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Georgia Watch Board Member                  FOR QUESTIONS REGARDING      Georgia Watch has been the
                                                                          state’s leading consumer
     Clark Howard:                                                      watchdog for eight successful
                                                                                    years!
“Georgia Watch is the
                                             CONTACT US BY PHONE AT     We impact policy and provide
 only bona fide group                            (866) 33-WATCH           education in the areas of
  in the state looking                           OR BY EMAIL AT
                                                                           healthcare, foreclosure,
                                                                           consumer energy policy,
out for you and me as                           GEORGIAWATCH@           predatory lending and identity
      consumers.”                               GEORGIAWATCH.ORG                    theft.




                                          DONATE
ANGELA SPEIR PHELPS EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    DANNY ORROCK DEPUTY DIRECTOR                                                is OUTSPOKEN
  HOLLY LANG HOSPITAL ACCOUNTABILITY
             PROJECT DIRECTOR              to Georgia Watch today!    In 2009, Georgia Watch attended
CLARE MCGUIRE DIRECTOR OF THE CONSUMER                                more than 100 events in 28 counties.
    ENERGY PROGRAM, SENIOR COUNSEL       Visit www.georgiawatch.org   We have reached approximately
  ASHLEY WILSON CONSUMER OUTREACH           or mail your check to:    10,000 Georgians in our extensive
      DIRECTOR, STAFF ATTORNEY                                        outreach efforts and have kept up
  JONATHAN SHAPIRO COMMUNICATIONS           55 Marietta Street N.W.   this momentum so far in 2010!
                   DIRECTOR
                                                   Suite 903          You too can book Georgia Watch
 CANDY BYRD DEVELOPMENT OPERATIONS/                                   for a speaking engagement by
            SUPPORT SERVICES                   Atlanta GA, 30303      calling (866) 33-WATCH!
         CINTHYA ROJO INTERN
                                             theWATCHER                 www.georgiawatch.org
THE NEWSLETTER OF THE STATE’S LEADING CONSUMER WATCHDOG                                              VOL. XVII, SUMMER 2010


        GEORGIA POWER SEEKING $1
        BILLION RATE INCREASE; AGL
             WANTS $54 MILLION
By Jonathan Shapiro
Amid the worst recession since the Great     profit,” said Georgia Watch executive
Depression and state unemployment            director and former Public Service
still topping 10 percent, Georgia Power      Commissioner, Angela Speir Phelps.
last month filed a rate increase request     “Itʼs essential for ratepayers to get
before the Public Service Commission         involved so they can protect their         Georgia Watch Board Member Clark Howard
(PSC) of more than $1 billion. This falls    pocketbooks.”
on the heels of two other Georgia Power      In addition to a massive rate hike and
                                                                                          H elp      us Help you
rate increases approved over the last        a higher profit margin, Georgia Power        D onate   to   G eorGia W atch !
year. The new billion-dollar proposal        is also proposing a new arrangement
would be phased in over the next three                                                   By donating a very small sum to
                                             in which two-thirds of its annual losses
years. By February 2013, average                                                         Georia Watch you can become
                                             could be offset by imposing higher rates
Georgia Power bills would shoot up $18                                                   a member! Members receive
                                             on customers without having to file a
per month, or $216 per year.                                                             free quarterly issues of The
                                             formal rate case.                           Watcher, plus a 100 percent
In the filing, Georgia Power is seeking      “It’s clearly an attempt to shift the       cotton Georgia Watch t-shirt by
approval to collect significantly more       financial burden from shareholders to       Alternative Apparel as a special
profit from its 2.35 million customers.      ratepayers. It’s an unprecedented move      thank-you for donations! Just tell
The regulated utility’s current rate of      and would eliminate an established          us what size to send you.
profit is 11.25 percent. Georgia Power       review process for rate increases,”         Because we are a nonprofit
wants to raise its profit margin to nearly   said Speir Phelps. “The Public Service      organization, every penny you
12 percent, which translates to roughly      Commission is responsible to the people     donate is tax-deductible.
