Friday, July 30, 2010

New Poll: Americans Support Energy Production, Oppose Unfair Taxes by a 3-1 Margin

/PRNewswire/ -- A new survey released today by the American Energy Alliance (AEA) found that 77 percent of registered voters oppose efforts in Congress to tax American companies twice on income earned abroad. The poll also found that 3 out of 4 Americans agree that our energy companies should be allowed to continue offshore exploration for energy and, separately, that we should increase U.S. oil production.

"These results may not be what the leaders on Capitol Hill want to hear, but it is no surprise that even with the tragic events unfolding in the Gulf, Americans recognize the realities of our nation's economy, the abundance of energy still available here in the U.S., and the overall exemplary safety record of our nation's drillers," AEA president Thomas Pyle said.

"AEA recently commissioned a study that showed 12,000 jobs would be lost and $2.8 billion in economic activity with it, because of the Administration's six-month moratorium in the Gulf. This unpopular and unnecessary ban is costing more jobs every day and will cost every American in terms of higher energy prices and increased reliance on energy from unstable foreign regimes. Again, we urge the Administration to listen to the American people and reopen the Gulf to responsible energy development."

The survey, conducted by Jan R van Lohuizen from Voter/Consumer Outreach, comes at a time when the President and Congress are attempting to pay for environmental and other pet projects on the backs of American oil and gas companies. Two specific changes to the tax code included in the President's 2011 budget and under discussion on Capitol Hill would have the impact of increasing the cost of energy in the U.S. and could lead to even more job losses in the energy sector. The U.S. currently taxes the global income of its international companies, but provides a credit against domestic tax liability on that income in hopes of keeping American companies from being "double-taxed" on their overseas earnings. Targeting our own energy producers with this double-tax will weaken American energy companies' ability to compete with foreign energy companies.

Additionally, policymakers are looking to repeal Section 199 tax provisions which gives all businesses that manufacture goods within the U.S. an incentive to grow their U.S. operations and hire more U.S. workers. Some in Washington are attempting to repeal these provisions just on the oil industry, essentially discriminating against energy jobs. Today, the energy industry employs some 9 million workers. However, many of these jobs could be in jeopardy if the Administration and Congress continue the drilling moratorium and impose new and onerous taxes on these companies.

The survey also found that Americans overwhelmingly oppose new regulations on the energy industry and, instead, support efforts to better enforce existing laws (16%-75%).

The poll was commissioned by Save U.S. Energy Jobs, a project of the American Energy Alliance - a free market energy advocacy organization. To learn more and get exclusive information on upcoming projects, follow Save U.S. Energy Jobs on Twitter and Facebook.

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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

New Report Shows Significant Potential for Renewable Energy in South

The South could generate 20-30 percent of its electricity from renewable energy sources within the next 20 years – up from less than 4 percent today -- if strong federal policies are enacted, according to a report released July 27 by researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology and Duke University. The analysis, “Renewable Energy in the South,” finds that conventional wisdom has underestimated the available renewable resources in the region and that a federal renewable electricity standard (RES) would enable the South to capitalize on this untapped renewable energy potential.

Read the Full Report Here:

The South lags behind all other regions in renewable electricity, obtaining 3.7 percent of its power from renewable sources, compared to 9.5 percent for the country as a whole. Only four states (Delaware, Maryland, North Carolina, and Texas) have a state-level renewable portfolio standard, while three others have voluntary renewable energy goals.  The fate of renewables in the South is not only important for the region, but for the nation as a whole since, in 2008, the region accounted for 44 percent of the country’s energy consumption.

Opponents of renewable energy production claim that the South lacks the renewable energy resources to capitalize on the growing demand for clean energy.  However, the report finds that there are abundant renewable energy resources available that can be tapped if supportive policies are put in place. The report shows that if a 25 percent (by 2025) federal RES is enacted, the amount of electricity supplied by power companies from renewable sources could increase more than 250 percent above the level expected in 2030 if no new federal renewables policies were enacted.

A number of other studies have shown a large potential for renewable energy in the South,” said Etan Gumerman of Duke University’s Nicholas Institute and co-lead researcher of the study.  “Our study shows that significant increases can actually be achieved, particularly through supportive local or federal policies.”

