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State Rep. Mehaffie seeking co-sponsors for legislation to preserve Three Mile Island

By Dan Miller

danmiller@pressandjournal.com

717-944-4628
Posted 2/4/19

Rep. Tom Mehaffie, R-Lower Swatara Township, is seeking co-sponsors in the state House for legislation aimed at preserving Three Mile Island and the four other nuclear power plants in …

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State Rep. Mehaffie seeking co-sponsors for legislation to preserve Three Mile Island

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Rep. Tom Mehaffie, R-Lower Swatara Township, is seeking co-sponsors in the state House for legislation aimed at preserving Three Mile Island and the four other nuclear power plants in Pennsylvania.

Mehaffie in a Feb. 4 memo to House members said that his legislation would update the Pennsylvania Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards Act “to recognize nuclear energy for its significant contribution to the state’s zero-carbon energy production.”

Mehaffie’s final bill language has not yet been introduced and there is no definite timeline set for when it will be, House Republican spokeswoman Abbey Haslam said in a Feb. 4 email to the Press & Journal.

A co-sponsorship memo similar to Mehaffie’s was also being released in the state Senate, Haslam said.

The legislation is in for a fight. After word of Mehaffie’s co-sponsorship memo got out, the group Citizens Against Nuclear Bailouts responded with a statement opposing the proposed legislation.

The proposal would “burden Pennsylvania consumers with higher electricity bills to fund a nuclear bailout tax, which would benefit already profitable nuclear power corporations,” the group said in its statement.

The Alternative Energy Portfolio includes 16 “clean” power sources such as solar, wind, and hydro-energy that are supported by state energy policy. Nuclear energy is not currently part of the portfolio.

The portfolio requires that 18 percent of the electricity from Pennsylvania’s distribution companies and electric generation suppliers come from alternative energy resources by 2021.

TMI owners Exelon Corp. announced in May 2017 that TMI would be prematurely retired starting in September 2019, unless state or federal government acts to make TMI and nuclear power more economically competitive with natural gas and with the other energy sources that are now part of the portfolio.

Besides TMI, Mehaffie notes in his memo that the Beaver Valley nuclear plant near Pittsburgh is currently slated to shut down in 2021 “and the commonwealth’s three other nuclear plants are likely not far behind.”

Mehaffie in January was named as a co-chairman of Pennsylvania’s Nuclear Energy Caucus, a bipartisan, bicameral group of 80 state House and Senate members that was formed in March 2017.

Mehaffie’s district borders Three Mile Island in Londonderry Township. Mehaffie has also been an outspoken advocate of state action to preserve TMI and the other nuclear plants during rallies that have been held by Clean Jobs for Pennsylvania, a coalition of elected officials, organized labor and leaders of community and business organizations that was formed shortly after Exelon’s announcement intending to close TMI in May 2017.

Mehaffie in his memo noted that the five nuclear power plants generate 42 percent of all electricity generated in the state, and 93 percent of all zero-carbon electricity generated in Pennsylvania.

According to his memo, allowing these plants “to succumb to failed energy market policies” will cost Pennsylvanians $4.6 billion a year, including $788 million in electricity cost increases, $2 billion in lost state gross domestic product, $1.6 billion in costs associated with carbon emissions, and $260 in costs associated with increases in “harmful criteria air pollutants.”

He said that TMI and the four other nuclear plants combined keep electricity prices low, account for nearly 16,000 full-time jobs statewide, provide $69 million in net state tax revenues annually, avoid over 37 million tons of carbon emissions each year, and bring “resilience” to the electricity grid serving Pennsylvania by being operable non-stop around the clock 365 days a year.

“Pennsylvania cannot stand by and watch all of these benefits disappear as nuclear power plant after nuclear power plant prematurely retires,” Mehaffie said in his memo. “We cannot wait for Washington policy makers and the operator of the regional interstate electric market to solve this problem. Both have acknowledged the market is flawed and disadvantages nuclear plants but have yet to act to fix the problem.”

Citizens Against Nuclear Bailouts noted in its statement that four of the state’s five nuclear plants are profitable, except for TMI which — due to the 1979 accident — has a single reactor that is “inefficient and uncompetitive.”

“TMI should either be closed or Exelon should use a fraction of its own hundreds of millions of dollars in profits to subsidize the plant instead of turning yet again to consumers for a handout,” CANB said.

Including TMI and the other nuclear plants in the state’s energy portfolio will “essentially re-regulate Pennsylvania’s competitive electricity markets by taking away consumer choice and forcing consumers to buy nuclear energy — no matter the cost,” the group contended.