$84 million more of profit per year.         of Georgia to review and evaluate the
                                                                                         Your financial assistance makes
“We’re in one of our state’s worst           fairness of rate increase requests. How     it possible for us to continue
recessions and Georgia Power is              can they establish just and reasonable      fighting for your money and for
filing one of the biggest rate increase      rates without a review?”                    fairness on issues that matter to
requests in history and asking for more             Continued on page 6...               consumers.
                                                                                         Consumer expert and Georgia
                                                                                         Watch board member Clark
                                                                                         Howard says we are “the only
                                                                                         bona fide group in Georgia
                                                                                         looking out for consumers” and
                                                                                         a donation to Georgia Watch is
                                                                                         “double the bang for your buck
                                                                                         because you’re helping a great
                                                                                         organization that’s working for
                                                                                         you and you get savings back
                                                                                         on your income tax.”
                                                                                         You can view an entire video
                                                                                         message from Clark and make a
                                                                                         tax-deductible contribution online
                                                                                         at www.georgiawatch.org.
              HOSPITALS AND THE
             AFFORDABLE CARE ACT                                                                     FACT BOX
    By Holly Lang
                                                                                                         GEORGIA BANK
    In March 2010, President Obama signed          must establish, implement, and make
    into law the Affordable Care Act (ACA).        widely available written policies regarding             FAILURES
    Starting now, Georgians have new rights        financial assistance and emergency            Since 2008, banks have gone bust
    and greater access to affordable health        medical care. The financial assistance        across the nation at an alarming rate,
    care, including care at their hospitals.       policy must specify eligibility criteria      and Georgia is leading the pack. The
                                                   (including whether the assistance             Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation
    Private nonprofit hospitals will now be
                                                   includes free or discounted care) and         (FDIC) maintains a confidential watch
    held more accountable due to stricter
                                                   state how the hospital calculates the         list of banks that are in financial trouble.
    regulations that are tied to their nonprofit
                                                   amounts that are billed to patients.          All deposits at financial institutions
    status. For example, hospitals will now                                                      backed by the FDIC or the National
    be required to conduct a community             For a hospital that does not have separate    Credit Union Association (NCUA) are
    needs assessment every three years.            billing and collections policies, the         insured up to $250,000. Even if your
    This will allow them to create a roadmap       hospital must have a policy that accounts     bank or credit union fails, your money
    to better address community needs such         for the actions that the hospital takes       up to $250,000 is safe.
    as diabetes educational outreach and           in the event of non-payment. Further,
                                                                                                            Georgia Bank
    programs meant to help low-income              the hospital must have a written policy
                                                                                                           Failure Statistics
    consumers better access affordable care.       requiring it to provide non-discriminatory
    In addition, each tax-exempt hospital                         Continued on page 5...
                                                                                                 41: Total bank failures in Georgia since
                                                                                                 the start of 2008, the most of any state
               L ife i nsurance c ompanies p rofitinG                                            in the nation

                          from D eath B enefits                                                  $19.5      billion: Amount of total
                                                                                                 deposits at failed banks in Georgia over
                                                                                                 the last three years
    By Jonathan Shapiro
                                                                                                 $7.3 billion: Total loss to FDIC
    Millions of Americans are falling for it,      deceased are issued a “checkbook” by          insurance fund caused by bank failures
    including the relatives of fallen service      the insurance companies, giving the           in Georgia over the last three years
    men and women. Military personnel              impression that the money is being
    are told their families will receive a         kept in a bank. It’s not. The money is        34: Reduction in the number of bank
    $400,000 life insurance payout if they         being funneled into their own corporate       examiners at the Georgia Department
    perish. But instead of a lump sum,             investment accounts, which can return         of Banking and Finance in the last 15
    grieving relatives are                                       up to 5 percent interest.       years
    receiving what appears                                       That      means      these      1: Size of the consumer affairs staff at
    to be a checkbook, along                                     insurance companies are         the Georgia Department of Banking and
    with a letter telling them                                   making 5 to 10 times the        Finance
    they can take their time                                     amount eventually paid
                                                                                                 Sources: FDIC, Atlanta Journal-Constitution,
    withdrawing the money.                                       to families. What’s more
    According to a recent                                        alarming is that while the      Georgia Department of Banking and Finance
    Bloomberg report, it’s part                                  payout is in the hands of
                                                                                                 gets to play the market while the grieving
    of a widespread practice                                     the insurance company,
                                                                                                 family bears all the risk.”
