Thursday, February 18, 2010

Southern Company Lobbying Did Not Influence President

Some opponents of nuclear power are grumbling that Southern Company's lobbying campaign led to the company receiving $8.3 billion in Department of Energy (DOE) loan guarantees to assist with the construction of two new nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle near Waynesboro, Georgia. Nothing could be farther from the truth. President Obama is trying to get a cap and trade climate bill passed and the loan guarantees were already in the pipeline from the 2005 Energy Policy Act (The Center attended the signing in Albuquerque, N.M. as a Special Guest of the White House).

Evidently the nuclear issue is partisan with Republicans being pronuclear and Democrats being antinuclear. Another stupid Congressional distinction. Regardless, the loan guarantees were already scheduled and nuclear companies are scrambling to arrange financing for new nuclear power plants. The FY 2011 $36 billion increase in loan guarantees recommended by President Obama is a reach across the aisle to get support for climate legislation. And it is also good energy policy.

According to the Center for Public Integrity, Southern Company hired 16 outside firms to supplement their stable of in-house lobbyists and spent $16.5 million on Capitol Hill lobbying in 2009. According to reports filed with the Senate Office of Public Records in 2009, Southern had 63 lobbyists on its payroll, eight of them were in-house lobbyists and the rest came from 16 outside lobbying firms. One of the lobbyists was Heather Podesta, the sister-in-law of John Podesta (so what!). Southern representatives claim that they have only seven full-time lobbyists in its Washington office. (Charleston [W.V.] Daily Mail, 2/17/10, AP)

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