Millstone owner still pushing for 'action' to save nuke plant
HARTFORD — Owners of the Millstone Nuclear Power Station say they still want more than a study of the facility's future economic viability to ensure the plant remains open and continues providing more than half of Connecticut's electricity.
They contend state lawmakers, who've been meeting this summer to hammer out a budget deal, must take action now.
The state policy director for Dominion Energy, the company that owns the station, said his company is actively working to persuade the General Assembly to include language in the yet-to-be-reached budget agreement that would allow Millstone to ultimately bypass the wholesale electricity market and sell directly to the state, if that is what's recommended in a new study ordered last week by Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.
"You can't have a study without a mandate for action, is our position," said Kevin Hennessy. "If they do a study without any action, that is not going to prevent Dominion from making business decisions."
In 2012, Dominion announced it was closing the Kewaunee Power Station in Carlton, Wisconsin, because it was no longer economical to operate. The plant closed after 18 months of discussions with government officials. Dominion recently noted it has been talking with Connecticut officials for 21 months.
A bill requiring a study of the fiscal health of Millstone and other nuclear power plants, as well as allowing Dominion to participate in a competitive procurement process to possibly sell power directly to the state, cleared the Senate earlier this year. However, the legislation was allowed only a limited debate in the House of Representatives before being pulled without a vote.
Hennessy said there's enough support in the legislature to pass the bill, despite opposition from the AARP and a group of other power producers, who contend Virginia-based Dominion doesn't need what they consider a "subsidy," arguing that Millstone is still profitable.
Those groups praised Malloy late last month for signing an executive order requiring the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority to review the current and projected economic viability of Millstone's continued operations in Waterford. Among other things, the agencies were charged with also examining Millstone's role in helping Connecticut meet carbon emissions targets while maintaining reliability of the regional grid.
On Friday, DEEP and PURA formally posted a public notice for the study and a schedule. A draft scope will be issued Wednesday and a draft is expected in early December. The final findings and recommendations are due Feb. 1.
DEEP Commissioner Rob Klee said he knows Dominion wants action now, but encouraged company officials to work collaboratively with the state agencies on the review. He said it's one of DEEP's highest priorities over the next few months, noting it's "a complicated and multi-faceted endeavor."
Lawmakers have been particularly interested in making sure the budget being negotiated includes language Millstone is seeking. The nuclear plant now employs nearly 1,100 full-time Dominion workers and 400 full-time contractors. Additionally, Hennessy said hundreds of contractors are brought on periodically.
"We cannot afford to lose Millstone — a very real possibility — as the adverse economic and environmental impact would be devastating to Waterford, southeastern Connecticut and the entire state," said Rep. Kathleen McCarty, R-Waterford, in a written statement. "The governor's executive order must be followed by action from the legislature."
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