Dear <<First Name>>,

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I’ve struggled to find room to write the 2nd of a 2-part series about why I call Tim Echols a wolf in sheep’s clothing. There so much energy news…but he’s so bad I just need to knock this out.

Let’s start with this question: What is the role of a public service commissioner? Let’s use the Ga PSC’s own words about their role from their website:

I find it odd that it doesn’t mention Georgia Power. I wonder what they mean by “Your Interest”? I actually haven’t seen any safeguarding of the public interest.

Okay what else. This is also from the PSC website:

I find this odd too. They have “exclusive power” - wow. So they and only they get to decide what is fair and reasonable rates. Why do I find this odd? Because that’s not what state law says. Here is what state law says:

I wonder why “just” became “fair”? I’ll tell you why: because the meaning of just carries with it weight that fair does not. “Just” in this context means doing what is morally right. “Fair” means without favoritism. “Just” is a higher requirement, but no matter. The commission doesn’t meet either word. There is no word weak enough to describe what is happening at the commission. Georgia Power is so far over the line they may not recognize that they’re like the coyote in Bugs Bunny cartoons who runs off a cliff and doesn’t realize there’s nothing beneath him:

My hope is that with your help we will make sure this cartoon becomes true and Georgia Power is no longer on solid ground.

So we know Georgia state law requires the Ga PSC to set "just and reasonable rates”. We know the Ga PSC has turned that into “fair and reasonable rates”.

These are subjective measures but we can look to other states to see what they think is “just and reasonable” or the weaker “fair”. Here’s where Tim Echols falls short when it comes to helping the vulnerable people of this state. Let’s start with bill pay assistance.

30 out of 40 states offer meaning bill pay assistance for customers who live below the poverty line. Not Georgia: there are two programs but they’re tragically inadequate, meeting only about 20% of the need. Those who don’t manage to make it over the hurdles just get disconnected, and we know that over 25,000 Georgia Power customers get disconnected every single month for inability to pay. People are hurting.

So there is one assistance program in the state and that is the one funded by the federal government called LIHEAP (Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program). This money is managed through DFACS - the department of family and children services.

Another one is Project Share, which is where Georgia Power will match donations that customers make up to $2.5 million per year, a pathetically small number considering Georgia Power earned $3.5 billion in profits in 2022. That’s about $300 million in profits per month, but sure. Go ahead and act like $2.5 million of matching funds per year means anything. Because it doesn’t except to a very very few. For hundreds of thousands it’s horribly inadequate. Studies show that as people face utility disconnections a cascade of destabilizing behaviors happens: title pawns; payday loans; moving out and losing deposits; or getting kicked out and losing their homes.

What has Commissioner Echols response been to this? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. He’s found time to pen essays supporting nuclear power or opposing federal climate change action; he’s found time to pen essays about Dragon con or about electric vehicles though. But nothing for the poor.

Let’s look more at his ethics. Here are a couple of data points:

Commissioner Echols used false Georgia Power talking points to the media to justify his vote to continue Plant Vogtle in 2017, which is going to cost Georgians dearly. He admitted in PSC hearings that PSC staff analysis, expert testimony and public sentiment were all against continuing. This plant is now approaching an insane $40 billion in cost which is federal levels of money spent in one state on one power plant. Rates will increase about $20/mo. just for this one plant. Combined with other rate increase we’re looking at about $60/mo. all in, which is INSANE. I just can’t use that word enough. I defy anyone to show me any state with that kind of rate increase. Only Georgia.

And Echols’ use of false Ga Power talking points upset his staff. This all came out from this report published by the Energy and Policy Institute.

Date point #2: Echols provided my private home address to Commission Chair Pridemore with their efforts to disqualify me from the race, while claiming he had no part in the gerrymandering effort (is no lie too small?).

Here is just one of the text messages my lawyer obtained in discovery. This is from Echols to Pridemore providing her with my address, which prompted the judge to rule in my favor and is why I remain in this race:

Don’t worry, I don’t live there anymore.

I turned these texts over to the AJC which published them along with other newspapers, and that resulted in a rare rebuke from the editors of the AJC:

I think that’s enough evidence of Echols unethical ethics (lol). We’ve got a false pretense of caring about vulnerable people with actual votes that harms them, from early and harsh COVID disconnections covered in my last email, to high rate increases covered in my last email, and in this email we see his silence over tragically inadequate bill pay assistance for low-income people meeting only 20% of the need. All of that violates the Commission’s purported “Safeguarding your interests”.

We’ve got lies to the media using false Ga Power talking points to justify his vote to continue Plant Vogtle against staff and expert recommendations which will harm Georgians with high power bills for decades to come.