The report, using a customized version of the economic modeling system used by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, finds that a federal renewable electricity standard and carbon pricing system would increase the proportion of electricity derived from renewable sources by power companies in every state, particularly in wind and biomass. By 2030, the report shows, federal carbon pricing policy would increase renewable electricity production in the South by 390 percent.

“Countries around the world are already tapping into the potential of renewable energy, and are capturing export markets and generating jobs in the process,” said Dr. Marilyn Brown of the Georgia Institute of Technology and co-lead researcher of the study.  “The report demonstrates that although many states in the South are off to a slow start, renewable initiatives are now underway across the region, and the potential for expansion is promising.” 

In addition, the report finds that electricity produced by end-users, such as households and businesses using small-scale solar electric and heating facilities, would also benefit from federal policies and could supply a substantial portion of the region’s renewable electricity.  Under a 25 percent RES, for example, renewable electricity supplied by utilities and end-users could increase by 154 percent. Carbon pricing policy could lead to a 266 percent increase above the total level of renewable electricity expected in the absence of federal policy changes.

“In the future, households and businesses have the potential to become major suppliers of clean, renewable electricity,” added Dr. Brown.  “This changes the way we need to think about the South’s renewable energy potential.”


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Friday, July 23, 2010

Coalition of Consumers Urges Senate Not to Legislate Natural Gas Demand in Energy/Climate Bill

/PRNewswire/ -- A coalition of major manufacturers, agricultural organizations and other industrial energy consumers today cautioned the Senate to avoid legislating new natural gas demand in any energy or climate change bill, saying such an approach would be "misguided" given existing strong demand growth and looming regulatory and political uncertainty surrounding access to major supply sources.

In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, 67 industrial and agriculture energy consumers -- representing farm and food concerns and makers of chemicals, fertilizer, glass, paper and steel -- expressed concern about artificially creating power and transportation sector demand for natural gas through legislative incentives. Doing so, they said, would cause the type of fuel switching that has ripple effects through the economy.

Paul Cicio, president of the Industrial Energy Consumers of America (IECA), said legislating new demand would prompt increased price volatility and higher prices. Higher natural gas prices also mean higher electricity costs.

"The impact will be felt by all consumers, not just industrial users," Cicio said. "Farmers will pay more for fertilizer, natural gas to dry their crops and electricity to run their irrigation systems; homeowners will pay more to heat and cool their homes; and manufacturers would be confronted with greater competitiveness challenges which threaten jobs at home."

The coalition said gas demand has been steadily rising in the past decade without the incentives being contemplated in the Senate and in the absence of carbon caps, which will increasingly shift more power generators from coal to natural gas. The power sector's natural gas demand has grown by nearly 30% since 2001.

"The economic recovery and our energy security will be better served if U.S. energy policy ensures American manufacturing can continue to compete globally and keep its jobs here," said Peter Molinaro, Dow Chemical's vice president of federal and state government affairs. "Our economy needs a diverse base of price-sensitive natural gas consumers -- and a diverse energy supply -- in order to reduce price volatility in all energy sectors."

The letter urges the Senate to allow the market to set supply and demand for natural gas instead of picking 'winners' and 'losers' through legislation.

The coalition acknowledged there is great hope that the large shale gas reserves will materialize as recoverable supplies. "However, history has shown that unforeseen circumstances, including the potential for both federal and state regulations to be placed on shale drilling, can either slow its production, increase its costs or otherwise dramatically alter these types of future projections."

The industrial and agriculture consumers called for a coherent energy policy that balances gas demand with the economy's need for affordable supplies.

Signatories to the letter include: American Forest &Paper Association, Dow Chemical Company, Kimberly-Clark Corporation, Land O' Lakes, Steel Manufacturers Association and The Fertilizer Institute.

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GM First to Market Greenhouse Gas-Friendly Air Conditioning Refrigerant in U.S.

/PRNewswire/ -- General Motors Co. will introduce a new greenhouse gas-friendly air-conditioning refrigerant in 2013 Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac models in the U.S. that keeps vehicle interiors as cool as today while reducing heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere by more than 99 percent.

