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Rallying for TMI: Officials come from across region, form clean jobs coalition

By Dan Miller danmiller@pressandjournal.com
Posted 6/7/17

With the Three Mile Island cooling towers visible in the distance, leaders from throughout the region gathered at Sunset Golf Course in Londonderry Township on June 6 to call on state legislators …

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Rallying for TMI: Officials come from across region, form clean jobs coalition

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With the Three Mile Island cooling towers visible in the distance, leaders from throughout the region gathered at Sunset Golf Course in Londonderry Township on June 6 to call on state legislators and Gov. Tom Wolf to enact “policy reforms” to save TMI and the four other nuclear power plants in Pennsylvania.

Led by Dauphin County Commissioner Mike Pries, speakers from York County, York City, Londonderry Township and from labor making up the newly formed Clean Jobs For Pennsylvania coalition cited now-familiar numbers regarding how the planned closing of TMI by September 2019 would impact the region’s economy.

Tops among these is the loss of 675 full-time jobs at TMI with an annual payroll approaching $60 million, another 1,500 jobs at the plant for several weeks during refueling outages every two years — with the next one coming in October — the loss of a combined $1 million in property taxes paid by TMI in 2016 to Londonderry Township, Lower Dauphin School District, the county and the state; and $300,000 a year in contributions to charitable organizations.

Exelon Corp. announced the potential closure last week, citing a need for a new state energy policy more favorable toward nuclear power, the low cost of natural gas, and the fact that TMI has only one active nuclear reactor as key reasons why it is not financially feasible to keep it open.

Londonderry Township arranged for a township firetruck and the Bookmobile that serves Lower Dauphin School District to be at the event to serve as visible reminders of the role TMI plays in supporting township and community services.

Other than TMI, 80 percent of the township is rural and devoted to agriculture, said township Supervisor Anna Dale.

“That helps us support a robust and sustainable agricultural community however it does come with costs. We are met with numerous unmet, unfunded mandates that come down from the state and federal governments. We have been able to survive and manage those mandates on (our) existing revenues,” Dale said.

“If we lose TMI and its business, most likely Londonderry Township will become a distressed community,” she said. “If you don’t believe me, you can just look up the river and travel across the entire commonwealth from Bethlehem to Braddock, and see what has happened to most of those communities that have not been able to recover from the loss of coal and steel industries a generation ago. I don’t want to see that happen here in Central Pennsylvania.”

Among those on happen to provide support was Middletown Borough Council member Ben Kapenstein, who attended the event but was not part of the presentation.

The loss of direct tax revenue to next-door Londonderry Township and Lower Dauphin “is going to trickle down into Middletown,” he said.

Kapenstein also noted that at least 70 of TMI’s 675 full-time employees live in Middletown.

“That’s a huge number of good paying jobs, sustainable jobs for families that will most likely move out of Middletown should TMI close, which is going to really hurt our real estate market as well as our tax revenue,” Kapenstein said. “It’s vitally important that people in Middletown understand what impact this will have on them.”

But speakers also pointed to other benefits of TMI and nuclear power plants across the state, such as providing 93 percent of carbon-free electricity and being a source of electricity that can be depended upon 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and 365 days a year regardless of the weather or anything else.

Closing TMI would increase air pollution and be detrimental to the environment, said York Mayor Kim Bracey.

York County Commissioner Chris Reilly noted the potential impact losing TMI could have on the region’s manufacturing base, and other companies in general.

“Imagine you are the owner of a manufacturing facility that is working around the clock to meet an important deadline for a client. Suddenly the power goes out and the order cannot be met in time. This can mean the loss of thousands of dollars in just that single moment,” Reilly said.

State legislators need to enact policies that recognize the value of nuclear plants and put them on the same footing as solar, wind and hydro, said Joe Gusler, president of the Central Pennsylvania Building and Construction Trades.

“This is not needless worrying on the part of Pennsylvania’s nuclear plant operators. We cannot put this prospect off any longer. It’s a problem that has already begun to hurt communities nationwide,” Gusler said.

He also referred to two other nuclear power plants — Kewaunee in Wisconsin and Vermont Yankee — that have already closed “for the same pressures facing TMI.”

“These closures have had devastating effects,” Gusler said. “When the Kewaunee plant closed in 2013 it crippled the local economy. When the doors shut, the county hosting the plant lost 30 percent of its tax revenue and a stunning 15 percent of its jobs.”

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