TMI Update: Jan 14, 2024


Did you catch "The Meltdown: Three Mile Island" on Netflix?
TMI remains a danger and TMIA is working hard to ensure the safety of our communities and the surrounding areas.
Learn more on this site and support our efforts. Join TMIA. To contact the TMIA office, call 717-233-7897.

    

Gannett | THOMAS C. ZAMBITO, NEW YORK STATE TEAM


The Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Thursday cited Holtec International for dipping into ratepayer funds meant for the teardown of the Indian Point nuclear power plant for $63,000 to sponsor baseball and softball teams, a golf outing and a high school fashion show.

The NRC said the payments “do not constitute legitimate decommissioning activities” and gave Holtec 30 days to respond to a violation notice.

Holtec has been told to reimburse the money taken out of roughly $2 billion in decommissioning trust funds it inherited after buying the lower Hudson Valley nuclear plant from Louisiana-based Entergy in May 2021.

The money in the funds come largely from fees collected from ratepayers during the plant’s 60 years of operation.

The payments turned up during an NRC review of financial records and interviews with company officials between July 2021, when Holtec took over the plant, and June 2023.

Closing: Why Indian Point nuclear plant won't close until 2041

Where the $63,000 went

Among the organizations that received funding were a little league team, a girls softball team in the Town of Cortlandt, a fashion show at Hendrick Hudson High School, a golf outing and a parade.

“We take our responsibility as watchful stewards of the trust fund very seriously,” Holtec spokesman Patrick O’Brien said. “We are also deeply committed to our local communities we serve as part of the decommissioning process. It is in that spirit as a strong community partner that these charitable expenditures were made, as part of our regular community outreach and engagement activities. We take any violation very seriously and have already taken corrective actions to ensure the amount was restored to the trust fund, with interest, and that this issue does not recur with our future community and charitable contributions.”

Indian Point 3 and Indian Point 1 are pictured at the Indian Point Energy Center in Buchanan March 28, 2023, as the site is undergoing decommissioning by Holtec Decommissioning International.

Indian Point 3 and Indian Point 1 are pictured at the Indian Point Energy Center in Buchanan March 28, 2023, as the site is undergoing decommissioning by Holtec Decommissioning International.

The NRC also turned up an unspecified amount of decommissioning funds spent on lobbying New York state lawmakers, but chose not to issue a violation.

“The NRC determined that the lobbying efforts associated with keeping New York State legislators informed and educated about decommissioning issues at IPEC (Indian Point Energy Center) fall within the objectives in accordance with the definition of decommissioning...,” the NRC writes in a letter to Holtec president Kelly Trice.

Similarly, the NRC allowed Holtec to spend decommissioning funds for legal expenses associated with the U.S. Department of Energy’s spent fuel settlement efforts.

The DOE has agreed to pay the owners of nuclear power plants to store steel-and-cement canisters loaded with used nuclear fuel on their sites until an underground repository for the nation’s radioactive waste is built.

Critics: Indian Point shutdown was supposed to quiet anti-nuclear critics. Not a chance

More bad news for Holtec

This is the latest setback for Holtec, which last month agreed to pay New Jersey $5 million in penalties to avoid prosecution over alleged misstatements made on tax-credit applications linked to its Camden, N.J. manufacturing hub.

The tax credits for Holtec and a related real estate firm were valued at $1 million.

Spent fuel storage casks are pictured at the Indian Point Energy Center in Buchanan March 28, 2023. The site is undergoing decommissioning by Holtec Decommissioning International.

Spent fuel storage casks are pictured at the Indian Point Energy Center in Buchanan March 28, 2023. The site is undergoing decommissioning by Holtec Decommissioning International.

Holtec denied wrongdoing, noting it agreed to settle the dispute “under threat of unfounded retaliatory criminal prosecution.”

And last year, the company sparred with environmental groups over its plan to discharge millions of gallons of radioactive water recovered from the plant’s spent fuel pools into the Hudson River.

Radiation: Hochul inks Indian Point bill but radiological waste debate rages on

In November, after Gov. Kathy Hochul sided with environmental groups by signing a law banning the release, Holtec said it would need more time to finish the teardown. Instead of demolishing the plant’s three reactors and other buildings on the 240-acre site by 2033, Holtec said it will need until 2041.