The biggest benefit of the new refrigerant, (HFO-1234yf) supplied by Honeywell, is that it breaks down faster in the atmosphere than the refrigerant currently used (R-134a), On average, R-134a refrigerant has an atmospheric life of more than 13 years, giving it a global warming potential (GWP) of over 1,400.

By comparison, the new refrigerant lingers in the atmosphere for just 11 days and has a GWP of only 4, a 99.7 percent improvement. GWP is a value used to compare different greenhouse gases that trap heat in the atmosphere. The base measurement for GWP is relative to that of carbon dioxide (CO2).

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency awards regulatory credit for the improved environmental performance of the new refrigerant, which helps GM meet the overall requirements of the EPA's new motor vehicle greenhouse gas regulations. The new regulation requires an overall 40 percent improvement in overall U.S. fleet average vehicle fuel economy by 2016. The use of HFO-1234yf will help GM vehicles significantly exceed its targets under the new regulations.

"GM's decision to adopt this new refrigerant is additional proof of our commitment to be on the forefront of green technologies that will keep our planet healthy for our children and grand-children," said Mike Robinson, GM vice president of Environment, Energy and Safety Policy. "It's not just about meeting regulatory requirements; it's about environmental leadership and GM plans to lead in developing new technologies that will take the vehicle out of the environmental debate."

Said Terrence Hahn, vice president and general manager for Honeywell Fluorine Products: "We're pleased that GM is taking the lead in choosing HFO-1234yf, a refrigerant that has a lower impact on global warming. This is another example of how Honeywell is developing innovative new environmental and energy-efficient solutions to meet our customers' current and future needs."

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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

IADC Applauds Senators' Leadership in Opposing Federal Drilling Moratorium

/PRNewswire/ -- The International Association of Drilling Contractors (IADC) applauds the leadership of three United States Senators: David Vitter (Louisiana), John Cornyn (Texas), and Roger Wicker (Mississippi), who are opposing the federal moratorium on offshore permitting and drilling activities announced on July 12 by Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. Last week the three Gulf Coast senators sponsored legislation (S. 3588) to lift the offshore drilling and permitting moratorium for companies that have complied with the new safety and inspection requirements issued by the Department of the Interior.

"The men and women whose livelihoods depend on the offshore oil and gas exploration and production industry in the Gulf of Mexico deeply appreciate the efforts of our legislators to lift the drilling moratorium," said IADC President Dr. Lee Hunt. "Industry representatives have communicated to the Interior Department and Congress our industry's strong commitment to rigorous requirements for well design, enhanced training, and adoption of safety case requirements for Mobile Offshore Drilling Units (MODUs). We are dismayed by the continued blanket suspension of deepwater drilling in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico. Lifting the moratorium is critical to tens of thousands of jobs in the deepwater industry and to the oil and gas service sector in the Gulf Coast region and throughout the country."

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Friday, July 16, 2010

Congress Passes Law to End Secrecy in Oil, Gas, and Mining Industry

/PRNewswire/ -- International humanitarian organization Oxfam America commends the U.S. Congress for making disclosure of payments from oil and mining companies to governments around the world a legal requirement. Included as part of the Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation passed by the House and Senate, this historic measure will increase financial transparency in the oil, gas, and mining industry and help reduce the corruption, mismanagement, and conflict that are too often associated with natural resource extraction booms.

"Congress has made an unprecedented commitment to financial transparency and good governance in a sector that not only affects American wallets, but also some of the most vulnerable communities around the world," said Raymond C. Offenheiser, president of Oxfam America. "Secrecy of oil, gas and mining company payments to governments fosters government corruption and violent conflict in resource-rich countries that are home to more than half of the world's poorest people. Instability in these regions poses a long-term threat to national security, foreign policy, and economic interests in the United States."

The language included in the financial services reform measure was based on the Energy Security through Transparency Act (S. 1700), a bipartisan Senate bill championed by Senators Lugar (R-IN) and Cardin (D-MD). The new law creates a low-cost, uniform transparency method for oil, gas, and mining companies registered with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and covers more than 90 percent of internationally operating oil companies and many of the top international mining companies. Companies will be required to publicly disclose payments for the extraction of oil, gas, and minerals on a country-by-country and project basis as part of financial statements that are already required by the SEC. This not only includes American companies but also many foreign companies, such as Shell and BP, as well as companies from emerging markets such as China, India, Brazil, and Russia.

