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Eric Nelson: Pennsylvania should be cautious about nuclear bailout | TribLIVE.com
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Eric Nelson: Pennsylvania should be cautious about nuclear bailout

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Three Mile Island Unit 1 nuclear power plant’s cooling towers release nonradioactive water vapor into the atmosphere in the early hours of the morning March 12, 2009.

Normally, businesses use hard work to generate profit and, at times, big business uses lobbyists. This appears to be the strategy as the nuclear industry levels its crosshairs on Pennsylvania.

In New York, its $500 million marketing assault secured a return on investment of $5.7 billion in higher energy prices for consumers.

Regardless of which side of the nuclear bailout you fall, all should agree it needs to happen in a public forum and not layered into the fiscal code, as has occurred in other states.

I support nuclear energy and am comfortable with the nuclear waste it generates in exchange for massive baseload power.

One must ask why environmentalists are getting into bed with the energy companies on the bailout idea. They both are currently gunning for a better deal. Do the environmentalists not know higher energy costs will stall new investment and slow our state’s economy? The University of Pennsylvania’s Kleinman Center for Energy Policy calculates Pennsylvania’s bailout to cost taxpayers just under $1 billion each year.

The new power plant near Smithton cost just under $1 billion using no taxpayer funds, and 12 more similiar plants are scheduled to be built by Pennsylvania workers. Even the massive Hatfield plant may be repurposed to return high-salary energy jobs. That plant fell victim to the federal government picking winners and losers. There was no bailout for our friends in coal.

Facts and figures can be boring, but emotional threats of rolling brownouts are no joke. I would encourage everyone to look at the facts. Pennsylvania is the No. 2 energy-producing state in a country that is now the largest producer in the world. This came by getting government out of the way and allowing environmentally responsible private investment. Pennsylvania’s air hasn’t been this clean since before the Industrial Revolution.

I don’t fault the industry for wanting to return to the days when energy barons comfortably enjoyed guaranteed profits. However, a program requiring 50 percent government-mandated energy pricing will result in much higher costs on working families, seniors and business.

I believe we should ask some difficult questions before government picks winners and losers in the energy marketplace. Do we really need a third taxpayer-funded bailout for a plant built in the late 1960s, and will Exelon commit to keeping Three Mile Island open if it wins?

TMI is the only Pennsylvania plant that lost money in 2018; the four other nuclear plants generated over $600 million in profits. Exelon reported handsome gains, with Exelon Nuclear generating the most power ever at 159 TWHs. I am happy for their success and the $23 billion committed for new projects over the next four years. Are they investing in Pennsylvania?

I applaud Exelon’s transparency to clearly state its strategy of “Zero Emissions Credits” as a tool to enhance shareholder profits. So why the panicked push for a Pennsylvania bailout? Before we lock in higher energy costs on the citizens of this state, we should have a deliberative and transparent debate.

If Pennsylvania wants to revise its energy policy, we should be forward-looking and embrace new technology across all energy types. The nuclear industry has “Accident Tolerant Fuels” and “micro-nukes,” but they choose not to place those new investments in Pennsylvania; instead, they want our taxpayers to just pay more.

We all should be cautious.

Rep. Eric Nelson of Hempfield, a Republican, represents the 57th District.

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