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« When "FirstEnergy says PUC vote assures Davis-Besse operation for several years," Beyond Nuclear begs to differ | Main | Nuclear robber barons, riding radioactive white elephants: PSC approves Exelon takeover of Pepco, against the will of D.C.! »
Wednesday
Apr062016

Resistance continues against nuke industry mega-money grabs

"Burning Money" graphic art by Gene Case, Avenging AngelsNuclear power industry attempted ratepayer robberies are coming to a head all across the country, and there is a mix of good news and bad. See updates below about the continued resistance against the nuclear lobby's money grabs, in an effort to prop up dirty, dangerously age-degraded, and uncompetitive atomic reactors:

FirstEnergy in Ohio

As reported by Midwest Energy News, the fight against ratepayer bailouts for age-degraded, uncompetitive electric plants in Ohio -- including FirstEnergy's dangerously deteriorating Davis-Besse atomic reactor -- "isn't over." The resistance could soon move to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Opponents include the renewable energy industry, electric generation competitors, the Office of the Ohio Consumers' Counsel (which has estimated that FENOC's bailout alone will top $3.9 billion, with a large share of that going to prop up Davis-Besse), and environmental groups such as Environmental Defense Fund, and Ohio Environmental Council.

Sierra Club, represented by Earthjustice in the PUCO proceeding, has stood steadfast against the FENOC bailout. A few years ago, Sierra Club joined an environmental coalition, including Beyond Nuclear, Citizens Environment Alliance of Southwestern Ontario (CEA), and Don't Waste Michigan (DWM), in opposing Davis-Besse's risky, experimental steam generator replacements. Sierra Club also filed a friend of the court brief at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, in support of Beyond Nuclear et al.'s legal challenge to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's Nuclear Waste Confidence/Continued Storage of Spent Nuclear Fuel policy.

Beyond Nuclear, along with CEA and DWM, as well as the Ohio Green Party, have officially intervened against Davis-Besse's 2017-2037 license extension since 2010.

Beyond Nuclear and DWM issued a press release in response to the PUCO's bad decision, listing the numerous, large ticket capital expenses Davis-Besse faces in the near future, by its own documented admissions. (See the Word version for functioning URL links.)

The press release quotes the environmental coalition's legal counsel, Toledo attorney Terry Lodge: The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) chained and shackled Ohio ratepayers with a burdensome "Pig in a Poke" known as Davis-Besse.

The Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis has also published a scathing critique of the PUCO's bailout approval. IEEFA is based in Cleveland, OH.

Exelon in Washington, D.C. and Maryland

The 30-day clock is ticking down for parties to the District of Columbia Public Service Commission's (DC PSC) outrageous, legally-dubious approval of Exelon's $6.8 billion takeover of Mid-Atlantic utility Pepco. DC was the last hurdle, as PSCs in MD, DE, NJ, and VA, as well as DOJ and FERC had already approved the objectionable takeover.

PowerDC, the grassroots coalition of environmental, public interest, and ratepayer protection groups, has issued an action alert urging folks pressure D.C. consumer advocate, Office of People's Counsel Sandra Mattavous-Frye, and D.C. Attorney General, Karl Racine, to protect the residents and ratepayers of the District of Columbia, by resisting the DC PSC's "shocking mistake" and "erroneous decision."

Exelon's motivations are thinly veiled. As DC PSC Chairman Betty Ann Kane, who consistently opposed the takeover for the past two years, has put it:

The stated motive of the sellers is to increase PHI [Pepco Holdings, Inc.] shareholder value. The motive of the buyers is to add regulated revenue to prop up Exelon's failure to pay dividends to its shareholders. However the needs of Pepco's customers and the District are for a safe, reliable, modern electricity delivery distribution system at a just and reasonable cost. I vote No. (emphasis added)

As reported by the Baltimore Sun, resistance to Exelon's takeover of Pepco continues in Maryland as well:

Opponents of the deal in Maryland expressed disappointment that the D.C. commissioners removed what had been the merger's final hurdle.

Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh "remains fundamentally opposed to the merger, because he believes it does not benefit consumers and it stifles efficiency, innovation and the adoption of alternative energy sources," spokesman David Nitkin said in an email.

Frosh plans to review the commission's ruling and determine any next steps.

Paula Carmody, the Maryland People's Counsel, said she expects the deal to come back to the Maryland Public Service Commission for further review. A clause in the Maryland commission's terms with Exelon and Pepco allows it to seek further benefits for utility customers in the state if the companies agree to more generous terms elsewhere.

"We will be pursuing all that we can on behalf of our customers to make sure they at least have equal benefits," Carmody said.

The Maryland PSC approved the deal in May based on conditions that included $100 bill credits for customers of Pepco in Maryland's Washington suburbs and its subsidiary Delmarva Power on the Eastern Shore. It was not immediately clear how the D.C. commission's terms compared with those imposed in Maryland, Carmody said.