"This provision is a critical part of the increased transparency and corporate responsibility that we are striving to achieve in the financial industry. Given the catastrophic events in the Gulf of Mexico, oil companies, in particular, should well understand that secrecy fosters instability, corruption and greater risk," said Senator Cardin. "We now have the tools to help people in resource-rich countries hold their leaders accountable for the money made from their oil, gas and minerals."

"Too often, oil money intended for a nation's poor ends up lining the pockets of the rich or is squandered on showcase projects instead of productive investments," said Senator Lugar when he spoke in favor of the measure when it was offered as an amendment to the Senate financial reform bill in late May. (The Cardin-Lugar amendment was co-sponsored by Senators Durbin (D-IL), Schumer (D-NY), Feingold (D-WI), Merkley (D-OR), and Johnson (D-SD).) He added: "This 'resource curse' affects us as well as producing countries. It exacerbates global poverty which can be a seedbed for terrorism, it empowers autocrats and dictators, and it can crimp world petroleum supplies by breeding instability."

"We applaud Senators Cardin and Lugar for spearheading this effort in the Senate that will both level the playing field for oil, gas, and mining companies and help citizens hold their governments accountable for using revenues for economic development and poverty reduction. We also thank Senator Leahy for offering the measure during the House-Senate conference process and House Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank for his early leadership on transparency in the oil and mining industries and for his support for this measure that demonstrates U.S. commitment to transparent business practices and accountable governance," said Offenheiser.

"Passing this law sets up an international standard for the public disclosure of natural resource revenue information, but its effectiveness will be determined by strict implementation by lawmakers and development of effective implementing regulations by the SEC. Companies should heed the call for transparency so citizens of resource-rich countries can begin to use this information to hold their governments accountable for using revenues to address essential services like healthcare, education, and job creation."

Oxfam America calls on the SEC to quickly undertake its rule-making process to implement this important measure as Congress intended. "Oxfam America and its allies in the Publish What You Pay campaign will be closely following the rule-making process to ensure this groundbreaking disclosure measure is quickly put in place," said Offenheiser.

Oxfam America is an international relief and development organization that creates lasting solutions to poverty, hunger, and injustice. Together with individuals and local groups in more than 100 countries, Oxfam saves lives, helps people overcome poverty, and fights for social justice. Oxfam America is an affiliate of the international confederation Oxfam.

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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

ArcLight Acquires 640-MW Georgia Power Plant with $98 Million in Financing Led by GE Energy Financial Services

-(BUSINESS WIRE)--ArcLight Capital Partners, LLC, through its wholly-owned affiliate AL Sandersville Holdings, LLC, has acquired a 640-megawatt generation facility located in Sandersville, Georgia from KGen Power Corporation for $130 million. GE Energy Financial Services, a unit of GE (NYSE: GE), closed financing as the lead lender of the $98 million in senior secured credit facilities partially financing the acquisition.

Built in 2002, using eight 80-megawatt GE simple-cycle gas turbines, the Sandersville plant supplies power into the southeastern power market, particularly Georgia, during periods of peak demand or supply volatility. Sandersville is strategically located near four other facilities in Georgia owned by ArcLight through its affiliate Mackinaw Power, LLC, which have an aggregate capacity of 1,887 megawatts. Combined with Sandersville, this portfolio represents a more than 2,500-megawatt strategic platform making it the second largest independent power producer in the state, with the capacity to meet the peak demand of a city with a population of 450,000.

“This asset is an important addition to our southeast gas power generation facility portfolio that is well positioned to benefit from the current macroeconomic recovery and pending energy and carbon legislation, as well as the unconventional gas boom in the US," said Dan Revers, Managing Partner of ArcLight.

GE Energy Financial Services’ affiliate, GE Capital Markets, Inc., acted as sole lead arranger. Siemens Financial Services, Inc. joined GE Energy Financial Services in providing the $98 million in credit facilities comprised of a $78 million term loan and a $20 million letter of credit. Additional financial details of the transaction were not disclosed.

