Groups challenge PSC over nuke plant


Several Georgia groups, including the Southern Environmental Law Center, say they will challenge a Fulton County Superior Court ruling that dismissed their appeal of the Georgia Public Service Commission’s decision approving expected cost increases at Plant Vogtle.

The anticipated cost of finishing the two new reactors at Plant Vogtle has nearly doubled to an estimated $26 billion. The SELC, Georgia Watch and other groups claim the process used to approve spending on the new nuclear plant is improper and will burden Georgia electric ratepayers.

“The commission effectively gave Georgia Power a blank check by approving project continuation without the cost cap recommended by their own staff,” attorney John Salter said. “The utility’s customers are saddled not only with the higher construction costs, but up to $5 billion in increased profit for Georgia Power’s shareholders.”

Issued on Dec. 21, the court’s decision found that dissatisfied customers cannot raise concerns about the unfairness of that process until after the project is complete, which is now expected in 2022.

“While Georgia Power continues to profit from failing to complete the project on time and on budget, the stakes only get higher for customers who are on the hook for those mistakes — there is something fundamentally wrong with that equation,” said Nathaniel Smith, chief equity officer at Partnership for Southern Equity.

 

Wichman case delayed a month

An attorney for the head of a longtime Chattanooga grave marker company indicted on theft charges was granted Thursday more time to prepare a defense.

Ben McGowan, attorney for Trent Daniel Wichman, said in Hamilton County Criminal Court that additional time was needed and another court date of Feb. 12 was set by Judge Barry Steelman.

McGowan said another count was added to the charges against Wichman, who was president of Wichman Monuments on Brainerd Road. He was originally charged with theft of property after the 72-year-old business suddenly closed last year and left scores of people without their orders.

Wichman has entered a “not guilty” plea. He has said in a statement that the business has shut down permanently and that closure was precipitated by rising costs and the loss of some key employees to illness.

Since the closure, an attorney for the new property owner has been resolving the hundreds of claims against the company.

 

Mortgage rates fall to nine-month low

U.S. long-term mortgage rates continued to fall this week, reaching their lowest levels in nine months.

The recent decline in home borrowing rates has been a spur to prospective homebuyers, reflected in a spike in applications for mortgages. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday the average rate on the benchmark 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage dipped to 4.45 percent this week from 4.51 percent last week.

Rates remain far above last year’s levels, however. The key 30-year rate averaged 3.99 percent a year ago.

The average rate for 15-year fixed-rate loans fell to 3.89 percent from 3.99 percent last week.

 

Chrysler recalls 1.6 million cars

Fiat Chrysler is recalling more than 1.6 million vehicles worldwide to replace Takata front passenger air bag inflators that can be dangerous.

Takata inflators can explode with too much force, hurling shrapnel into drivers and passengers. At least 23 people have died from the problem worldwide and hundreds injured.

The recall covers the 2010 through 2016 Jeep Wrangler SUV, the 2010 Ram 3500 pickup and 4500/5500 Chassis Cab trucks, the 2010 and 2011 Dodge Dakota pickup, the 2010 through 2014 Dodge Challenger muscle car, the 2011 through 2015 Dodge Charger sedan, and the 2010 through 2015 Chrysler 300 sedan.

It’s part of the largest series of automotive recalls in U.S. history. About 10 million inflators are being recalled this year. Already Ford, Honda and Toyota have issued recalls in the latest round.

Fiat Chrysler owners will be notified by letter and dealers will replace the inflators with safe ones. The company says it’s not aware of any injuries in vehicles involved in this recall, but says it has plenty of replacement parts and is urging people to get the repairs done.

 

Georgia-Pacific cuts 700 jobs at paper mill

Georgia-Pacific said consumers aren’t buying as much copy paper anymore, forcing it to lay off nearly 700 people at a Louisiana mill.

Company spokesman Kelly Ferguson said meeting the demand for office paper isn’t a viable business long term as society continues to shift toward electronic communications.

The Advocate reported that around 300 people will continue working at the Port Hudson mill, producing toilet tissue and paper towels. The company said it will permanently shut down its office paper production assets, wood yard, pulp mill and most of its energy-generating complex by mid-March.

The newspaper says Georgia-Pacific will work with union leaders and salaried staff on how to best shut down the divisions and find work for employees at other company-owned facilities.

 

American Airlines shares tumble

FORT WORTH, Texas — Airline stocks are falling as American Airlines says fourth-quarter revenue and full-year profit will be lighter than expected.

American’s stock fell 10.9 percent before partially recovering.

American said Thursday that revenue for each seat flown one mile, a measure of pricing power, will rise about 1.5 percent over the previous fourth quarter. That’s about 1 percentage point less than American had been forecasting.

In late-morning trading, shares of American Airlines Group Inc. were down $2.72, or 8.1 percent, to $30.70.

 

Right to be forgotten has limits, EU adviser says

LONDON — An adviser to Europe’s top court said Google doesn’t have to extend “right to be forgotten” rules to its search engines globally.

The European Court of Justice’s advocate general released a preliminary opinion Thursday in the case involving the U.S. tech company and France’s data privacy regulator.

The case stems from the court’s 2014 ruling that people have the right to control what appears when their name is searched online. That decision forced Google to delete links to outdated or embarrassing personal information that popped up in searches.

The two sides had sought clarification on a 2015 French decision ordering Google to remove results for all its search engines on request, and not just European country sites such as www.google.fr.

Advocate General Maciej Szpunar’s opinion said the court “should limit the scope of the de-referencing that search engine operators are required to carry out,” and it shouldn’t have to do it for all domain names.

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