BIRMINGHAM, Ala — On Wednesday, May 22, 2013, Kirsten Bryant, Outreach Director for GASP, joined Southern Company shareholders at Callaway Gardens for the company’s annual meeting, directly questioning Chairman and CEO Thomas Fanning about the lack of transparency at Alabama Power, a subsidiary of Southern Co.
Specifically, Bryant called into question how Alabama Power sets commercial rates — the highest in the Southeast — and residential electricity rates — making Alabama’s electricity bills among the highest in the nation. She also questioned the opaque, hidden way the company develops its Integrated Resource Plan, or IRP.
“We would like to know why Alabama Power’s energy planning and rate setting processes are hidden from their customers,” Bryant said. “There has not been a formal, public rate setting hearing in 30 years and Alabama Power refuses to share a copy of their Integrated Resource Plan, much less support a process for public involvement in development of that plan.”
Bryant pointed out that, while Southern Company claims to “serve an interest greater than our own,” according to a speech Mr. Fanning gave at the National Press Club in March, Alabama is perennially among the poorest and the unhealthiest states in the nation.
“How does this process in Alabama — lack of public involvement — make Southern Company a ‘great citizen’ in our state?” Bryant continued. “Mr. Fanning, do you think it’s acceptable for Alabama Power to completely exclude their customers from critical decisions that affect our families’ health and economic well being every day?”
Fanning spent the better part of five-plus minutes talking about ways in which Southern Company employees volunteer in communities they service but largely ignored the questions about transparency, Alabama’s lagging energy efficiency and clean energy standards, and the poor health of Alabama residents in light of Birmingham’s ongoing pollution issues.
In response to Mr. Fanning’s answer, Bryant reasserts her original intention: “The health of our constituents — indeed, all Alabamians — and the persistent poverty experienced by so many in our state make it incumbent upon Alabama Power to be transparent in all manners of operation, including how it sets its rates; how it intends to help make the air we breathe cleaner and healthier; and how it will plan for the future energy needs of Alabama.”
[Kirsten’s comment begins around the 2:16:00 mark.]
Michael joined GASP in 2013 as communications specialist. He has lived in Birmingham since 2008, and is an active member of the Birmingham community. He’s a passionate advocate for health equity, civil rights and equality. He is currently serving as executive director. Email Michael