Opponents of the deal plan to continue pursuing a legal challenge to Maryland's approval of the merger, Carmody said.

Last June, the Office of the People's Counsel, Maryland's consumer advocate, along with the Sierra Club and Chesapeake Climate Action Network, filed a lawsuit challenging the decision in the Circuit Court of Queen Anne's County, which is served by Delmarva Power. After a judge there rejected the lawsuit, the groups appealed to Maryland's Court of Special Appeals.

Exelon in Illinois

As reported by Crain's Chicago Business, Exelon's lobbyists are begging Illinois' governor, and state legislators, for a massive $1.6 billion bailout, to prop up five dangerously age-degraded, uncompetitive atomic reactors that would otherwise be closed.

And, as reported by Midwest Energy News, Exelon has a new ally in its money grab campaign: the Orwellian-named, nuclear industry front group, Environmental Progress Illinois, including pro-nuclear advocate Michael Shellenberger of Breakthrough Institute and "Pandora's Promise" infamy.

Joining the pro-nuke PR love fest in Chicago was climate scientist James Hansen, who for many years has refused to debate carbon-free, nuclear-free advocates, despite repeated requests. Now, in addition to Hansen's calls for non-existent, pie-in-the-sky, and even demonstrably failed Generation IV reactors, he is now calling for public subsidies for age-degraded Generation II reactors, such as Exelon's failing four-decade-old fleet in Illinois. Hansen has never responded to more than 300 environmental and clean energy groups, led by Civil Society Institute and NIRS, urging him to reconsider the unacceptable opportunity costs his nuclear power relapse would represent. This is not to mention nuclear power's non-starter status as a climate solution, given its astronomical costs, glacially slow deployment, and long list of its own insurmountable risks, as amply documented by IEER a decade ago.

As it has done for 35 years in the belly of the nuclear power beast, Nuclear Energy Information Service (NEIS) of Chicago confronted Shellenberger, Hansen, and their Exelon backers directly at the event. NEIS executive director Dave Kraft asked Hansen why he won't address the work of Dr. Arjun Makhijani of IEER, but got no answer.

IEER President, Dr. Arjun Makhijani, author of the 2007 Carbon-Free and Nuclear-Free: A Roadmap for U.S. Energy Policy, recently joined Dr. Mark Jacobson of Stanford University in a NIRS-sponsored telebriefing. Both confirmed that a carbon-free, nuclear-free energy system in the U.S. and worldwide is not only doable, but essentional for saving the climate.

Joe Romm at Center for American Progress has also written a good piece, "Why James Hansen is Wrong about Nuclear Power."

Michael Mariotte, President of NIRS and founder of the GreenWorld blog, has just posted this in response to Shellenberger and Hansen's shenanigans in Chicago:

New on GreenWorld. How low can they go? Hansen, Shellenberger now shilling for Exelon http://safeenergy.org/2016/04/06/how-low-can-they-go/

Seriously, do Hansen and Shellenberger really intend to argue that the world’s climate depends on whether three midwestern nuclear reactors stay open or not? Especially when, to the extent their power needs to be replaced at all it will not be replaced by coal (check out the growing list of coal bankruptcies, there won’t be any new coal plants in Illinois) but to some limited and temporary extent by gas and over the longer and larger term by clean energy. Genuinely clean energy. The kind that doesn’t routinely spew out toxic radiation into the air and water nor create lethal radioactive waste that–their protestations to the contrary–there is not yet, and may not be for centuries, a scientifically-responsible and publicly-acceptable storage solution.

Entergy Nuclear and Constellation Energy (Exelon & Electricite de France) in New York

As reported at Syracuse.com, Exelon is seeking bailouts from Upstate New York ratepayers. As in IL, Exelon is threatening to close its three Lake Ontario shoreline reactors -- Ginna, Nine Mile Point Unit 1, and Nine Mile Point Unit 2 -- unless the State of New York PSC bails them out, and soon. (On April 1, 2014, Constellation Energy Nuclear Group, LLC's five reactors in MD and NY -- Calvert Cliffs Units 1 & 2, Ginna, and Nine Mile Point Units 1 & 2, joined Exelon Nuclear's fleet. CENG is a joint venture between Exelon and Electricite de France, EDF. The French government is the majority shareholder in EDF.)

However, despite Governor Andrew Cuomo's and other elected officials' protestations, Entergy Nuclear's decision to permanently shut the FitzPatrick atomic reactor (a Fukushima Daiichi twin design, General Electric Mark I Boiling Water Reactor) immediately adjacent to Nine Mile Point nuclear power plant appears to be irreversible: Jan. 27, 2017 has been set as the shutdown date, and Entergy has even gone so far as to withdraw License Amendment Requests from Nuclear Regulatory Commission consideration, that would have been necessary to continue operating the dangerously age-degraded reactor.

