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Don’t make Three Mile Island a ‘politically favored’ plant: Letter to the Editor

Posted 10/31/18

This is in response to Steve Letavic’s column on Oct. 24, “Legislature, take action to save TMI.”

First of all, this is not an attack on Mr. Letavic. I simply want to add my …

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Don’t make Three Mile Island a ‘politically favored’ plant: Letter to the Editor

Posted

This is in response to Steve Letavic’s column on Oct. 24, “Legislature, take action to save TMI.”

First of all, this is not an attack on Mr. Letavic. I simply want to add my thoughts to the “Save TMI” discussion.

I agree that Three Mile Island pays state and township taxes, although a lot less than they used to (pre-2000). I agree that it offers well-paying full-time jobs, as well as providing a temporary boost to the local economy during refueling. The list goes on, but don’t forget that those monies are being collected from customers like me and you each month, each electric bill.

Another point that gets lost in this debate is that when Pennsylvania’s electricity utilities went through restructuring in the late 1990s and into 2011, all electricity customers of Met-Ed, Pennelec, PPL, PECO, etc., paid an “extra $12 billion” over that 10-year period to retire the debt (stranded costs) of all coal-fired and nuclear power plants in Pennsylvania, so these energy producers could compete on a level playing field with hydro-electric, natural gas-fired, and other low-cost producers.

What could be more American as the market-based system Pennsylvania and surrounding states now enjoy?

Along came the “Great Recession” in 2008, and we all know manufacturing took a hit and the state’s steady growth in electricity demand stopped, dropped and has been rolling along at pre-2008 levels. And due to other electricity efficiencies being promoted by each utility (Act 129 rebates), we simply don’t need all of the generation that had been built over the last 70 years.

It is also our good fortune to be sitting on natural gas deposits that have been tapped and are increasingly providing incentives for power companies to build low-cost natural gas-fired generation that is better suited to follow minute-by-minute changes in electricity demands. But the natural gas won’t last forever, and there are air emissions associated with it, but arguably nothing like what came out of TMI during the accident. Plus there is the issue of property rights when the gas pipeline company knocks on your door.

With every “promotional” letter to the editor and/or op-ed piece, we now see that the market-based system that we were promised, that would benefit the economy, and that so many pro-business types promoted back then, is now to be cast aside, and the customer, me and you, should be forced to pay “extra” again. They call it “fixing the state’s broken energy policy.” Broken for whom? Corporate interests? Political contributions?

There was a reason Pennsylvania’s and many other states’ electricity utilities went through restructuring in the 1990s and 2000s, and that was because the prices were much higher than they needed to be. That was hurting businesses and other customers.

No matter how well-intentioned the “Save TMI” supporters are, what they want and need is a new statewide tax on us to cover the shortfall in revenues of these unprofitable coal and nuclear plants.

So, what happened to the $12 billion? What happened to all of the profits over the last 20 to 30 years? I fear that we are seeing the “Humpty-Dumpty” of higher costs being put back together again where profits were “privatized” and now the costs and revenue shortfalls at these “politically favored” power plants will be “socialized.” 

Don Hornung

Londonderry Township