Millstone bill clears a committee hurdle

Not without drama, the legislature’s Appropriations Committee voted Monday to approve and send to the Senate a bill affecting the profitability of the Millstone Nuclear Power Station.

The Millstone bill passed on a 23-21 vote, with several legislators indicating their support in committee might not mean a vote for final passage in the Senate, where as many as three Republican senators might abstain because of potential conflicts.

As a test vote, the committee’s action showed Millstone has lost support in the Senate, where a similar bill passed unanimously last year, then died from inaction in the House.

Three Democratic senators voted against the bill Monday: Joan Hartley of Waterbury, Mae Flexer of Killingly and Gayle Slossberg of Milford. A fourth, Gary Winfield of New Haven, said he voted yes only to keep the bill from dying in committee.

Sen. John Kissel, R-Enfield, abstained. He is employed by Eversource, which is lobbying against the bill. Two other GOP senators are likely to abstain if the bill comes to a vote in the Senate: Eversource also employs Kevin Witkos of Canton, and Art Linares of Westbrook has an ownership interest in an energy company.

Rep. Chris Perone, D-Norwalk, who voted for the Millstone bill when it came before the Energy and Technology Committee, opposed it Monday. He said legislators do not have sufficient information to judge if the bill is a windfall for Dominion Resources, the owner of Millstone, or a necessary step to stabilize the power plant.

“This is a black box,” Perone said.

To avoid the volatility of daily energy auctions, Dominion has long sold long-term energy contracts to hedge funds and other buyers, but competition from low natural gas prices has weakened that market. Dominion has been pressing for more than a year for a regulatory structure that would ease direct sales to electric companies in contracts of up to five years.

Environmentalists, consumer activists and other energy companies are lobbying against the bill.

Mark Pazniokas is a reporter for The Connecticut Mirror (www.ctmirror.org). Copyright 2017 © The Connecticut Mirror.

mpazniokas@ctmirror.org

 

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