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Setting record straight on nuclear energy bill in the Pennsylvania House: Tom Mehaffie

Posted 5/1/19

Since introducing the Keep Powering Pennsylvania Act (House Bill 11) to ensure our state’s leading zero-emission energy source — nuclear energy — is treated the same way as other …

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Setting record straight on nuclear energy bill in the Pennsylvania House: Tom Mehaffie

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Since introducing the Keep Powering Pennsylvania Act (House Bill 11) to ensure our state’s leading zero-emission energy source — nuclear energy — is treated the same way as other zero-emission energy sources, an endless amount of misinformation and speculation has been reported. As committee hearings have begun in the Legislature, this is a good time to set the record straight.

First, I’ve seen groups estimating HB 11 could cost billions of dollars for the electric ratepayers of our state.

The cost is $500 million annually — plain and simple. Anyone who says otherwise is doing nothing but fearmongering. They are also being disingenuous if they don’t tell you the cost of doing nothing is eight times more — totaling $4.6 billion annually.

I’ve never hidden the cost of my legislation, but it’s time for the opponents in the oil and gas industry to be honest about the $4.6 billion in increased costs to Pennsylvanians, including $788 million in increased annual electricity costs, if our state’s nuclear plants prematurely retire.

Second, there is a fundamental fairness that underpins my legislation. Carbon-free electricity should be treated the same — regardless if it is generated by wind, solar or nuclear energy. Some may argue this is nothing more than government picking sides or showing preference to one energy source over another. They’re right. That’s exactly what it is, and Pennsylvania has been doing it for years to the detriment of nuclear energy — our state’s largest and most reliable source of clean, emission-free electricity.

There are dozens of ways to produce electricity, some with less impact to our environment and some with a greater impact. I have no ill-will toward coal and gas. They have their place in our electricity grid. But the pollution created by electricity from fossil fuels isn’t just an environmental issue — it’s a money issue.

It takes more money to deal with the environmental impacts of fossil fuels than it does to deal with the environmental impacts of emission-free resources. HB 11 simply corrects the financial inequity that exists in the system today.

Lastly, one of the more commonly used talking points against the nuclear industry is that they are trying to make a profit. I find this argument laughable. I’ve been a business owner for my entire adult life, and I can confirm that’s my goal, too. Which business does not want to make a profit?

But the reality is Three Mile Island is already unprofitable and the other four nuclear plants aren’t far behind.

The fact that all of Pennsylvania’s nuclear plants are headed toward unprofitability is the very reason why the oil and gas industry is spending so much money on lobbyists to oppose my bill.

There is only one winner if the nuclear plants shut down, and that’s the natural gas industry. Customers lose, our environment loses and the resiliency of our electric grid suffers.

So after you sort through all of the noise, what’s the end result?

Pennsylvania’s five nuclear power plants are our state’s largest source of electricity, producing 93 percent of our state’s carbon-free electricity. Those same plants support 16,000 family-sustaining jobs. They are, without question, the most reliable source of carbon-free electricity we have in Pennsylvania.

And yes, there is a cost to making sure these plants and everything they bring to Pennsylvania are here for years to come. Under the Keep Powering Pennsylvania Act, that cost is $500 million annually. That’s an extra $1.77 per month on the average residential electricity bill.

If my colleagues in the Legislature don’t act, that monthly cost will be $2.39, and Pennsylvanians will pay $788 million more each year for their electricity, not to mention increased costs to compensate for the billions in lost state gross domestic product and billions in air pollution and carbon emissions.

I believe the benefits far exceed the costs. I wasn’t elected by the voters of the 106th District to just make easy decisions. I believe I have a duty to take on the tough fights and do what is in the best long-term interests of residents.

I will continue fighting to keep our nuclear plants open, our electricity prices low, and our grid reliable and diverse.

State Rep. Tom Mehaffie, R-Lower Swatara Township, represents the 106th House District. Reach him at 717-534-1323 or tmehaffie@pahousegop.com.