    netting life insurance                                       the money is not FDIC
    companies hundreds of                                        insured, meaning that if        There are reportedly more than a million
    millions in profit.                                          the insurance company           of these accounts holding more than $28
                                                                 happens to go bankrupt,         billion in death benefits. Metlife alone
    In simplest terms, life
                                                   the money is lost permamently.                holds $10 billion. While Prudential and
    insurance companies are holding out on
                                                                                                 Metlife were the focus of the Bloomberg
    paying death benefits to family members        “It’s a rip off,” says Georgia Watch deputy
                                                                                                 report, more than 100 insurance
    so they can reinvest the money and             director Danny Orrock. “The insurer
                                                                                                 companies have similar “checkbook”
    make a profit on it. The insurance             gets to gamble on Wall Street with the
                                                                                                 programs.
    companies tell relatives that they’ll keep     beneficiary’s money. Unlike if the money
    the money for safekeeping and apply            were being held in a bank, the money          Georgia Watch urges public officials to
    a small amount of interest - usually .5        in the account belongs to the insurer,        wake up and fix this sleazy business
    percent - on the sum. Relatives of the         not the account holder. So the company        practice.

2
                   FINANCIAL OVERHAUL OFFERS NEW
                       CONSUMER PROTECTIONS
By Danny Orrock
On July 21st, President Obama signed         bailouts.                                   CFPB, who must be confirmed by the
the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform            The new law also enacts important           US Senate. As the new bureau comes
and Consumer Protection Act, after           reforms to rein in irresponsible            into shape, it will begin to develop rules
more than a year of intense debate           mortgage lending practices which            and guidelines for companies that offer
in Washington. The financial services        Georgia      lawmakers     have    been     financial products to consumers.
industry spent over a quarter of a           attempting to put into state law for the    One area that the CFPB won’t cover is
billion dollars lobbying to stop or          last two years. Lenders will now have       car dealers. So any auto loan obtained
weaken the legislation, which was            to verify that a borrower has the ability   through a dealer won’t have to comply
aimed at preventing a recurrence of          to repay a home loan before making          with any guidelines or disclosures
the economic crisis and stock market         the loan. Prepayment penalties will         required by CFPB. However, auto
plunge that occurred in the fall of 2008.    now be banned on home loans, as well        loans obtained directly through a bank
The new law is meant to prevent future       as kickbacks for mortgage brokers who       or credit union will be covered by any
market collapses by requiring financial      steer customers towards unsuitable          new rules issued by the new bureau.
firms to hold more capital in reserve if     transactions.
                                                                                         While the passage of the financial
they engage in certain types of trading.     The law also creates a new Consumer         reform bill is a big step forward for
It also restricts some of the riskiest       Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)          consumers, the battle is just beginning.
trading and increases transparency. If       in the Federal Reserve to serve as          Writing regulations and building
these measures still do not prevent a        a watchdog on consumer financial            the CFPB will certainly be met with
collapse at a major financial institution,   products. The Bureau will be able to        more opposition from entrenched
the bill allows authorities to safely        require more disclosure or protections      interests on Wall Street. Stay tuned for
shut down a company instead of               for individuals using credit. The           opportunities to make your voice heard
putting taxpayers on the hook for more       President will appoint the head of the      in the rulemaking process.



   M eet O ur N ew C ONsuMer O utreaCh D ireCtOr
                                             I am to be part of Georgia’s leading        investor relations.