The radioactive water will remain on the site while Holtec weighs a legal challenge.
 
This article originally appeared on Rockland/Westchester Journal News: Indian Point owner Holtec used ratepayer funds for sports teams, golf
https://files.constantcontact.com/abc65024401/7ee258bf-32c2-48a3-bbd6-c0cec7c545aa.jpg?rdr=true
Beyond Nuclear Bulletin
February 22, 2024

TOPPLING NUCLEAR POWER
Film's Message Applies Today
 
Fifty years ago, on February 22, 1974, a young man toppled a weather tower erected by a nuclear company planning to build a nuclear reactor in his community of Montague, Massachusetts. In doing so, Sam Lovejoy had broken the law. But, as the historian Howard Zinn testified at Lovejoy’s subsequent trial, when grievances become too deep, people sometimes have to “commit civil disobedience in order to dramatize something that was happening.” A film — Sam Lovejoy’s Nuclear War, viewable free on YouTube — tells his story. You can also hear an interview with Lovejoy on NPR’s Here and Now. Activists continue to draw attention to nuclear dangers and the climate crisis with acts of civil disobedience just as Lovejoy did half a century earlier.
 

URANIUM IMPACTS
Indigenous Peoples' Human Rights

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States will hold a historic thematic hearing in Washington, D.C. on Wed., Feb. 28 at 11am ET. Members of the Navajo Nation, Ute Nation and Oglala Lakota Nation will testify on the impacts of uranium exploitation on the human rights of Indigenous Peoples in the United States. As the United States doubles down on the misguided notion that nuclear power is a solution to the climate crisis, the uranium development industry is beginning to benefit from generous taxpayer giveaways to the nuclear industry as a whole. The hearing can be attended in person, or viewed at IACHR’s website or YouTube channel.
 

MARY OSBORN, PRESENTE!
Three Mile Island Botanist Passed on 2/19
 
Eric Epstein, executive director of Three Mile Island Alert (TMIA), shared with us the sad news that Mary Osborn has passed on. Mary was a long time member of TMIA. She gathered flowers, leaves and plants that show signs of mutations that reveal the negative impact of radiation on their growth and reproduction since shortly after the 1979 meltdown. Her full collection has been accepted by the Smithsonian Institution to be preserved, digitized, and made available to the public. Mary helped preserve and tell the truth about Three Mile Island, including at numerous conferences across the country (in Harrisburg PA, Chicago IL, and elsewhere), and in major media interviews.
 
Six years ago, Mary was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease. She had suffered a stroke, and hadn’t walked in 15 months. Her sister is relieved that Mary’s suffering is over and she’s at peace. Mary’s daughter Leslie is handling the arrangements.

 
 
 

RADIOACTIVE WASTE WARS
Permian Basin Dumps Under Fire
 
On Feb. 18, the Wall Street Journal published a lengthy article entitled "The War Over Burying Nuclear Waste in America’s Busiest Oil Field: Plans to store
used nuclear fuel in the Permian Basin could boost the nuclear sector but are opposed by oil-and-gas producers." The article featured a photo of Danny Berry, a rancher very near the Holtec site in New Mexico targeted for the world's largest high-level radioactive waste dump. He and his family are Beyond Nuclear members and supporters, who have provided us with legal standing to challenge the dump in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, with oral arguments on March 5.
 
And on Feb. 20, the Permian Basin Coalition put out a press release announcing that Andrews County, Texas passed a resolution banning highly-radioactive Greater-Than-Class-C "low-level" radioactive waste. The county has joined the coalition in opposing the plans of Waste Control Specialists and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Beyond Nuclear | 301.270.2209 | www.BeyondNuclear.org

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A mini documentary series exploring nuclear weapons, technology, and disasters.

Feds step in and look to cover some costs of NJ nuclear plants

TOM JOHNSON, ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT WRITER | FEBRUARY 22, 2024 | ENERGY & ENVIRONMENT

Financial assistance from Washington could result in refunds for utility customers


Credit: (Nuclear Regulatory Commission; CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Hope Creek generating station, Unit 1

Major federal assistance is starting to roll into New Jersey from the federal Inflation Reduction Act, a 2021 law signed by President Joe Biden designed in part to help usher in a clean-energy economy, with its impact soon to be felt by the energy sector and its customers. 

