Department of Energy Releases Plant Vogtle Finance Details Based on Turner Clinic Challenge
The U.S. Department of Energy and Southern Alliance for Clean Energy have settled their legal dispute over the release of information concerning the $8.3 billion loan guarantees conditionally committed for two new nuclear reactors at Georgia Power’s Plant Vogtle.
Emory Law’s Turner Environmental Law Clinic represented SACE in their legal challenge. On Friday, July 13, the Department of Energy agreed to pay the clinic’s legal fees, which totaled $44,000.
“This represents a remarkable recovery on student attorney time,” said Clinic Director Mindy Goldstein. “The award is quite large for FOIA litigation in general, and to the best of my knowledge, is one of the larger awards received by a clinic.”
In May, the DOE also released “virtually unredacted” documents detailing the government’s financing commitments, including terms and conditions of the loan guarantees offered for the Vogtle project, Goldstein said.
“Based on just a preliminary review, it is obvious that Georgia Power, the principal owner of the Vogtle project, received a deal that substantially underestimates its risk of default,” Goldstein said.
A more extensive review is underway, and details about the project’s finances are being forwarded to members of Congress “and various nonprofit and for-profit institutions ranging from environmental organizations to Goldman Sachs,” Goldstein said.
“This settlement concludes litigation which began over two years ago,” Goldstein said. “Five semesters of clinic students worked on this project, and each of them contributed to our success. We hope the information we obtained will help Congress evaluate the viability of the nuclear loan guarantee program.”
On Monday, July 16, the clinic, on behalf of nine environmental organizations including SACE, filed a reply brief in U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in its separate challenge of the Plant Vogtle license. Oral arguments will take place this fall, Goldstein said.
That brief argues the Nuclear Regulatory Commission violated federal law by issuing a construction and operation license for Plant Vogtle without first considering environmental and public safety concerns raised by the 2011 accident at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear site.
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