Wednesday, August 2, 2017

NJ CANT hopes lawmakers won't subsidize PSEG nuclear

PSEG Nuclear's Hope Creek nuclear generating plant in NJ

Frank Brill reports for EnviroPolitics Blog:


If the effectiveness of a coalition could be predicted by the cleverness of its name, a new ad-hoc lobbying group in New Jersey would be a sure winner.

In a teleconference today, NJCANT (New Jersey Coalition Against Nuclear Taxes) announced it has formed to oppose efforts by PSEG, the state's largest energy company, to gain a financial subsidy to offset the flagging earnings of its nuclear power plants.

PSEG is following a strategy that was successful for the nuclear industry in New York and Illinois. But similar attempts in Ohio and Connecticut recently failed.

The coalition currently comprises  AARP, New Jersey Large Energy Users Coalition, Environment New Jersey, Chemistry Council of New Jersey, New Jersey Citizen Action, New Jersey Petroleum Council, New Jersey Gasoline-Convenience-Automotive Association and a small-business group, New Jersey Main Street Alliance.

NJCANT labeled the proposed subsidy "a government handout that could cost all New Jersey ratepayers about $350 million annually over a ten year period, or $3.5 billion.” 

“Back in 1999 when New Jersey deregulated the energy industry, ratepayers were promised that a competitive market place would yield new options and benefits for consumers and businesses. Now that market competition is finally showing benefits to consumers, PSEG and other utility corporations want to change the rules,” said Ev Liebman, AARP NJ’s manager of advocacy. 

Coalition members stressed that the group does not oppose nuclear energy generation but does oppose any subsidy that is not justified by an examination of industry financial records.

"The business of chemistry, which employs more than 50,000 people in New Jersey, is energy intensive and needs access to inexpensive and reliable energy sources," said Dennis Hart, executive director of the Chemistry Council of New Jersey.

"For some energy-intensive products, energy for fuel and power can account for up to 85 percent of total production costs, Hart said. "That's why our members are so concerned about any increases. We are asking the Legislature to listen to all sides on this issue. We just can't hand a blank check over to PSEG."


Doug O'Malley of Environment New Jersey said that recent failures to expand nuclear power generation in other states like South Carolina, due to cost overruns, bears out past warnings by public advocates. Before supporting any bailout, he said New Jersey needs "an open and transparent accounting of the long term viability of the state's nuclear fleet."

Steven Goldenberg, an attorney representing large energy users in New Jersey, drew a distinction between some nuclear power units in other states that "are in serious financial trouble" and PSEG units which he said are profitable as born out by management statements and by the company's recent submission of a multi-year bid to supply energy to the PJM regional electric grid. 

"PSEG is pursuing a bailout simply because, in its view, it is not making enough money out of its nuclear fleet," he said, as compared to the company's utility properties.

Noticeable in the announcement event was the absence of large business groups, like the State Chamber of Commerce and the NJ Business and Industry Association, or other prominent environmental organizations like the Sierra Club or NJ Environmental Federation. CANT organizers said they expect their membership to grow as the issue gets more public attention.

Asked whether the state legislature's upcoming 'lame duck' session affords enough time for action on PSEG's request, coalition members declined to speculate, but made it clear that they are not willing to take the risk and are preparing for a fight. 

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