Three Mile Island will close this fall, as time runs out for Legislature to advance nuclear bills

By: - May 8, 2019 12:06 pm

Three Mile Island. (Z22/Wikimedia Commons)

One of the Republican lawmakers pushing a bill to aid the state’s nuclear industry said Wednesday “there is not sufficient support to advance a proposal in time” to keep Three Mile Island in Dauphin County open.

The statement from Sen. Ryan Aument, whose Lancaster County district borders the plant, came after Chicago-based Exelon announced it will move forward with the closure, as action from the General Assembly seems unlikely by the June 1 deadline the company offered.

“Although we see strong support in Harrisburg and throughout Pennsylvania to reduce carbon emissions and maintain the environmental and economic benefits provided by nuclear energy, we don’t see a path forward for policy changes before the June 1 fuel purchasing deadline for TMI,” Exelon representative Kathleen Barron said in a statement obtained by the Press & Journal in Middletown.

Aument and Republican Rep. Thomas Mehaffie, whose Dauphin County district also neighbors the plant, were attempting to prevent the closure through legislation designed to give nuclear power a leg up among cheaper fossil fuels.

Both proposals would amend the state’s clean energy law to classify nuclear as a renewable energy resource.

In a text message, Aument said he plans “to continue working my colleagues and stakeholders on the issue.”

“From the beginning, I have seen my role as co-chair of the Nuclear Energy Caucus to elevate a conversation around the important role of nuclear power in Pennsylvania, and then to ultimately put a proposal on the table that would preserve these assets,” Aument said in a statement. “Unfortunately, it is clear at this point in time that there is not sufficient support to advance a proposal in time to preserve TMI.”

In a statement, Mehaffie called the announcement “the worst news I’ve received since taking office as the state representative for the 106th District in January 2017.”

“Unfortunately, some of my colleagues in the Legislature ran out the clock, and the loss of 675 family-sustaining jobs in Dauphin County is on them,” he said,  

Like Aument, Mehaffie indicated that he plans to continue working on the issue.

“I hope the conversation continues in the Legislature about the future of Pennsylvania’s nuclear industry,” Mehaffie said in a statement. “We still have eight reactors in this state supplying a large piece of our state’s electricity production. Time may have run out for Three Mile Island, but the fight is not over for the rest of our nuclear fleet.”

Gov. Tom Wolf, too, said in a statement he remains “hopeful that a consensus on a path forward can be reached in the coming weeks.”

“I was disappointed to learn this morning’s unfortunate news and continue to stand today with the workers at Three Mile Island and the surrounding community,” said Wolf, who has declined to take a public position on the House and Senate proposals.

“I have directed the Department of Labor & Industry to immediately begin plans to engage with these workers about their futures, and a Rapid Response team is in the process of being deployed. They are skilled workers who are in-demand in the economy. While I understand the operator is working to offer internal positions to these workers, we will not spare our resources to provide assistance to those who will be impacted.”

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Sarah Anne Hughes
Sarah Anne Hughes

Associate Editor Sarah Anne Hughes covers the governor and Pennsylvania's agencies. Before joining the Capital-Star, she was the state capitol reporter for Billy Penn and The Incline, and a 2018 corps member for Report for America. She was previously managing editor of Washington City Paper, editor-in-chief of DCist, and a national blogger for The Washington Post.