                                             consumer advocacy organization. It is       In 2008, she returned to Atlanta to
                                             my goal to see Georgia Watch expand         practice law in her home state, and
                                             both in our membership and in the           worked as a trial attorney, representing
                                             number of lives we’re able to impact,”      indigent criminal defendants in Henry
                                             Wilson said. “I’m looking forward to        County.
                                             helping Georgia Watch deepen its
                                             community involvement and presence          “Ashley is passionate about helping
                                             across the state.”                          people and making a positive difference
                                                                                         in the lives of Georgians. We are
Georgia Watch is proud to announce           A native of Augusta, Wilson graduated       thrilled to have her join our watchdog
the addition of Ashley Wilson as our         in 2002 from the University of Georgia      team,” Georgia Watch executive
new Consumer Outreach Director and           with a B.A. in Political Science. She       director Angela Speir Phelps said.
Staff Attorney.                              received her Juris Doctor from the T.C.     “Her experience in the courtroom and
Wilson will be the first point of contact    Williams School of Law at the University    business knowledge make her a strong
for consumers, in charge of connecting       of Richmond in 2006, and became a           ally for consumers and a valuable asset
people to policy and empowering              member of the State Bar of Georgia          to our organization.”
individuals to assert their rights as        shortly thereafter.
citizens. She will develop targeted Wilson went on to work at the financial                   To contact Ashley about
presentations and conduct outreach and corporate communications firm                           upcoming events, or to
efforts to help consumers throughout Joele Frank, Wilkinson Brimmer                        schedule an event, call (404)
the state and build support for our Katcher in New York,          where she              525-1085 ext. 13 or email her at
issues.                                   advanced the business objectives of
“I can’t begin to express how excited publicly-traded companies through                     awilson@georgiawatch.org

                                                                                                                                      3
    IRS Hashing Out Hospital                     and concrete standards for acceptable        assistance programs. It is unacceptable
                                                 community      benefit    policies.   The    that less than half of Atlanta hospitals are
    Accountability Standards                     consequence: some hospitals with a           in compliance with basic state regulations.
    By Holly Lang                                strong commitment to serving the public      These unfair practices contribute to
                                                 invest in protecting consumers, while        one of the leading causes of personal
    The Internal Revenue Service took an
                                                 others that enjoy the same tax benefit are   bankruptcy – medical debt. And with the
    important step last week that could make
                                                 not delivering the same public benefit. In   recession costing Americans both jobs
    health care more affordable for millions
                                                 fact, IRS data shows that only 25 percent    and health insurance at an alarming rate,
    of Americans, including many here in our
                                                 of nonprofit hospitals are providing 80      the need for affordability and fairness is
    state.
                                                 percent of the nation’s charity care.        greater now than ever.
    Through the recently-enacted Affordable
                                                 The      least-conscientious    hospitals    We challenge the IRS to swiftly institute
    Care Act (ACA), the agency is aiming to
                                                 actually employ policies that can harm       regulations that ensure there are clear
    improve protections for consumers who
                                                 consumers. Some of the most egregious:       charity care guidelines and streamlined
    get care at nonprofit hospitals throughout
                                                 charging uninsured and self-pay patients     application processes for all patients.
    the country, including the more than 120
                                                 as much as triple what they charge           The agency must also require hospitals to
    in Georgia. After requesting input on
                                                 insurance companies for the same             help consumers make informed decisions
    appropriate accountability standards, the
                                                 care; requiring significant out-of-pocket    by notifying them – in every case – when
    IRS is now considering which suggestions
                                                 payments before providing treatment;         charity care is available.
    to incorporate into their regulations. How
                                                 employing aggressive collection practices
    far the new rules go depends on us and                                                    Whether through town hall meetings,
                                                 like property liens or garnishing wages;
    Georgia’s congressional leaders.                                                          consumer forums, or phone calls to
                                                 and, selling consumers’ debts to other
    Federal law exempts nonprofit hospitals      lenders who charge interest rates as high    district offices, make sure your elected
    from certain taxes. In exchange, they are    as 18 percent.                               officials in Washington know you are
    expected to provide services that benefit    For example, in a recent survey of 24        engaged on these issues. After all, they
    the community. The IRS is charged with       nonprofit hospitals in the metropolitan      can still push for rules that make certain
    overseeing these “community benefits.”       Atlanta area, only 11 had state-required     nonprofit hospitals deliver care that is
    But until the ACA, the IRS had no clear      signs posted about available financial       both affordable and accessible to all.


