Mardis wants to focus on climate change on PSC

By ED HOWELL
Posted 1/14/20

Alabama Public Service Commission president candidate Robert L. Mardis III told other Democrats recently in Jasper that he wants to tackle climate change as a priority and speak out on other issues. 

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Mardis wants to focus on climate change on PSC

Posted

Alabama Public Service Commission president candidate Robert L. Mardis III told other Democrats recently in Jasper that he wants to tackle climate change as a priority and speak out on other issues. 

Mardis, 31, spoke to the Walker County Democratic Party on Thursday night in Jasper. The Birmingham native and Pinson resident is president of the Birmingham Young Democrats and has served in leadership positions for the Young Democrats of America, the Alabama Young Democrats and the Alabama New South Coalition.  

Mardis is running against Laura "lower bills, cleaner air and water" Casey in the March 3 primary. The Republican incumbent, Twinkle  Andress Cavanaugh, and Robin Litaker are running in the GOP primary.

He said he has been involved for years in political activities, working for the campaigns of President Obama and U.S. Sen. Doug Jones. 

Mardis has also been a press break operator on the factory floor and later promoted to project coordinator at O'Neal Steel. "I'm not a stranger to hard work. I'm not afraid of hard work," he said. 

He said scientists have decided there is a problem thanks to climate change, which has been told to Congress. "They have sitting on it since I've been in elementary school. I'm 31 years old," he said. 

Mardis said while humans might adapt to climate change, bees will not be able to adopt quickly enough. "When they go, we go," he said.

He said that is why he is running, as scientists say that "climate change will kill us, and we're still not listening. How long is it going to take for us to listen? So that is what I want to work on Day 1 as president of the Public Service Commission of Alabama, is addressing climate change." 

Mardis said he is not opposed to utility companies, as he appreciate being able to turn on the power at his home to use devices. 

"I am against the utility companies making unreasonable profits at the unreasonable expense of the consumers," Mardis said. 

He noted a $1.1 billion proposal coming up in February for Alabama Power's expansion into natural gas "that everyone in this room is going to pay for with a rate increase.

"I'm not a fan of that. If I was the president of that commission, I would raise hell. We don't need it. Experts have already done the studies. This will not benefit Alabama in any way. It's not going to help us," he said. 

However, he said the decision has already been made, calling the scheduled meeting a "sham" and saying it is being held just to appease people. 

"But when you have already spotted locations to build and have already outsourced companies to build, you know you have already been approved," he said,. He added he is not against Alabama Power, "but I think we can get a better deal." 

According to AL.com, Alabama Power wants to expand its total power-producing capabilities by almost 20 percent to prevent winter outages, according to its filings with the PSC. The additions would add about $4 per month to the average residential customer’s electric bill if the proposal is approved by the PSC.

With the state's waterways, he said there is no reason the state can't be on the forefront of hydropower and utilize the sun. 

Mardis said there are many climate deniers, but noted it is January. "I haven't worn a large coat this year," he said, and that many at the meeting didn't have a coat. "When I was a kid, when it was around this time of the year, it was cold."

He also advocated a reduced utility rate for veterans. 

Mardis said he wanted to use the position to speak on a number of issues beyond the usual scope of the PSC, saying that being elected to a position gains an audience to be heard, as the official has a larger voice. 

"I want to mobilize the younger generation, because the younger generation is more progressive," he said. 

He said years ago while in college, in a debate with a college Republican, the Republican agreed with 90 percent of what he said. 

"Most of these young Republicans are Republicans because their parents were Republicans," he said, adding that he had some conservative views. 

"On the Second Amendment, I hunt. Turning over my guns is not something I am going to just do," he said. "But I think we are at a time in history when my generation is coming up, and we are taking on the mantle of power."

He also called for a smoother transition to renewable energies, which he said can be done. 

"I think at this point of time, me serving as president of the Public Service Commission would actually help because my actual fear is that we will take over and try to (change) this industry too soon," he said. "If we try to do away with coal too soon, now you're trying to figure out how will you generate enough power. Then you have to worry about the economic impact from that and people losing their jobs." 

Asked about broadband, he said the PSC is supposed to be able to regulate telecommunications. 

He also said the public is not allowed to speak at the PSC's annual public meetings, and half the time PSC members may not show up, leaving people to "talk to Alabama Power's attorneys."

"As president, I guarantee you, you will be able to speak to me at these meetings," he said.

Mardis said a lawsuit has been filed against the PSC for ejecting people from its last public hearing for recording the meeting. He said a state law allows such recordings of public meetings. 

He also wants to give hope that a Democrat can do well in the state, noting some told him he was "crazy" to run. "You never know what the results are unless you test it," he said.