution which is with the incoming Biden and Harris administration I’d like to see us do a much better job of reincentivizing weatherization programs for people that can’t afford it.”
Blackman has supported policies that combat climate change, such as The Clean Power Plan. In an interview, Blackman said, “Our changing climate already threatens human health and welfare and economic stability, including its effects on our businesses and communities. We cannot measure ‘clean’ by a single emission rate, especially when we are ignoring land and water impacts.”
When asked about whether he has seen the impacts of climate change in Georgia during a recent candidate forum, Blackman said, “100%,” and went on to add that “The science clearly shows us that Georgia has been experiencing more extreme weather. Look at the last two hurricanes that have hit rural Georgia. Those two hurricanes are the result of more intense, extreme weather and weather patterns that change that have impacted coastal Georgia immensely.”
We were unable to confirm the candidate’s position on this energy-related issue in published media, public records, or the campaign website.
Energy Equity and Energy Burden
Blackman’s campaign website states, “Daniel will advocate for lower utility bills and assistance programs for the senior citizens and hard-working families on fixed incomes that need it the most.” In a discussion about The Clean Power Plan Blackman said, “the individuals that are affected by climate change the most are poor and low-income individuals.” In the same discussion, Blackman addressed the disproportionate impact coal and nuclear facilities have on the public health of low-income communities.
More recently, Blackman observed the following about energy insecurity, “We don’t know the struggle of every household,” and “When you speak to people that have everyday issues that are struggling to keep their lights on, they’re making decisions not based on the next six months, they’re making decisions based on today.”
High-Risk Energy (Coal, Nuclear, Oil, Gas)
Blackman, when asked if he supported or opposed nuclear power, responded “I oppose it. I understand that nuclear power contributes very little to global warming emissions, however, I am fully aware of the added risks to human health, the environment, and global security that nuclear power creates.” He also stated his stance on fracked gas is similar to his stance on nuclear: “Our only options we have now are coal, natural gas, and nuclear. These options need to change.”
He also highlighted the health and financial risks of coal plants, “Whether you look at the coal ash cleanup…which is a $525 million bill and expense that the ratepayers take on. Not our investor-owned utilities, not their shareholders, but the ratepayers.”
If you are interested in learning more about where your state’s candidates for federal and state office stand on energy, click here to access the entire 2020 blog series. The voter registration deadline for the U.S. Senate runoff elections in Georgia is December 7 and early voting begins December 14, 2020. Election Day for all runoff elections is January 5, 2021. For voting information in Georgia, including updates about the impact of COVID-19 on voting, click here.
This blog was researched and co-written by Suzanne Hollis, a rising junior at the University of North Carolina studying environmental science quantitative energy systems and physics. Suzanne is from Atlanta, Georgia and was a summer intern with the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy in 2020.