    IRP RECAP: Georgia Power takes small steps towards efficiency
    By Clare McGuire
    On July 6, the Public Service                for preventing future energy crises.         inefficient models.
    Commission (PSC) voted 4-1 to                Most recently, Hakes was appointed           Throughout the hearings, Hakes urged
    approve a settlement between Georgia         by President Obama to be Research            the adoption of a federal standard
    Power and PSC Staff regarding                Director for the National Commission         which calls on electric utilities to
    Georgia Power’s Integrated Resource          on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill        prioritize the integration of energy
    plan (IRP), a three year roadmap that        and Offshore Drilling.                       efficiency resources into their long-
    lays out how the electric company will       During the IRP proceedings, Hakes            term plans. During the course of the
    provide energy to our growing state.         testified that Georgia Power needed          IRP hearings, Georgia Power was
    During the six month PSC review,             to take more aggressive steps to             opposed to the Commission’s adoption
    Georgia Watch partnered with energy          encourage energy efficiency among            of any such standard, but the final IRP
    expert Jay Hakes to advocate on              its 2.35 million customers. He called        settlement includes such a provision.
    behalf of ratepayers.                        on the company to invest more in             Additionally, the settlement between
    As Georgia Watch’s key witness,              “demand side management” (DSM)               Georgia Power and the PSC Staff
    Hakes brought with him much insight          programs, which focus specifically on        contains a number of other positive
    and authority. From 1993 to 2000,            influencing the energy consumption of        steps forward for Georgia Power
    he held the presidentially-appointed         homeowners and other “end-users.”            customers, our state and the
    position of Administrator of the Energy      The Refrigerator Recycling Program,          environment. They include:
    Information     Administration    (EIA)      for   instance,    provides    eligible      • Over the next three years, Georgia
    at the U.S. Department of Energy.            customers with free refrigerator and         Power will work to reduce statewide
    Since then, Hakes has served as              freezer pick-up services, along with a       electricity use by 900 megawatts, the
    director of the Carter Center and has        cash incentive of $35. The program           equivalent of switching the power off in
    written the highly regarded book, “A         has been quite successful in raising         225,000 homes. This is a step forward
    Declaration of Energy Independence,”         customers’ energy awareness and
    which describes a national strategy          accelerating the replacement of older,                     Continued on page 6...

4
                                                                                              HOSPITALS continued from page 2...
         THE TRAP OF DEBT                                                                      emergency medical care to all individuals,
      SETTLEMENT COMPANIES                                                                     regardless of an individual’s eligibility for
                                                                                               financial assistance. Currently, hospitals
By Danny Orrock
                                                                                               are held to similar standards through
There are a lot of advertisements these        now known as CredAbility, a longtime            EMTALA, or the Federal Emergency
days for companies that claim they can         nonprofit credit counseling service with        Medical Treatment and Labor Act. This
reduce or even erase debt. While this          offices all over Georgia.                       law is often referred to as the anti-patient
might seem to be the perfect solution for                                                      dumping law, which is the practice of
                                               - Don’t stop sending payments to your
someone struggling with unpaid bills and                                                       transferring or discharging a patient
                                               creditors, even if the debt settlement
late fees, in actuality such a program can                                                     needing care based on financial reasons.
                                               company you are working with directs
lead to even deeper debt.