Portions of the federal law started to take effect this past January, helping trigger the Murphy administration’s order last week that New Jersey’s electric utilities stop charging customers a controversial surcharge costing $300 million a year, a step taken to avert closing of three nuclear power plants in the state. 

The state’s more than 3 million utility customers will continue to pay the charge for another 15 months. But they could also be looking at a hefty refund eventually from the owners of the three nuclear power plants in South Jersey, which provide more than one-third of the state’s electricity. 

The end of the surcharge, effective June 1, 2025, is a significant step, given the wave of increases ratepayers have absorbed in recent years as New Jersey tries to transition away from fossil fuels and fight climate change.  

Modernizing the power grid, electrifying the transportation sector, investing in solar energy and reducing energy consumption have all led to higher prices for consumers with no signs of letting up anytime soon, advocates have said. The federal aid might provide some relief. 

“That’s good news for ratepayers,’’ said state Sen. Bob Smith, a Democrat from Middlesex County who has sponsored many bills aimed at curbing emissions contributing to climate change, referring to the federal tax credits replacing the state surcharge. “It’s time to strengthen the grid.’’ 

Transition to green energy 

New Jersey’s plan to decarbonize the economy focuses on electrifying two large sectors that are the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions: transportation and buildings.  

The federal law, touted as the most ambitious climate legislation ever enacted, provides for $370 billion in investments to transition to clean energy. Among its provisions, it will provide lucrative production tax credits to the nation’s nuclear industry of approximately $30 billion. In New Jersey, its three operating nuclear units provide more than 90% of the state’s carbon-free electricity. 

Since 2019, utility ratepayers have been paying a surcharge on their monthly bills for the state’s nuclear power plants, a move that proponents argued was necessary to avert shutdown by their owners, Public Service Enterprise Group and Constellation Energy. 

At this point, neither the state Board of Public Utilities nor PSEG could say just how much the new tax credits will provide. The Internal Revenue Service issued draft guidance late last year, but it is too soon to say what its final form will be, according to a statement from the agency. 

End of ratepayer surcharge 

Since the state law creating the surcharge for the nuclear power plants stipulated any federal assistance would offset what ratepayers paid, PSEG and Constellation withdrew applications to renew the state surcharge for a new three-year cycle scheduled to begin in June 2025. 

Jesse Jenkins, an assistant professor at Princeton University, believes the eventual refund for ratepayers could be large. With interest, it may approach $450 million. 

William Smith, strategic communications manager for PSEG, said the company is still awaiting guidance from the Treasury Department on the terms needed to calculate the tax credit. “We can’t speculate on possible refunds until there’s clarity on those terms,’’ Smith said. 

But others, including clean-energy advocates were elated.  

“This is a big win for New Jersey,’’ said Doug O’Malley, director of Environment New Jersey, calling the eventual replacement of the surcharge the biggest down payment the state has received yet from the federal government to fight climate change. 

Lyle Rawlings, a longtime solar developer in Flemington, described the $300 million annual nuclear surcharge as a significant part of consumers’ monthly bill.  

“That coming off frees up a lot,’’ he said. 

Raymond Cantor, deputy government affairs director for the New Jersey Business & Industry Association, said the tax credits will help lessen the cost of the state’s and nation’s aggressive clean-energy agenda, but other big bills remain in the future.  

“Still, the price tag on everything is astronomical and unknown,’’ Cantor said. 

Nuclear Regulatory Commission - News Release
No: I-24-003 February 22, 2024
CONTACT: Diane Screnci, 610-337-5330
Neil Sheehan, 610-337-5331
 
NRC Names New Resident Inspector Beaver Valley Nuclear Power Plant
 
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has selected Alex Nugent as the resident inspector at the Beaver Valley nuclear power plant in Shippingport, Pennsylvania. He joins Senior Resident Inspector Neil Day at the two-unit site, which is operated by Energy Harbor.
 
“Alex has the technical knowledge and experience to immediately contribute to the NRC’s oversight at Beaver Valley,” said NRC Region I Administrator Ray Lorson. “We welcome him as part of the NRC inspection team at the site.”
 
