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Countdown continues for TMI: Passage of Mehaffie bill on nuclear power nears deadline for passage

By Dan Miller

danmiller@pressandjournal.com

717-944-4628
Posted 5/8/19

Today is a big day for the legislation sponsored by state Rep. Tom Mehaffie that would give a boost to nuclear energy in Pennsylvania.

Following the traditional legislative timeline, the Lower …

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Countdown continues for TMI: Passage of Mehaffie bill on nuclear power nears deadline for passage

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Today is a big day for the legislation sponsored by state Rep. Tom Mehaffie that would give a boost to nuclear energy in Pennsylvania.

Following the traditional legislative timeline, the Lower Swatara Republican told the Press & Journal that the bill would need to be voted out of committee by today, so it would then go to the floor of the House next week for a vote. If passed, it would go to the Senate, which would have to approve the legislation by the last week of May or early June, before the Legislature goes into summer recess.

May 8 is not the hard deadline in which action must be taken, but action past that date may make it difficult to meet the June deadline by which Three Mile Island owner Exelon would have to make arrangements to refuel the plant, Mehaffie said.

Under the traditional legislative timeline, legislators have 24 hours to put amendments on the bill after it is voted out of the committee, and after that, the bill has to be considered a second and third time before it would be sent to the Senate for consideration.

The last House Consumer Affairs Committee hearing on Mehaffie’s bill was Monday. It would add Three Mile Island and other nuclear power plants to the list of renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind, from which utilities in Pennsylvania are required to purchase electricity.

However, Mehaffie said it’s not over if it’s not done by today, adding that they are working hard on agreements between the House, the Senate and the governor to come up with an agreeable bill.

“We’re hoping that we can come to terms, and Wednesday there will be a [committee] vote on the bill,” he said.

Mehaffie said he was going to be worried until an agreement is in place.

“That’s my job is to worry,” he said.

Mehaffie introduced House Bill 11 on March 11, and Sen. Ryan Aument, R-Lancaster, introduced similar legislation — Senate Bill 510 — on April 8.

Renewable energy sources such as wind and solar are on a list called the Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards, from which utilities must purchase power.

Nuclear power is not included in the portfolio, although Mehaffie says it should be, recognizing the “carbon-free” electricity which nuclear power plants including TMI generate.

During Monday’s Londonderry Board of Supervisors meeting, manager Steve Letavic advocated for residents to call legislators and expressed concern about having action on the bill by Wednesday.

“If we care about keeping carbon gas emissions low, if we care about keeping our school taxes low, if we care about the community and the jobs and the gross domestic product that’s represented not only by Three Mile Island but by 16,000 jobs in the state of Pennsylvania and $2 billion in gross domestic product, people have to call their legislators,” he said.

This isn’t just about Three Mile Island. Letavic said the trajectory of nuclear power in the United States is on a downward path.

“If you want energy diversity in the portfolio of energy, we have to have nuclear. Because if not, the only producer that’s going to fill that void is oil and gas,” he said.

Mehaffie has estimated that his proposal would cost an average of $500 million a year, although he said losing the five nuclear plants would cost the state $4.6 billion a year, including $788 million more in higher electricity costs.

“Hopefully, we’ll hear something by Wednesday,” Letavic said.

Reporter Dan Miller contributed to this report.