                                               you to do so. Failure to make payments
Many debt settlement companies charge          will hurt your credit rating. Check the
high fees simply for collecting money from     payment history on your accounts. Unless
a consumer and disbursing it to creditors.     the debt settlement company has started
The money that is paid in fees could have      to send in payments to your creditors,
been used by that consumer to pay down         keep paying your bills on time to the best
debt, but instead it’s lining the pockets of   of your ability.
the debt settlement company.
                                               - Watch out for promises to remove
Debt settlement companies are different        damaging information from your credit           Hospitals are now required to limit the
from debt management organizations,            report. A debt settlement company cannot        amount they charge for emergency or
which typically help consumers set a           force a creditor to make changes to your
                                                                                               other medically necessary care provided
budget and pay creditors monthly. Debt         credit report. Improving your credit report
                                                                                               to patients eligible for financial assistance
settlement companies, on the other hand,       often is simply a matter of ensuring that it
                                                                                               to not more than the amounts generally
typically tell consumers to stop paying all    is accurate and making regular payments.
bills and instead make regular deposits                                                        billed to insured patients. The policy also
                                               - Walk away from anyone who promises            must prohibit the use of “gross charges”
into a separate account. This often
                                               to modify your mortgage for a fee. Many         when billing individuals who qualify for
compounds problems, even leading to
                                               folks trying to modify their mortgage have      financial assistance. While “gross
collections calls and lawsuits.
                                               found the lender difficult to deal with. But    charges” aren’t defined in the bill, they
If you or someone you know is seeking          someone that is trying to secure a loan
                                                                                               are generally considered to be the full
help in getting out of debt, follow these      modification for you is not going to have
                                                                                               amount a hospital will charge a patient
tips to avoid rip-offs:                        any more luck with the lender than you
                                                                                               for its services, and don’t include any of
                                               will.
- Contact your creditors first and see how                                                     the formidable discounts insurance
willing they are to work with you. Many        - The key is to make sure that you know         companies receive. Now, the amounts
credit card companies will negotiate for       and trust who you are dealing with. If you      billed to those who qualify for financial
a more feasible payment plan, especially       feel like you’re not getting the help you       assistance “may be based on either the
when the alternative for the consumer is       need, don’t be afraid to walk away.             best, or an average of the three best,
bankruptcy.                                                                                    negotiated commercial rates, or Medicare
- Find a reputable debt                                                                        rates.” Hospitals can, however, still
management organization that                                                                   charge the full amount to those patients
is in the business of helping                                                                  who do not qualify for financial
individuals get on top of their                                                                assistance.
finances and out of debt. Such
organizations typically offer a                                                                Finally, a tax-exempt hospital must
range of services, will usually                                                                meet certain billing and collections
provide educational materials                                                                  requirements. Hospitals aren’t allowed
for free, have accredited                                                                      to take “extraordinary collection actions”
counselors, and don’t pay                                                                      – such as lawsuits, arrests, liens, or
employees on commission.                                                                       other similar actions – until they have
If you talk to an outfit that                                                                  made “reasonable efforts” to determine
can’t help you set a budget,                                                                   whether a patient is eligible for financial
then they’re not interested                                                                    assistance. Unfortunately, “reasonable
in helping you; they’re just                                                                   efforts” was not defined in the act, though
interested in taking your                                                                      the IRS may establish that definition
money. One such reputable                                                                      through regulations. For more on this
organization is Consumer
                                                                                               process, see page 4.
Credit Counseling Services,
                                                                                                                                               5
    RATE CASES continued from page 1...
    Citing lost revenue due to the recession, $35 per year - no matter how many           the AGL rate case and December 21st,
    Atlanta Gas Light (AGL), a gas therms of gas used. Although AGL                       2010 for the Georgia Power rate case.
    distribution company serving                    officials claim this would be their   We urge all ratepayers to attend the
    over 1.4 million residential                    first rate increase since 1993,       PSC public hearings (see below for full
    customers in Georgia, is                        the regulated utility last year       schedule) and voice opposition to these
    asking for a rate increase                      gained PSC approval to collect        anti-consumer proposals.
    of $54 million, nearly $50                      more than $400 million through
    million of which would come                     customer surcharges over the
    from residential customers.                     next 13 years.                           For more information on the rate
    If approved, base charges on                    Final decisions by the PSC will            cases, call (404) 525-1085 or
    monthly bills would increase by about be rendered on October 28th, 2010 for             visit us at www.georgiawatch.org


                u pCOMiNg s tatewiDe p ubliC h eariNg s CheDule :
                        staND up aND be hearD!