Nugent joined the NRC in April 2023 at the agency’s Region I Office in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania. He began his career with the agency as a project engineer in the Division of Operating Reactors. He previously worked as a nuclear engineer at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard.
 
He earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Delaware.
 
Each operating U.S. commercial nuclear power plant has at least two NRC resident inspectors who serve as the agency’s eyes and ears at the facility, conducting inspections, monitoring safety-significant projects and interacting with plant workers and the public. Resident inspectors can serve at a reactor site for up to seven years.
 
Nuclear Regulatory Commission - News Release
No: 24-013 February 20, 2024
CONTACT: David McIntyre, 301-415-8200
 
NRC Proposes to Amend Licensing, Inspection, and Annual Fees for Fiscal Year 2024

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is seeking public comment on proposed changes to the licensing, inspection, special projects, and annual fees it will charge applicants and licensees for fiscal year 2024.
 
The proposed fee rule, published today in the Federal Register, is based on the FY 2024 Congressional Budget Justification as a full-year appropriation has not yet been enacted. The final rule will be based on the NRC’s actual appropriation, and the agency will update the final fee schedule as appropriate. The NRC’s proposed FY 2024 budget is approximately $1.01 billion. The agency would use $27.1 million in carryover funds, making the total budget authority used in the FY 2024 proposed fee rule $979.2 million, an increase of $52.1 million from FY 2023.
 
Under the Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernization Act, the NRC is required to recover approximately 100 percent of its total budget authority in FY 2024, except funds for specific excluded activities.
 
After accounting for the exclusions from the fee recovery requirement and net billing adjustments, the NRC must recover approximately $825.7 million in fees in FY 2024. Of this amount, the NRC estimates that $205.5 million will be recovered through service fees under 10 CFR Part 170 and $620.2 million through annual fees under 10 CFR Part 171.
 
Compared to FY 2023, the proposed annual fees would decrease for the operating power reactors fee class. This fee does not exceed the cap established by NEIMA. The proposed annual fees would increase for fuel facilities, spent fuel storage/reactor decommissioning activities, non- power production or utilization facilities, transportation activities for the U.S. Department of Energy, the non-DOE uranium recovery licensee, the Uranium Mill Tailings Radiation Control Act Program, and all materials users fee categories.
 
The proposed fee rule includes several other changes affecting licensees and applicants. The NRC proposes to increase the hourly rate for services from $300 to $321 for FY 2024, and license application fees would be adjusted accordingly. In addition, the proposed rule would amend NRC’s payment methods to align with the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s “No-Cash No-Check” policy, to remove paper forms of payment and provide that payments be made electronically using the methods accepted at www.pay.gov.
 
The proposed rule includes detailed instructions on how to submit written comments. Comments will be accepted through March 21.
 
Screenshot 2024-02-08 at 3.03.37 PM.png
IACHR GRANTS THEMATIC HEARING ON IMPACTS TO INDIGENOUS PEOPLES’ 
HUMAN RIGHTS FROM URANIUM EXPLOITATION
 
Historic Hearing to be Held in Washington, D.C.
Weds, Feb. 28th at 11am EST/9am MST
 
What: Inter-American Commission on Human Rights’ Thematic Hearing
 
Where: IACHR/OAS, 1889 F St. N.W., Washington, D.C. 20006
 
When: Wednesday, February 28, 2024 at 11am EST/9am MST
 
Who: Members of the Navajo Nation, Ute Nation and Oglala Lakota Nation will testify
 
Why: Impacts of Uranium Exploitation on the Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples in the United States
 
How to attend: In-person at IACHR/Organization of American States (OAS) located at 1889 F St. N.W., Washington, D.C. 20006 or watch online
on IACHR’s website https://www.oas.org/en/iachr/sessions/?S=189 or on the IACHR YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/@comisionIDH
 
This is a historic moment because it is the first time a thematic hearing has been granted to Native communities in the U.S. on this issue; it is the first time that any aspect of the U.S.'s nuclear policy has been heard before the IACHR and one of the rare times the U.S. government has been called to answer for the human rights impacts of its nuclear policy in any human rights forum.
 
