A coalition of local and national environmental groups, including NRDC, today formally urged the New Jersey Legislature to take the time needed to determine whether the state’s nuclear plants require financial support, and if so to craft an approach that is narrowly tailored and fully protective of employees, communities, and the environment.
In our joint letter with the New Jersey Conservation Foundation and Environmental Defense Fund to every member of the Senate and Assembly, we reaffirmed that there is no urgency around this issue:
“There is no good environmental or public policy reason to advance a stand-alone subsidy for nuclear power plants during a rushed lame duck session.”
Even PSEG CEO Ralph Izzo recently testified that the Salem and Hope Creek Nuclear Generating Stations in Salem County would not face financial distress for at least two to three years, and neither he nor anyone else who testified at a recent legislative hearing made a case for urgent action. Nevertheless, PSEG is plowing forward to rush through a nuclear subsidy without the public review that a policy of this magnitude warrants. The price tag could run to at least $400 million each year.
Insiders report that PSEG fearmongering is taking hold; legislators fear that if they fail to pass a lame-duck bill, PSEG will shutter the plants and put 1,600 people out of work in South Jersey.
Nothing could be further from the truth. The plants are not going to shut down tomorrow. And the public hearing revealed that a broad spectrum of stakeholders overwhelmingly support keeping the plants open. The state has plenty of time to figure out the smartest way to do that, ideally in the context of the ambitious clean energy agenda that Governor-elect Murphy has committed to deliver.
Meanwhile, no bill has even been introduced for the public or anyone else to review. Yet, outgoing Gov. Chris Christie has signaled he’ll sign it—as long as it isn’t “larded up” with amendments. And that includes protections for workers and communities should the uneconomic plants eventually close.
Another focus of the fearmongering is environmental impacts. PSEG has raised alarm that if New Jersey does not enact a subsidy now, it will close the nuclear plants and fossil fuel-fired power plants will step in to replace them, substantially increasing pollution and creating more pressure to build natural gas pipelines in the state.
Again, since the plants are in no immediate danger, none of this is going to happen any time soon and we have plenty of time to prevent it. We need that time to craft a comprehensive plan to ensure New Jersey meets its long-term pollution reduction goals and that, when these aging and uneconomical plants eventually do close—whether that is 5, 10 or 15 years from now—PSEG takes care of its employees and the communities that are home to its plants.
If you haven’t reviewed our issue brief yet, it sets out best practices for crafting such a plan, based on the experience in other states. We hope the legislature will take up our offer to roll up sleeves and help them develop a plan that reflects these best practices and will set a model for the nation.