“This transaction demonstrates GE Energy Financial Services’ deep expertise in power markets across the United States to provide debt financing for customers throughout the energy sector,” said Matt O’Connor, Managing Director, Financial Institutions Group at GE Energy Financial Services. “We applied our energy expertise to assess the southeastern power market which allowed us to structure and lead arrange this financing in a way that helps ArcLight grow and continue meeting power demand in the region.”

With approximately 50 dedicated professionals focused on debt products and services, GE Energy Financial Services provides structured, project and acquisition debt, revolving credit facilities, and corporate loans. The GE unit has a debt portfolio of nearly $7 billion, spanning power, oilfield services, pipelines, gas storage, refining, exploration and production, mining and fuel distribution. GE Capital Markets, Inc. provides arranging and syndication for many of these facilities.

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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Electric Utilities Across the State Offer $500 Reward for Identification of Copper Thieves

PRNewswire -- Georgia's electric utilities are offering $500 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of individuals involved in the theft of copper and other metals from their property.

Copper thefts from substations, utility poles and lines continue to be a growing problem for the industry. These thefts threaten the reliability of the electric system. In addition, damaged lines pose a danger of electrocution to anyone in the area, including utility workers.

Any information could be vital to the identification of thieves. This problem affects many businesses throughout the state, and the utilities are aggressively working with law enforcement agencies and scrap recyclers to apprehend the perpetrators. This reward is one tool to encourage the public's assistance.

Details such as a tag number, a physical description of a person or a car could be especially helpful. Anyone who observes suspicious activity around an electric substation or other utility facility is asked to contact the statewide copper theft hotline at 1-877-732-8717. If a theft is in progress, the witness should notify 911 first, then contact the hotline.

The $500 reward was first announced in February of 2009. Today the state's electric utilities continue their commitment to prosecute thieves but depend on the public to provide information which could lead to the arrest of these criminals.

The reward will be paid to anyone who furnishes information that leads directly to the arrest and conviction of someone involved in metals theft from a utility property in Georgia. The $500 award is being offered by Dalton Utilities, Electric Cities of Georgia, 42 electric membership cooperatives (EMCs), Georgia EMC, Georgia Power, Georgia Transmission Corp. and Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia.

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Sunday, July 4, 2010

Georgia Power Seeks Cost Recovery of Investments in Cleaner Generation, Smart Grid and Environmental Controls

PRNewswire -- Georgia Power on July 1 asked the Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) for permission to increase its base rates approximately $615 million, or 8.2 percent of the company's retail rates, to recover the costs of investments in cleaner generation sources, power lines, smart grid technologies, environmental controls and energy efficiency programs to meet current and future customer demand.

The proposed change in rates would be effective Jan. 1, 2011.

"Georgia is the fourth-fastest growing state in the nation, and we have invested billions of dollars to serve that growth," said Ann Daiss, Georgia Power vice president, comptroller and chief accounting officer. "We must continue to invest in our infrastructure to maintain the reliable, affordable electricity and high level of customer satisfaction that our customers deserve and expect."

If the request is approved, the typical residential customer using 1,000 kilowatt-hours per month would see an increase of about 10.1 percent, or $10.88. For business customers, the average increase would range from about 7.7 percent to 10.3 percent.

Additional increases, if approved, would become effective in subsequent years through existing and newly proposed cost-recovery mechanisms outlined in the filing. The company currently estimates increases for new generation, environmental controls and demand-side management programs are expected to increase the typical residential customer bill per month by about $5.38 in 2012 and $1.42 in 2013, respectively. These estimates will be updated through future filings with the PSC.

As of December 2009, the company's rates were approximately 14 percent below the national average and 7 percent below the Southeast average. Even with this proposed increase, Georgia Power's rates should remain below the national average, and its customers will be paying lower base rates today than they were in 1991 on an inflation-adjusted basis.