In a decision that coincides with a disturbing uptick in uranium development activity, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has agreed to hold a "thematic" hearing on how U.S. uranium exploitation policies have resulted in human rights abuses in Indigenous communities across the country.
 
As the United States doubles down on the misguided notion that nuclear power is a solution to the climate crisis, the uranium development industry is beginning to benefit from generous taxpayer giveaways to the nuclear industry as a whole.  Subsidies from the Biden administration have spurred uranium mining production to restart in at least 3 mines in the last few months, in Utah, Wyoming, and in Arizona near the Grand Canyon. As has been the case since the dawn of the Atomic Age, the impacts of uranium mining are largely left out of the debate over nuclear power.
 
The thematic hearing will allow Native communities who have lived for generations with the waste from historic uranium mining and milling to hold U.S. government officials to account in a public forum for the government’s failure to address waste from uranium development in any meaningful way. 
 
●      Red Water Pond Road Community Association members Edith Hood & Teracita Keyanna from the Navajo Nation will testify about how the federal government has for generations ignored the public health, environmental and cultural crises uranium development has caused in their communities. 
 
●      Yolanda Badback, White Mesa Concerned Community, a member of a Ute Mountain Ute tribe will testify about how state and federal officials have refused to listen to their concerns about the uranium mill in their community. 
 
●      Tonia Stands, Magpie Buffalo Organizing, an Oglala Lakota community member, will testify about the difficulties of living under the threat of new uranium mining, while legacy waste remains unaddressed.
 
In addition to community testimony, the U.S. government will have the opportunity to respond, and the Commission will have the opportunity to ask community members and government officials questions. 
 
The thematic hearing will be held on February 28 in Washington, D.C. The hearing will be live-streamed on IACHR’s website and YouTube channel.
 
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights is a principal and autonomous organ of the Organization of American States (OAS) whose mission is to promote and protect human rights in the American hemisphere. It is composed of seven independent members who serve in a personal capacity. Created by the OAS in 1959, the Commission has its headquarters in Washington, D.C. Together with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, installed in 1979, the Commission is one of the institutions within the inter-American system for the protection of human rights.
 
Jonathan Perry, Coordinator, Multicultural Alliance for a Safe Environment, said, “"This is a major opportunity for frontline Indigenous communities to come forward to document the injustices they continue to endure. The legacy of the uranium mining industry continues to impact many Indigenous people across the continent without any real solutions from the US government.  We must acknowledge the negative results of nuclear and uranium development in our communities. We must also shed light on the lack of priority in providing real solutions in clean-up of uranium mining and milling waste by federal regulatory agencies. This Thematic Hearing would document the consequences of the U.S. government in their continued violations of human rights within their own policies and regulations."
 
Edith Hood, President, Red Water Pond Road Community Association, said, “Nahasdzáán ShimáMother Earth—provides everything we need to  keep us alive—the four things we Navajos talk about —air, water, soil, and light—and it is our home. We have been living with this silent killer without knowing the dangers. Once the mining started, after the drilling, we didn’t realize we were being contaminated. We didn’t understand what we couldn’t see, smell or touch. When we were children playing and herding sheep we didn’t understand we were being exposed to dangerous radiation. I worked for a few years at the Kerr McGee Mine but the officials said we were in no danger. After the mining we really started to notice the problem, the health issues and concerns. Cancer and breathing problems especially in children and childhood diseases were becoming prevalent. Multiple family members started having liver issues.  We found out our soil was contaminated in 2003. 21 years later and we are still at it with nothing happening. There have been generational impacts from the uranium  industry. We thank the IACHR commissioners for listening to us, when our own tribal government doesn’t listen to us. The Tribal government put us at this risk but never came back to check on the people and the land.”
 
Larry King, ENDAUM, said, “We only have one Mother Earth, and as stewards, we ALL have a responsibility to protect Mother Earth if we are to leave a healthy environment for our future generations to benefit from.”
 
Eric Jantz, Legal Director, New Mexico Environmental Law Center (NMELC), said, “For decades, the U.S. government’s dismal human rights record related to uranium exploitation in indigenous communities has been overlooked, ignored and suppressed.  This will be the first time the U.S. government has been called on to explain why U.S. uranium policy continues to destroy native communities.” 
 
