Malloy: More information needed on Millstone

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said Monday that, while he's open to helping keep the Millstone Power Plant in Waterford as a source of carbon-free energy for the state, Dominion Energy needs to "work with" the state and provide information on the nature of its difficulties and how a competitive bidding proposal would affect ratepayers.

"I think Dominion has done a bad job, quite frankly, of having this discussion with the people of Connecticut because they aren't willing to share any information," he told The Day's editorial board. "We're asked to trust them, when, quite frankly, every national publication or opinion that I've seen about nuclear say that these are two of the most profitable reactors in the country."

Malloy discussed his recent executive order calling for a study of the economic viability of Millstone, along with topics that included the lack of a state budget, transportation infrastructure, and the proposed Coast Guard Museum, during the approximately hourlong editorial board meeting.

Malloy said he issued the executive order because he wants to see Millstone preserved, if it can be, but he also wants to know what is the "appropriate price or subsidy" to keep it here.

Dominion has been seeking to sell Millstone's electricity directly to utility companies through a state-run bid process, at a time when it says natural gas prices are affecting its profitability.

The state Senate approved revised legislation that called for the state to first study nuclear power plants and then potentially allow a competitive procurement process for nuclear power, as long as any changes are in the "best interest of ratepayers." The legislation was not moved forward in the House before the end of the session on June 7.

Malloy said that he was helping Dominion in that effort, but Dominion did not discuss the issue with him until about 10 days before the end of the session. He said the company did speak to him several years ago when he asked for information.

Malloy then issued on July 25 an executive order for the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority to complete by the next legislative session a study of the economic viability of Millstone and the role of nuclear power and other emissions-free energy sources. The analysis of Millstone will include information that includes audited financial statements and "such other financial information that is reasonably requested by DEEP and PURA," the order states.

Malloy said Monday that he hopes Dominion will comply with requests for information so the state can help them in an appropriate manner.

"We're glad the governor recognizes the importance of Millstone and we appreciate his leadership in conducting a study, but as we said when the study was first announced, there needs to be action tied to a study and that falls under the legislature," Dominion spokesman Ken Holt said Monday. 

Millstone said last month that it would continue its "strategic assessment" of its plans for Millstone, regardless of the study. Millstone announced in June the beginning of the strategic assessment, after legislation failed in the General Assembly.

Malloy said Monday that he didn't think there was enough consensus to take up legislation in special session.

"I think Dominion should work with the people of Connecticut to resolve any difficulties that are faced by the operation of the two nuclear reactors in Connecticut," he added. "I think they should work with us."

When asked by the editorial board why there isn't consensus, Malloy pointed to there not being enough information provided.

He asked what the impact on ratepayers would be and what the nature of the financial difficulties is. He also said that Dominion wants a five-year agreement, but he wondered what happens if the dynamics of natural gas change very quickly.

"It's been very much about a one-way discussion," Malloy said. "Now, I am open to helping. I want to be very clear. I believe that carbon-free energy is important in this time, particularly when we have a president who denies that humankind is having an impact on the climate." 

"So you had me at hello, but now we got to close the deal and figure out what the deal should look like, and that's why I've asked PURA to open the docket, which they've done, and gave them a very short time frame in which to make a report and asked them to garner all the information necessary to make recommendations," he added.

Several legislators from southeastern Connecticut said they support the inclusion of a provision for Millstone in a potential budget agreement.

"If you care about the environment, if you care about ratepayers, if you care about having a sound energy base, you have to care about letting Dominion bid for power," Rep. Holly Cheeseman, R-East Lyme, said last week.

Sen. Paul Formica, R-East Lyme, who has championed the legislation in the Senate, said last month that he appreciated the study, but more needs to be done: "Studying the situation Millstone is facing is just one step forward, but we also need action."

"Given the many nuclear facility closings around the country, it's clear we need to act now before we become the next state where such a closure occurs — which would cause not only the loss of a stable power source and lead to higher energy rates, but would also eliminate many jobs we cannot afford to lose," Formica said in his statement last month.

DEEP and PURA will hold a public hearing on the executive order for the Millstone study at 9:30 a.m. Thursday in the Gina McCarthy Auditorium at 79 Elm Street in Hartford.

k.drelich@theday.com

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