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Connecticut Senate passes nuclear support bill

07 Jun 2017 20:23 (+01:00 GMT)
Connecticut Senate passes nuclear support bill

Washington, 7 June (Argus) — The Connecticut Senate has approved a bill that opens the door to state action to help keep a Dominion Energy nuclear power plant open.

The Senate early this morning voted 23-9 in favor of a bill that directs state energy regulators to study the economic viability of Dominion's 2,100MW Millstone nuclear plant and then determine whether to conduct solicitations for the facility's output. Millstone is not now eligible to participate in those state-run solicitations.

The effort to support the nuclear plant, however, could still fall short this session, which ends today. The House of Representatives has until midnight to vote on the bill.

Supporters of the nuclear plant applauded the measure, which they said would not create new state subsidies for Dominion but instead allow the company to secure long-term contracts with utilities.

"I believe that this is a good opportunity for us to solve a problem going forward, and to secure our energy baseload," said senator Paul Formica (R), whose district includes the plant.

Dominion said it is pleased the legislature "continues to value the importance of the carbon-free, round-the-clock electricity produced by Millstone."

The bill the Senate adopted is a shift from previous versions of the proposal, which either would have immediately allowed Millstone participate in power supply solicitations issued by Connecticut regulators or required utilities to buy zero-emissions credits from the facility, mirroring nuclear support programs in New York and Illinois.

Opponents of the bill said they were not pleased with how the new bill took shape and questioned whether Dominion needs to help.

"I do not like being bullied, and that is what is happening," said senator Gary Winfield (D), who co-chairs the Energy and Technology Committee.

Winfield said that Dominion representatives "have come here and refused to show that there is something wrong."

Without state support, Dominion has argued that they may be forced to close their nuclear assets amid competition from natural gas. Millstone provides almost half of Connecticut's total electricity load and nearly all of its emissions-free power generation. The loss of the plant could hurt Connecticut's ability to meet its obligations under the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a nine-state program to reduce CO2 from the power sector.