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Source: Connecticut Post

Consumers, environmentalists lobby for Millstone veto

BY KEN DIXON

Posted: October 30, 2017
Originally Published: October 27, 2017

HARTFORD — Consumer groups and environmental activists are asking Gov. Dannel P. Malloy to veto a bill that would allow the Millstone Nuclear Station to compete in a program that was intended to foster Connecticut’s young solar and wind-power industries.

The bill, which passed the House in a 75-66 vote on Thursday — following the debate and vote on the controversial state budget — passed the Senate last month 23-8. Both bills now sit on the governor’s desk, with a deadline for his action by Wednesday.

“There is no need for this bill,” said John Erlingheuser, advocacy director for the AARP, which has been fighting what it calls a giveaway to a secretive corporation, Dominion Energy Inc., over the last two years.

Dominion has “refused to open its books to state regulators,” Erlingheuser said. “The governor should veto this bill, which would result in a $300 million increase for ratepayers who already pay the highest rates for electricity in the country.”

On Sept. 15, the Senate approved the legislation, which Dominion claims it needs to stay viable in an era when natural gas-fired power plants are more profitable than nuclear. But a recent report from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology rated Millstone, in Waterford, the most profitable nuclear plant among the 61 commercially operating plants in the country, with a projected net profit of $14.80 per megawatt hour of energy produced, which translates to approximately $250 million per year.

By contrast, another nuclear plant, the aging Indian Point Energy Center in Buchanan, N.Y., makes $12.6 cents per megawatt hour, according to the report.

‘Path forward’

Lawmakers who supported the bill said during Thursday’s floor debate that Millstone, which supplies electricity for half the state, is an important employer in Southeastern Connecticut. Opponents charged that it was an unfair way for the nuclear plant, which does not emit greenhouse gases but accumulates spent-fuel rods for which there is no long-term federal storage program, to compete with renewable energy sources that the state is attempting to foster.

Thomas F. Farrell II, chairman, CEO and president of Dominion Energy, Inc., said after the vote that the legislation would give Millstone “a path forward” in allowing the company to bid on electric contracts against wind, solar and hydro-power.

This bill requires the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority to undertake a study of the nuclear station and decide whether to allow it to participate in the solicitation process for power-producing contracts.

DEEP and PURA would have to give a report on the study to the General Assembly by next Feb. 1. If lawmakers were to fail to reject the report by March 1, the results would be automatically approved.

“On behalf of the 1,500 women and men working at Millstone Power Station, Dominion Energy thanks the General Assembly for giving Millstone an opportunity to participate in a clean energy procurement process if state regulators determine our bid benefits customers,” Farrell said in a statement.

‘Continual shift’

But Louis W. Burch, Connecticut program director for the nonprofit Citizens Campaign for the Environment, said Friday that if a concerted effort to obtain Malloy’s veto doesn’t work, activists next year would press lawmakers to review and overturn the law.

“We’re very concerned, because what this shows is a continual shift in Connecticut away from the renewables we were supposed to be developing, and a repriortization of the same old sources that will now be able to compete with real renewable energy for long-term power contracts,” Burch said in a phone interview. “We have been developing green-economy jobs with wind and solar power, and now we’re going to prop up a 50-to-60-year-old technology with no environmental benefits.

Burch said that while nuclear plants don’t emit greenhouse gases linked with climate change, every step of the development process, from mining and milling uranium, to transporting it, as well as the construction of refineries, has environmental affects. Then there is the unsolved problem of spent fuel rods, highly radioactive containers for which there is no national plan for storage.

“The state should be should be subsidizing new up-and-coming industries focused on renewables that will truly help us fight climate change,” Burch said. “Instead, the public and policy makers have been victimized by a very calculated, effective misinformation campaign, which we’re seeing across the country. Connecticut might set a problematic precedent. We’re going to do what we can to undo it.”