For more information:
 
Eric Jantz, Legal Director, New Mexico Environmental Law Center, (505) 980-5239, ejantz@nmelc.org
 
 
Jonathan Perry, Coordinator, Multicultural Alliance for a Safe Environment (MASE), (505) 979-1027, jperry@swuraniumimpacts.org
 
 
--
Susan Schuurman
She/her or They/them
Communications Manager
New Mexico Environmental Law Center
722 Isleta Blvd. SW
Albuquerque, NM 87105
"Stay safe, stay well, raise hell"
EASTHAM: THIS WEEK'S CURRENTS

Meetings Ahead
BY  

Most meetings are being held in person, but some are still remote or virtual. Go to eastham-ma.gov/calendar-by-event-type/16 and click on the meeting you are interested in to learn about meeting locations and any remote options that may be offered.

Thursday, Sept. 16

  • Affordable Housing Trust, 11 a.m., virtual
  • Housing Authority, 4 p.m., Small Meeting Room, Eastham Rec. Dept.
  • T-Time Committee Public Forum, 5 p.m., virtual

Monday, Sept. 20

  • Strategic Planning Committee, 3 p.m.

Tuesday, Sept. 21

  • Historical Commission workshop, 10:30 a.m., Public Library
  • Elementary School Committee, 4 p.m.
  • T-Time Development Committee, 5 p.m., Town Hall

Wednesday, Sept. 22

  • T-Time Committee Public Forum #2, 5 p.m., Salt Pond Visitor Center Amphitheater

Conversation Starters

Vacancies in the Firehouse

At the select board’s meeting this past Monday, Town Administrator Jacqui Beebe announced the retirement of Fire Chief Kent Farrenkopf. His retirement comes after nearly six years as Eastham chief and more than 37 years in total service. Beebe said she is heartbroken about the news and left his letter on her desk for two days before reading it. She called Farrenkopt a “very fine chief.”

Chief Farrenkopf will be replaced by Deputy Chief Dan Keene, who was hired in 2018.

The town now has three openings in the firehouse following two other recent resignations. Beebe said one of the departures was for personal reasons while another department employee is moving out of state.

Select board chair Arthur Autorino asked whether Beebe thought the search would be successful. “I’ve heard they’re very hard to fill, these openings,” he said. Beebe responded that it’s a difficult job and a “long haul” for anyone looking to become certified. Applicants must be certified EMTs or paramedics, complete the Entry Level Firefighter I and I certification, and attend the Mass. Fire Academy, according to the job description.

Assistant Town Administrator and Finance Director Rich Bienvenue called the openings a “long-term problem” affecting the entire town across departments. Select board member Jamie Demetri agreed, saying she felt the issue was larger than simply filling the positions in the present moment but rather that “people who work for the town can’t afford to live in the town.” —Cam Blair

With Washington poised to pick up the annual $300M subsidy, residents and commercial customers will see smaller monthly electric bills


Credit: (peretzp via Creative Commons CC BY-SA 2.0)
More on the nuclear subsidies


READ ALSO
Will feds cover some costs of keeping NJ’s nuclear plants open?


READ ALSO
Ratepayers remain on hook for nuclear subsidies — for now


READ ALSO
PSEG says without $300M ratepayer nuclear subsidy, it will close South Jersey plants

The Hope Creek nuclear power-generating plant in Salem County

An unpopular surcharge on every New Jersey utility customer’s monthly bill — amounting to $70 annually for the typical homeowner and much more for manufacturers — will end next year when the state eliminates a $300 million annual subsidy aimed to keep its three nuclear plants from closing. 


 

The state Board of Public Utilities on Wednesday adopted an order directing the utilities to stop collecting the surcharge, effective June 1, 2025. The subsidy, enacted in 2019 after a bitter legislative fight, has raised about a half-billion dollars thus far, for Public Service Enterprise Group and Constellation Energy, the owners of the units in South Jersey. 

The energy companies had submitted applications to the BPU to continue the surcharge for another three years but decided to withdraw from the process in late November. No one else applied for the subsidy, dubbed zero-emission certificates (ZECs), leading the agency to cancel a third round of any ratepayer-supported subsidies. 