              Georgia Power Rate Case                                            AGL Rate Case
        August 31, 2010                October 5, 2010                August 31, 2010               September 22, 2010
        Beginning at 6:00 p.m.         Beginning at 10 a.m.           Beginning at 7:00 p.m.        Beginning at 7:00 p.m.,
        City Hall Council Chambers     Commission Hearing Room        City Hall Council Chambers    Rome, Georgia
        2 East Bay Street              244 Washington Street          2 East Bay Street             Rome Civic Center
        2nd Floor Council Chambers     Room 110                       2nd Floor Council Chambers    400 Civic Center Drive
        Savannah, Georgia 31401        Atlanta, Georgia 30334         Savannah, Georgia 31401       Rome, Georgia 30161

        September 22, 2010             November 8, 2010               September 13, 2010            October 12, 2010
        Beginning at 6:00 p.m.         Beginning at 10 a.m.           Beginning at 9:00 a.m. &      Beginning at 9:00 a.m.
        Rome Civic Center              Commission Hearing Room        6:00 p.m.                     Commission Hearing Room
        400 Civic Center Drive         244 Washington Street          Commission Hearing Room       244 Washington Street
        Rome, Georgia 30161            Room 110                       244 Washington Street         Room 110
                                       Atlanta, Georgia 30334         Room 110                      Atlanta, Georgia 30334
        October 4, 2010                                               Atlanta, Georgia 30334
        Beginning at 10 a.m. &         December 1, 2010
        6:00 p.m.                      Beginning at 10 a.m.
        Commission Hearing Room        Commission Hearing Room
        244 Washington Street          244 Washington Street
        Room 110                       Room 110
        Atlanta, Georgia 30334         Atlanta, Georgia 30334




    IRP RECAP continued from page 4...
    to reducing overall energy consumption      homes and places of work.                 rules related to coal plant emissions
    and lowering energy bills.                   • Georgia Watch and other interested     and the proper disposal of coal
    • Georgia Power will install enough         parties will review Georgia Power’s       combustion byproducts (such as coal
    solar panels to power about 250             DSM progress reports, which will          ash), the PSC has called on Georgia
    homes across the state. The new             include      customer     participation   Power to propose alternatives for
    panels will give company engineers          levels, program costs, and program        some of their older coal plants, in case
    more experience maintaining energy          marketing information, thus enabling      the electric company decides to retire
    supplies during nighttime and on            ongoing monitoring of DSM program         certain coal-fired generation rather
    overcast days. It will diversify the        implementation. The first of these        than invest in emission controls. This is
    energy portfolio of the state and           reports is due May 15, 2011.              a big step forward in reducing Georgia
    facilitate increased use of solar power.    • Georgia Watch will participate in DSM   Power’s relience on dirty and inefficient
                                                Working Group meetings, thereby           coal plants.
    • Georgia Power will expand its certified
    DSM programs from one program               ensuring the interests of residential        To contact Clare, call (404)
    to eight. This will raise awareness of      ratepayers are represented in the lead-
                                                                                           525-1085 ext. 14 or email her at
    green programs and help Georgians           up to the company’s 2013 IRP filing.
                                                                                            cmcguire@georgiawatch.org
    become more energy efficient in their       • Pending the issuance of new EPA

6
NEWS FROM....