Alliance for a Green Economy (AGREE) has taken a lead in organizing against Gov. Cuomo's "Nuclear Blank Check," intended to prop up FitzPatrick and other Upstate NY nukes under the guise of a "Clean Energy Standard." Joining with NIRS, AGREE has urged Cuomo and U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer (the presumptive Democratic Leader in the U.S. Senate beginning next January) to "Let FitzPatrick Close." NIRS and AGREE prepared a white paper entitled REPLACING FITZPATRICK: How the Closure of a Nuclear Reactor can Reduce Greenhouse Gasses and Radioactive Waste, while Creating Jobs and Supporting the Local Economy.

AGREE and Citizens' Environmental Coalition (CEC) have likewise continued to watchdog the Ginna subsidization, which hopefully will end with Ginna's permanent closure in spring 2017.

On April 5th, AGREE provided a hopeful update on the ongoing resistance to these nuclear bailouts in Upstate NY.

For its part, while Entergy Nuclear seems to have pulled the plug on FitzPatrick, it is clearly focused on keeping its cash cow, Indian Point Units 2 & 3, operating -- including with public subsidies. If Gov. Cuomo's PSC attempts to exclude Indian Point from subsidization, Entergy is likely to file a lawsuit against the state.

To his credit, Gov. Cuomo has been very active and long sought the closure of Indian Point, given the impossibility of evacuating 20 million people within a 50-mile radius, in the event of a radioactive catastrophe. State agencies, following Cuomo's leadership, have demanded that Indian Point install cooling towers, at a cost of many hundreds of millions of dollars, if it wishes to operate for 20 more years. Each year, Indian Point kills billions of fish, by sucking them in with Hudson River water for cooling purposes, then discharges them, and superheated water, back out.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's has not only led the state's intervention before the NRC Atomic Safety and Licensing Board in opposition to Indian Point's 20 year license extension, but also its challenge against NRC's Nuclear Waste Confidence policy.

But Cuomo's concern about metro New York City should also apply in Upstate New York. Residents of the Lake Ontario shoreline, and even much further inland, are hemmed in by the lake to the north, and by the Canadian border to the west.

Dominion Nuclear in Connecticut

The nuclear money grab now extends to CT! On March 24th, Judi Friedman with PACE (People's Action for Clean Energy) in CT put out the following; please help spread the word to anyone you may know in CT:

ALERT: please write! Dominion wants ratepayer dollars for Millstone

CT's Nuke operators are back for another handout at the last minute!!

Millstone owners and nuclear power leaders have been recklessly uneconomic from the start. We are still paying massive cost overruns at MILLSTONE III. The only reason nuclear power exists is the subsidization of every aspect of the industry by all of us!

Our nuclear plants are aging and therefore dangerous! Our nuclear plants continually emit low level radiation into the water and air! Our nuclear plants are terrorist targets! Our nuclear plants are not carbon free. Carbon is used in the milling and mining and transport of uranium, for backup generation in case of failure and many other purposes. Dominion has already closed other plants.

Germany has responded to the Fukushima disaster by planning to shut down nuclear reactors because of their smart early and widespread adoption of solar, other renewables and energy efficiency. The longer we delay shared solar and investment in clean energy the more vulnerable we are to extortion claims like this. THIS IS EXTORTION!
Today: Thursday at 1 pm there will be an informational forum about possible ratepayer subsidies to support Millstone, because the power it produces now costs more relative to other sources, as natural gas prices have declined.  More about it in  CT Mirror article here:  http://ctmirror.org/2016/03/23/nuclear-powers-future-in-connecticut-is-on-the-table/#

 

What you can do:

Attend the hearing if you can:  1 pm, Room 1D, Legislative Office Building (notice and agenda below).  If you plan to testify, it will likely be later in the afternoon -- see info below about signing up and copies
Watch the hearing on CT-N:  it will be broadcast on one of CT-N's live streams (http://www.ct-n.com/)
Email testimony to the Committee:  Testimony may be submitted anytime to this address:  ettestimony@cga.ct.gov    Tell  the Committee  how you feel about nuclear power plants in Connecticut  and subsidizing them !

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The Energy and Technology Committee will hold an informational forum, with public comment, on "The Adequacy of Energy Supplies Including Nuclear Power in the State" on Thursday, March 24, 2016 at 1:00 P.M. in Room 1D of the LOB. Public speakers will be limited to three minutes of testimony. The Committee encourages witnesses to submit a written statement and to condense oral testimony to a summary of that statement. Sign-ups for the forum will begin at 11:00 A.M. in Room 3900 of the LOB.
Please submit 30 copies of written testimony to the staff. Unofficial sign-up sheets have no standing with the Committee. All public testimony, written and spoken, is public information. As such, it will be made available on the CGA website and indexed by internet search engines.