Pass clean Millstone-relief legislation

It is good to see the General Assembly has abandoned a cockamamie plan that would have somehow secured a payment from Millstone Power Station owner Dominion Resources as part of a policy change granting Dominion the new power-sales arrangement it seeks for the nuclear plant.

While some in the legislature saw that as a win-win arrangement — Dominion would have secured the pricing security it says is needed for the long-term viability of its nuclear plant in Waterford, while the legislature would have gotten revenue to help close a massive deficit — the governor, and this newspaper, saw it as something far different.

It looked like quid-pro-quo politics, bad old pay to play, said Gov. Dannel P. Malloy. We agree. Dominion would have paid and the legislature would have played in the form of giving the energy company the relief it sought.

Those floating the idea never made clear how Millstone would have become a revenue-raiser in helping address the budget crisis, whether through special taxes or fees or other arrangement.

But while the revenue component is gone, thank goodness, the need to secure Millstone’s long-term stability remains, because of both the power it supplies to Connecticut and New England as a whole and the important role it plays in the local economy. Millstone generates $1.5 billion in annual economic impact and employs a workforce of 1,000-plus, not counting the jobs from companies that contract to provide services to the nuclear station. It has a payroll of $118 million and pays $27 million in property taxes to Waterford.

After a budget vote — expected later this week — it appears the House is ready to take up the bill passed by the Senate a few weeks ago to shore up Millstone.

Millstone owner Dominion contends that current energy pricing policies in Connecticut's deregulated market do not mesh with its nuclear model, built on long-term consistent operation. The development of fracking technology has produced an abundance of natural gas and a growth in gas-powered electric generation plants. That has led to extreme volatility and lower prices in the daily energy markets. Several nuclear plants, unable to operate profitably, have closed across the country.

Under the legislation approved by the Senate, Dominion could compete with hydro, wind and solar to sell about half the energy Millstone produces to the state’s two major electric power distributors, Eversource and United Illuminating, using long-term contracts. That stability will assure Millstone’s operation for many more years, providing a bridge to when renewable energy sources are ready to meet more of the state’s energy needs.

Pending is a study of “the current and projected economic viability for the continued operation of the Millstone nuclear generating facilities,” ordered by Gov. Malloy.

According to the legislation pending in the House, the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and the Public Utilities Control Authority could, based on their findings, implement the energy-sales rules Dominion seeks, but only if they conclude the changes would be in the best interest of consumers and necessary for the plant’s continued operation.

Dominion executives have hinted that without changes in the power market the company may soon close Millstone. Critics of the change call it an idle threat and contend that a Dominion closing of Millstone makes no sense given the penalties Dominion would face for not meeting power-generation commitments.

The Malloy-ordered review will supply answers. The House should approve the Senate bill, allowing for prompt action if regulators find consumers would benefit and a change in procurement rules is in order.

The editorial board is composed of the publisher and four journalists of varied editing and reporting backgrounds. The board's discussions and information gained from its meetings with political, civic, and business leaders drive the institutional voice of The Day, as expressed in its editorials. The editorial department operates separately from the newsroom.

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