THE DIRECTOR’S CHAIR
BY ANGELA SPEIR PHELPS
We only have to step outdoors during        We urge all of our members to
these dog days                              stay engaged with this story and
                                                                                    And even though it’s hard to believe
of summer to                                if possible, to attend the public
                                                                                    we’ll need to turn our heat on in a
know it’s hot.                              hearings before the Public Service
                                                                                    couple of months, fall is right around
                                            Commission. We encourage you to
According    to                                                                     the corner. Historically, September
                                            ask your friends and neighbors to
the    National                                                                     is a good time to lock in your natural
                                            do the same. For a full schedule of
Oceanic    and                                                                      gas rate for the winter. There is no
                                            the upcoming public hearings, see
Atmospheric                                                                         guarantee that September will be
                                            page 6.
Administration,                                                                     the best time to lock in a low rate
June 2010 was                               In the meantime, you can implement      - hurricanes and demand impact
the    warmest                              common sense steps to scale back        the market and cost.         If there’s
June         on                             your energy bills, such as replacing    a hurricane late in the summer-
record,    and                              old incandescent light bulbs with       natural gas rates will go up. The
the heat hasn’t relinquished its grip       compact fluorescent bulbs.        95    best resource for comparing prices
during July or August. If you’ve            percent of the energy used to light     and information is the Public
opened a Georgia Power bill lately,         an incandescent bulb is lost as heat    Service Commission’s           website
you’ve noticed that it has gone up          – it warms your home up and wastes      www.psc.state.ga.us. A good place
dramatically. Customers see higher          money. If you replace the five most     to start is by reviewing information
bills because during the summer             used light bulbs in your home with      posted     below    the    “Consumer
months of June-September, Georgia           Energy Star compact fluorescent         Protection” column on the website’s
Power is allowed to bill their              bulbs - you can save $60 per year in    main page, including the link for
customers a much higher seasonal            energy costs.                           natural gas marketers’ prices. You
rate (about 75% more after the first        The Department of Energy also           can review information about each
650 kwh) than during the winter             recommends turning everything           gas marketer’s customer service,
months.                                     off when not in use (lights, t.v.,      number of complaints, and published
If you haven’t already experienced          computers, etc.), replacing dirty air   monthly rates. Before locking in
rate   shock,     hold  onto   your         filters that block air flow through     your rates, make sure you’re aware
pocketbook - it’s coming. Georgia           your heating and cooling systems,       of any hidden fees – such as early
Power just proposed a $1.2 billion          keeping windows covered during          termination or cancellation fees.
dollar rate increase, one of the            the hottest part of the day, using      Also make sure you’re aware of
largest requests in Georgia history.        the microwave instead of the stove,     how much the natural gas marketer
We have formally intervened in the          turning down the thermostat on          charges for customer service fees in
case and will do everything we can          your hot water heater to no more        addition to the “per therm” rate. Ask
to protect consumers and mitigate           than 130 degrees, and switching to      about any special promotional rates
exorbitant rate increases.                  cold water laundry washing. If you      as well as discounts for seniors or
                                            set your thermostat back several        low income customers if they apply.
Simply put, Georgia Power’s billion
                                            degrees when you know you’ll be         Georgia Watch is speaking up
dollar proposal is a bad deal for
                                            away from home for 8 hours or           for you in these billion dollar rate
consumers. If approved by the Public
                                            more, it will reduce the number of      cases and standing up for you at
Service Commission in December, it
                                            times your cooling system needs         the legislature when decisions are
will mean:
                                            to run during the day - saving a        being made that impact your quality
• Significantly higher electric bills for   significant amount of money. It’s a     of life. We’ll continue to protect
residential customers.                      myth that your system has to work       Georgians’ pocketbooks on utility
• More financial risk for average           harder to catch up - costing you        matters, hospital and healthcare
Georgians and less financial risk for       more money in the long run. Your        issues, insurance, identity theft, and
Georgia Power shareholders.                 system will have to run longer to       personal finance. Thank you for your
                                            reach its optimal temperature but       support and always feel free to call
• Higher profit margins for Georgia
                                            you’ll still save money.                me or any member of the Georgia
Power during one of our country’s
worst ever recessions.                                                              Watch staff.


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