We’ve got sharing my private home address to the Commission Chair to disqualify me from the race while claiming nothing to do with it.

Why I’m running

And then there’s the worse of the lot: his vote to approve a rate plan that harms low-to-moderate incomes falsely called Smart Usage which raises bills an INSANE 50-120% on people living in small dwellings, and then his arguing with me about the details in which I realized an awful truth: nobody was protecting customers.

This story begins in 2019 when the organization I was running, the Smart Energy Consumer Collaborative, published a study on variable rates. That report analyzed consumer interest in different variable rate plans with a goal of determining which one(s) consumers liked and would enroll in vs. not. Only one of the set we studied showed erosion of consumer support. Wouldn’t you know it: that’s the one plan that Georgia Power wanted. It was a demand charge rate plan and you don’t need to know anything about it except that it raises bills on small dwellings and that zero state commissions have approved it except on a voluntary basis because it is inappropriate for residential consumers.

As I always do when we publish research, I presented the findings at energy conferences across the U.S., and on webinars. Someone on staff at the Georgia PSC saw my presentation and invited me to present the research to the commission in hopes it would stop the commission from approving this rate plan.

You already know the outcome: it passed anyway. I was shocked but that’s only because I was naive. I mean, I knew Georgia Power was gonzo for profits. I just didn’t think they would harm low income consumers to do it and I didn’t think the commission would let them. I’m not naive now. They do and they will.

Once I learned it passed I went to see Commissioner Echols because there was no way he could give me a reasonable explanation: there is simply no justification. I wanted to see what he would say.

During our first meeting Commissioner Echols denied that it passed. When I tried to show him the commission order he waved my papers away saying, “You’ve got a draft. The final one doesn’t have that in it. My assistant is out but when she’s back I’ll have her send it to you.”

The next day his assistant sent me the one that I had which put me in the awkward position of telling a commissioner what the commission did. He actually didn’t know it passed so…that in itself is crazy.

I figured out how to be polite while informing him of his own order, and during our 2nd meeting I became more dismayed: Echols was dismissive of the impact on low income customers and dismissive of the research. When I asked him what research he had to support his claims that it would save customers money he said, “I don’t have any research. It’s just what I think.” It’s what you think?

Understanding how rate plans impact customers is table stakes for commissioners: it’s literally why they exist. As I learned in our discussion Echols not understand its impacts, nor did commission have a customer impact study. There is no commission in the country that would pass a massive change to how customers pay for electricity with no study on it’s impacts. Now we’re entering lawsuit territory because the state law of setting “just and reasonable rates”? Violated.

I walked away from the meeting thinking, this is much worse than I thought. The people of Georgia have no one looking out for their interests. What else is going on that I don’t know about? What if I wasn’t invited to present our research, or couldn’t make it? How bad are things?

I spent months going down rat holes researching other areas of commission business outside of rates and grew dismayed at what I found. I realized then that Commissioner Echols is not who he pretends: he has no ethics. He does not protect vulnerable consumers. He directly lies and indirectly misleads. It’s even worse with him vs. the other commissioners because of his unusual moral grandstanding which they don’t do. I would rather deal with someone who is rude to my face like Commissioner Pridemore (she’s rude to many people) vs. Echols who pretends to protect consumers but actually votes against their interests. That kind of hypocrisy is difficult to accept.

After months searching for someone to run to defeat Commissioner Echols that I could support I realized that I just had to do it myself. I had too much on him by then and worried that if I found a political type person to run that they wouldn’t expose the corruption that I think needs exposing.

And you know that old saw, If not me, who? So I decided to give up my comfortable job and wade into an area I never expected to be in and run for public office.

Someone’s got to do it because every day Commissioner Echols remains in office is bad for Georgia. There is no higher priority for me than helping the people of Georgia turn out someone from office who is harming them.

In summary

It’s because of Tim Echols we have high bills. It’s because of Tim Echols we have a Titanic of rate increases coming ($60/month) soon partly. It’s because of Tim Echols 10,000 people are enrolled on a predatory rate plan called Smart Usage that raises their bills 50-120% while living in small dwellings. It’s because of Tim Echols there is next to zero bill pay assistance and because of Tim Echols that 400,000 Georgia Power customers were disconnected during COVID when they could not work and the economy was shut down while he said “Georgia Power is not a charity!” as justification.

I’ve spent too much time on Tim Echols and I want you to know that I have a host of plans and programs that I will do if I am elected. I have an exciting vision for Georgia which I will share in my next email.

Thank you for your support and I look forward to working together over the coming months to achieve the goal of holding him accountable and electing someone who cares: me.

Please join me tomorrow at 6 pm for my campaign announcement.