Feds to pick up tab  

PSEG and Constellation are expected to replace the subsidy with federally funded production tax credits (PTCs) created by Congress and the Biden administration. In a statement, PSEG said while the rules from the U.S. Treasury Department still have not been issued, the company is confident that the PTC will proceed as intended and sufficiently support the nuclear generating units. 

 

The three nuclear plants — Salem I, Salem II, and Hope Creek — are an integral part of the Murphy administration’s clean-energy plan, providing 30% of the carbon-free electricity in the state. If they stopped operating, New Jersey would never achieve its aggressive goals of cutting carbon pollution by 80% below 2006 levels by 2050, according to state officials. 

‘This wasn’t needed. Now, with federal dollars kicking in, it should end sooner and give ratepayers a break.’ — Jeff Tittel, longtime environmental activist 

PSEG won the subsidies in 2019 after a long legislative battle that began during the Christie administration and was achieved early in Gov. Phil Murphy’s term. PSEG repeatedly threatened to close the plants, which employ more than 6,000 people, if state aid was not forthcoming.

 

In withdrawing their applications, the companies are counting on winning lucrative production tax credits from the Biden administration’s Inflation Reduction Act, a law passed by Congress in 2021. The tax credits are expected to be available sometime this year. 

Big bills for big businesses  

Currently, the surcharge amounts to roughly $70 a year for typical residential customers but can run as much as tens of thousands of dollars or much more for businesses that use a lot of energy. At the time the surcharge was adopted, at least six nuclear plants had shut down, unable to compete with cheaper sources of electricity, primarily natural gas. 

The surcharge was widely supported by major business groups and many prominent environmental organizations, primarily as nuclear was the largest source of zero-emission electricity at the time. 

Dennis Hart, executive director of the Chemistry Industry Council of New Jersey, noted manufacturers pay an added $78,000 to $586,000 because of the surcharge.

At the same time, the Division of Rate Counsel, an independent monitor for the regional power grid, and consumer advocates argued unsuccessfully that the plants were profitable and did not need any subsidy, a stance endorsed by a consultant hired by the BPU. The agency nevertheless approved an initial three-year subsidy, followed by a second one in 2021.

Jeff Tittel, a longtime environmental activist who was president of the state’s Sierra Club at the time, said the ZEC program should have never been approved.

“This wasn’t needed. Now, with federal dollars kicking in, it should end sooner and give ratepayers a break,’’ he said. 

The board had no comment on Wednesday in cancelling the third round of funding for ZECs.  

The right time for a rate reduction  

But the pending cut in utility bills is viewed by many as a positive step, given a series of rate increases approved by the agency as part of the clean-energy transition and push to modernize the power grid. 

‘It’s very good news,’’ said Brian Lipman, director of the Division of Rate Counsel a vocal critic of rising electric and gas bills. “For three years, this surcharge will fall off customers’ bills and hopefully will stay off.’’ 

In its order, the BPU left the door open for a fourth eligibility period to qualify for ZECs, beginning June 1, 2028 and ending May 31, 2031. “Who knows what happens three years from now? Who knows if the nuclear plants need subsidies or not?’’ asked Lipman. 

PSEG noted it would revisit the need for ZECs if federal support for the industry is insufficient. 

Dennis Hart, executive director of the Chemistry Industry Council of New Jersey, noted manufacturers pay an added $78,000 to $586,000 because of the surcharge. “These rates are unsustainable, and the reductions will go a long way towards maintaining the important jobs and economic benefits of manufacturing in New Jersey,’’ he said. 

Under state law, any money received from the federal government is to be used to offset the cost of the ratepayer surcharge, if both are awarded at the same time. There is $30 billion available under the federal production tax credit. 

Rich Henning, president of the New Jersey Utilities Association, said this is what many energy officials have been seeking for some time. “From a standpoint of customers, utilities and power companies, it is a win all the way around,’’ he said. 

“It highlights the federal support for nuclear power,’’ said Paul Patterson, an energy analyst at Glenrock Associates. 

In the meantime, energy rates continue to rise elsewhere. The BPU approved an $85 million increase in revenue for Jersey Central Power & Light, a step that will raise bills for its customers by an average of $4 a month per homeowner. In addition, New Jersey Natural Gas filed a $225 million rate petition with the BPU, which will, if approved, raise rates by $29 a month. 

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