Stakeholders don’t budge on final Millstone arguments
Waterford — Stakeholders closely following an economic review of the Millstone Power Station held their ground in the last round of arguments before regulators' final report this week.
Lawmakers and town leaders recently reiterated strong support for Millstone, while competitors, distribution firms and advocacy groups still argue Dominion has failed to prove the plant needs state support.
Regulators cited Millstone's importance to the economy and environment in their recent draft decision to let Millstone sell electricity to the state in a competitive bidding process along with renewables. Dominion has hinted that without being allowed to bid, Millstone's future was in jeopardy due to high operational costs and competition from natural gas.
But if Dominion wants regulators to score the company's bids based on benefits beyond price — such as carbon emissions and reliability — regulators say the plant must be deemed an at-risk resource. That will only happen if Dominion submits audited data proving the plant faces the kind of fiscal peril that has threatened or shuttered other U.S. nuclear plants in recent years.
Dominion Executive Vice President Paul Koonce said in a letter dated Thursday that the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority should "expeditiously" make their determination on whether Millstone is at-risk.
He added that Dominion has "already provided 10 years of confidential cost data to DEEP and PURA," and said the company was committed to providing more information if necessary.
Koonce thanked regulators for moving forward with a bidding process, implying it would help secure Millstone's 1,500 jobs and around-the-clock production.
State Reps. Kathleen McCarty, R-Waterford, and Holly Cheeseman, R-East Lyme, argue regulators overestimated Millstone's profits by failing to fully consider Millstone's substantial operating costs.
In a joint letter last week, they said they hoped regulators would deem Millstone an at-risk resource, so price and non-price benefits "such as fuel diversity, grid reliability and zero-carbon emissions are also included and scored in the bidding process."
Ron Fedor, the chairman of Waterford's Board of Finance, wrote it was "critical to both the financial and environmental needs of Connecticut, that Dominion/Millstone be allowed to operate on even footing with other energy sellers."
Regulators noted in previous reports that in addition to jobs and zero-carbon electricity, Millstone generates more than $1 billion in statewide economic activity and provides more than $20 million in property taxes to Waterford annually.
Too little, too late for Dominion's critics
In sharp letters to DEEP and PURA late last week, natural gas and coal powerhouses like Dynegy and NRG questioned why the state is considering supporting a plant that, according to publicly available data, should be profitable for several years.
Citing the General Assembly's October law allowing nuclear power in the state bidding process and Gov. Dannel Malloy's executive order calling for DEEP's and PURA's analysis, NRG said regulators' review "falls short of demonstrating that 'action is necessary,'" and therefore falls short of the legal requirement to move forward with letting Millstone bid.
"Despite (regulators') own conclusion that Millstone's financial disclosure was 'late-filed,' 'unsubstantiated' and 'summary,' the draft determination nonetheless rewards Dominion with access to a future procurement in which it can bid against other resources with no proper evidence of need or benefit," wrote NRG's Director of External Affairs, Dan Hendrick.
Asked Monday about the frequent critique in recent days that Dominion submitted its data too late in the review process, Millstone spokesman Ken Holt said, "We provided sensitive financial information once we had confidence that it would be protected from our competitors."
Dynegy said it flatly opposed "any out-of-market procurements," arguing Millstone didn't need "any special deal" and arguing the proposed bidding process would hurt Connecticut's long-term energy goals and hit consumers' wallets.
Connecticut Fund for the Environment and the Sierra Club also argued action by the state was unnecessary. Both suggested the state research and plan for replacements of Millstone.
Claire Coleman of Connecticut Fund for the Environment said it was justifiable to rely on Millstone as a short-term bridge to more renewable resources in the future.
But "increasing our reliance on Millstone as a zero emission power source to meet our climate targets — instead of building more renewables or taking measures to reduce emissions from our transportation and heating sectors — would be a huge disservice to the state," Coleman said.
Regulators say they will continue to review potential New England-wide options even if a bidding process begins in the spring.
DEEP and PURA are set to release a final report with recommendations to lawmakers on Thursday.
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