The Lead

‘Not a climate bill’: Environmental group pans proposed nuclear deal

By: - February 7, 2019 11:09 am

Two of Pennsylvania’s five nuclear power plants could close by 2021 if lawmakers don’t update the state’s alternative energy standards. (Creative Commons photo)

Environmental groups are emerging as early critics of a proposed bailout of Pennsylvania’s nuclear industry, a policy that state lawmakers are expected to debate early this year.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), a New York-based environmental advocacy group, sent a letter to Pennsylvania lawmakers last week asking them to reject any policy fix for the nuclear industry that isn’t part of a broader plan to transition more of the state’s energy to clean and renewable sources.

“A bill that merely props up uneconomical nuclear plants without putting Pennsylvania firmly on a path to continuing decreases in carbon pollution and a growing clean energy economy, is not a climate bill,” the letter from the NRDC reads. “Nor, in the long run, is it a good jobs bill either.”

Two of Pennsylvania’s five nuclear power plants are headed toward closure in the next two years due to stiff competition from the state’s natural gas providers.

Nuclear industry advocates and employees rallied in the Capitol rotunda yesterday, asking lawmakers to support a bill that would allow nuclear plants to compete with clean energy sources such as solar and wind power.

Advocates say shuttering nuclear plants would jeopardize more than 16,000 jobs in the engineering, mechanical, and manufacturing fields.

But keeping them open would likely result in higher rates or taxes, or both.

The Harrisburg-area nuclear power plant Three Mile Island is scheduled to close in June if state lawmakers do not update alternative energy policies. Lawmakers have circulated co-sponsorship memos asking colleagues to support a nuclear bailout policy, but have not yet introduced legislation explaining the program in detail.

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Elizabeth Hardison
Elizabeth Hardison

Elizabeth Hardison covered education policy, election administration, criminal justice and legislative news for the Capital-Star from Jan. 2019-April 2021. You can find her on Twitter @ElizHardison.