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Three Mile Island update: Hearings scheduled on Mehaffie legislation aimed at nuclear power

By Dan Miller

danmiller@pressandjournal.com

717-944-4628
Posted 4/1/19

Public hearings are scheduled to start Monday, April 8, on House Bill 11, the legislation introduced by Rep. Tom Mehaffie to support Three Mile Island and the four other nuclear power plants in …

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Three Mile Island update: Hearings scheduled on Mehaffie legislation aimed at nuclear power

Posted

Public hearings are scheduled to start Monday, April 8, on House Bill 11, the legislation introduced by Rep. Tom Mehaffie to support Three Mile Island and the four other nuclear power plants in Pennsylvania.

Hearings are scheduled for April 8, April 15, April 29 and May 6 before the House Consumer Affairs Committee, to which House Bill 11 was referred after being introduced by Mehaffie, R-Lower Swatara Township, on March 11.

All the hearings will be live-streamed on the Internet. The live-stream of each hearing also will be posted on the House website so it can be viewed later. Go to http://www.pahousegop.com/Video/Consumer-Affairs.

All but the April 29 hearing will be held in Room 140 of the Capitol in Harrisburg. The April 29 hearing will be held in Room 205 of the Ryan Office Building in Harrisburg.

The April 8 hearing starts at 11 a.m. and will include testimony from panelists representing the nuclear power industry, the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, and Citizens Against Nuclear Bailouts Coalition.

The April 15 hearing begins at 9 a.m. and will include testimony from panelists representing electric power generators and resources.

The April 29 hearing begins at noon and will include testimony from panelists representing electric utilities, suppliers and consumers, as well as organized labor interests.

The last scheduled hearing on May 6 is to include testimony from panelists representing regulators of the electric market and industry.

Mehaffie’s legislation would add TMI and other nuclear power plants to the list of renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind, that electric utilities in Pennsylvania are required to purchase electricity from.

Solar, wind and 14 other types of renewable energy are now included in the list that electric utilities must purchase power from in Pennsylvania, known as the Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards.

Nuclear power is not included in the AEPS. Mehaffie says nuclear should be included in the AEPS, in recognition of the “carbon-free” electricity that is generated by TMI and other nuclear plants.

Electric utilities under Mehaffie’s legislation would comply with the new requirement to purchase nuclear power under the AEPS by purchasing alternative energy credits.

The electric utilities could pass on this higher cost of purchasing power to consumers.

Mehaffie has estimated his legislation would cost on average $500 million a year and increase electric bills for Pennsylvania consumers by $1.77 per month.

However, he says the typical residential electric bill will go up more— by $2.39 a month— if TMI and the other nuclear power plants in Pennsylvania are allowed to close.

Advocates of the legislation also say that allowing TMI and other nuclear plants to close will make it much harder for Pennsylvania to reduce carbon emissions.

Opponents counter that the legislation is a bailout that would benefit profitable private companies that own the nuclear plants, at the expense of rising consumer electricity bills.

Instead of propping up nuclear plants such as TMI that would otherwise fail, the state should focus on reducing carbon emissions through the other renewables such as solar and wind, these opponents say.

In May 2017, Exelon Corp., which operates TMI, said that it would close the plant prematurely in September 2019, unless state government acts to put nuclear on a level playing field economically with the other renewables that are now part of the AEPS.

Mehaffie’s proposed legislation is similar to legislation that has been approved in other states to preserve the nuclear industry, including New York, Illinois, Connecticut and New Jersey.

Companion legislation to Mehaffie’s HB 11 is expected to be introduced in the state Senate, possibly this week.

Sen. Ryan Aument, chairman of the state Nuclear Energy Caucus, from which Mehaffie’s legislation emerged, was not immediately available for comment regarding status of the Senate legislation.

TMI as of 2018 had not made a profit in six years, according to Exelon, whereas the four other nuclear plants in Pennsylvania are still considered profitable. TMI employs about 675 people.