Since the last base-rate case in 2007, Georgia Power has invested almost $5 billion:

-- In reliability and Smart Grid - To ensure a stable and efficient grid,
and reliable service for customers.
-- In cleaner natural gas generation - To ensure adequate and cleaner
energy when customers need it. Plant McDonough Units 4, 5 and 6 are
scheduled to begin serving customers in January 2012, May 2012 and
January 2013.
-- For a cleaner environment - To continue to reduce emissions and meet
federal and state environmental standards. By 2015, the company
anticipates reducing nitrogen oxide emissions by 85 percent and sulfur
dioxide emissions by 95 percent from 1990 levels, and achieving
significant reductions in other emissions.

Georgia Power also is proposing changes to its current accounting order with the PSC that would:

-- Replace large rate changes with smaller, periodic adjustments.
-- Allow customers to benefit from cost controls and proactive management
on a timelier basis.
-- Allow customers to share in unexpected economic and/or weather
-- Support a more timely process for review of both past and projected
costs than the current lengthy and complex filings.
-- Help maintain the financial stability of the company and keep
financing costs low.

In addition, the company's plan features new energy-efficiency programs that will help customers control their energy use and save money. It also includes a new electric vehicle rate that encourages customers to charge at lower-cost, off-peak times and pay less for electricity.

The PSC will hold public hearings October through December. A final decision is expected Dec. 21, 2010, with new rates going into effect Jan. 1, 2011.

Georgia Power is the largest subsidiary of Southern Company, one of the nation's largest generators of electricity. The company is an investor-owned, tax-paying utility that serves 2.3 million customers and has operations in all but four of Georgia's 159 counties.

Cautionary Notice Regarding Forward-Looking Statements

This press release includes forward-looking statements regarding Georgia Power's filing with the Georgia PSC to increase retail base rates, implement new base rate tariffs, and modify existing base rate tariffs. There are various factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those suggested by the forward-looking statements; accordingly, there can be no assurance that such indicated results will be realized. These factors include: state and federal rate regulations and the impact of pending and future rate cases and negotiations, including rate actions relating to fuel and other cost recovery and the Georgia PSC's review of Georgia Power's 2010 base rate case filing (the final outcome of which may differ materially from Georgia Power's proposal); the impact of recent and future federal and state regulatory change, including legislative and regulatory initiatives regarding deregulation and restructuring of the electric utility industry, implementation of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, environmental laws including regulation of water quality, coal combustion byproducts, and emissions of sulfur, nitrogen, carbon, soot, particulate matter, hazardous air pollutants, including mercury, and other substances, and also changes in tax and other laws and regulations to which Georgia Power is subject, as well as changes in application of existing laws and regulations; current and future litigation, regulatory investigations, proceedings or inquiries, including the pending Environmental Protection Agency civil actions against Georgia Power, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission matters, and Internal Revenue Service audits; the effects, extent and timing of the entry of additional competition in the markets in which Georgia Power operates; variations in the demand for electricity, including those related to weather, the general economy and recovery from the recent recession, population and business growth (and declines), and the effect of energy conservation measures; available sources and costs of fuel; effects of inflation; ability to control costs and avoid cost overruns during the development and construction of facilities; investment performance of Georgia Power's employee benefit plans and nuclear decommissioning trusts; advances in technology; potential Department of Energy loan guarantees related to the potential Plant Vogtle expansion; internal restructuring or other restructuring options that may be pursued; the ability of counterparties of Georgia Power to make payments as and when due and to perform as required; the ability to obtain new short- and long-term contracts with wholesale customers; the direct or indirect effect on the business of Georgia Power resulting from terrorist incidents and the threat of terrorist incidents; interest rate fluctuations and financial market conditions and the results of financing efforts, and the credit ratings of Georgia Power; the ability of Georgia Power to obtain additional generating capacity at competitive prices; catastrophic events such as fires, earthquakes, explosions, floods, hurricanes, pandemic health events, such as influenzas, or other similar occurrences; the direct or indirect effects on the business of Georgia Power resulting from incidents affecting the U.S. electric grid or operation of generating resources; the effect of accounting pronouncements issued periodically by standard setting bodies; and other factors discussed in reports filed by Georgia Power from time to time with the Securities and Exchange Commission, including the Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended Dec. 31, 2009. Georgia Power expressly disclaims any obligation to update these forward looking statements.

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