A controversial proposal to include nuclear power within Pennsylvania’s list of alternative energy sources went under the microscope this week as a House committee heard testimony from proponents and opponents.
At its core, House Bill 11 would provide a subsidy and prevent two of the commonwealth’s power plants – Three Mile Island and Beaver Valley – from closing by investing in nuclear power. The spending package within the 33-page draft calls on an annual allocation of $500 million.
Despite the price tag, proponents say the funding would further Pennsylvania’s clean energy efforts and continue fueling family-supporting jobs. Opponents, however, say the bill at face value is government overreach, stifling competition and inevitably leading to rate increases.
The House Consumer Affairs Committee this week held a nearly two-hour hearing with two panels providing their arguments for and against the bill.
State Rep. Brad Roae, R-Meadville, said he considered the bill complex, highly technical and subject to confusion.
“There’s a lot of moving parts with this,” said Roae, who chairs the House Consumer Affairs Committee.
Each of the pair of panels included four representatives, speaking on behalf of their reasoning in support or against the measures in HB11.
The first panel, in support, included Steve Brame of the Pennsylvania Rural Electric Association; Dave Griffing of FirstEnergy Solutions; Mike Pries, Dauphin County commissioner; and Tom Ridge, former governor of Pennsylvania and first secretary of the federal Department of Homeland Security.
The second panel, against HB11, included Desiree Hung of AARP; Todd Snitchler of the American Petroleum Institute; Kevin Sunday of the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry and Glen Thomas of GT Power Group.
Ridge said he believed further investment in nuclear energy could move Pennsylvania’s energy leadership in an upward trajectory while dually promoting a business-friendly climate.
“Pennsylvania has control over its energy future,” Ridge said. “Politics is always about tomorrow. This is a policy decision about the kind of Pennsylvania we want for tomorrow.”
Ridge also argued that investment into nuclear energy would further Pennsylvania’s achievement of clean energy goals.
By investing in nuclear power, Pries said the clock toward closing Three Mile Island and Beaver Valley would stop and, as such, would not have adverse impacts on the local economies. Three Mile Island is situated near Harrisburg, while Beaver Valley is on the outskirts of Pittsburgh.
“If action is not taken, all of these jobs will be lost forever,” Pries said. “Why in the world would we not want nuclear to be a part of our zero-emissions plan?”
But panelists on the other side of the argument said they had concerns with the components of HB11.
Sunday described the provisions in the bill as “costly mandates” and said competition within the energy sector would be eroded and lead to further consequences down the road.
“This is a policy that raises costs for businesses and consumers,” Sunday said.
Thomas said he supports nuclear power, but not HB11. Throughout his testimony, Thomas implored lawmakers to carefully consider the stipulations throughout the document.
“I urge you to go slowly through it,” Thomas said. “House Bill 11 is a very big deal. It’s a very complex piece of legislation.”