Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Nuclear Energy Caucus Hears Testimony On Jobs, Environmental Impacts Of Closing Nuclear Power Plants

The bipartisan Senate-House Nuclear Energy Caucus Wednesday heard from several labor leaders on the impact prematurely closing nuclear power plants in Pennsylvania would have on labor, the economy and the environment.
Martin Williams, Boilermakers Local Lodge 13 in Philadelphia, noted Pennsylvania’s nuclear power plants provide nearly 16,000 direct and indirect jobs, including 1,400 full-time workers employed at Three Mile Island and Beaver Valley plants, two plants that have been slated for closure unless action is taken.
Collectively, the five nuclear plants in Pennsylvania contribute $2 billion to the state’s economy and pay over $400 million in state and federal taxes.
“For years, Boilermakers have acknowledged the realities of climate change and have successfully advocated at the state and federal level for solutions which simultaneously allow for the responsible use of all of our domestic energy resources, maintenance of a diverse energy portfolio, and job creation.
“We were very pleased to see expansion of the federal 45Q carbon capture tax credit, which incentivizes investment in carbon capture utilization and storage projects, included in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 and believe it will lead to wider deployment of state-of-the-art, low carbon energy projects.
“Consistent with our position, we also believe that preservation of existing nuclear generation is essential to any plan to reduce carbon emissions.
“Pennsylvania's five nuclear plants are responsible for over 90 percent of the state's zero emission energy and helps avoid 37 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year, which is the equivalent to taking 8 million passenger cars off the road.'
“A recent report from the NorthBridge Group' stated that replacing Pennsylvania's nuclear fleet with other carbon dioxide-emitting sources would increase carbon dioxide emissions by 52 million metric tons per year and reverse all of the reductions Pennsylvania has experienced over the past ten years.
“Moreover, the same report estimates that replacing Pennsylvania's nuclear fleet with zero emissions renewables would require 24x the current amount of wind and solar in Pennsylvania and cost at least $4 billion per year over the next 20 years to maintain current carbon dioxide emission levels.
“The challenges facing Pennsylvania's nuclear power plants are part of a larger, national problem of energy market shifts and low electricity prices placing nuclear power at a disadvantage and must be addressed soon.
“Recognizing the potential negative economic and environmental impacts to their states, Illinois, New York, and recently, New Jersey all took action to preserve their existing nuclear power- generating assets, and we urge the Pennsylvania General Assembly to do the same—especially given Pennsylvania's current status as the second largest nuclear power-producing state.”
Joe Gusler, President Central Pennsylvania Building & Construction Trades Council, noted Three Mile Island employs 675 people directly through Exelon.
“These are highly-skilled, good paying jobs with benefits. Add the thousands of tradesmen and women who do maintenance and outage work at TMI. Many of these skilled and well-trained workers also live locally.
“These employees support our local communities. Their children go to school here. They shop in local stores. They eat at local restaurants. They give back to their communities. Losing these jobs alone would have a huge, negative impact on local economies.
He pointed to the closure of the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Generating Station closure as a “cautionary tale.”
“When Vermont Yankee closed, the jobs and the tax revenue disappeared and have not returned. Employees were forced to retire or move to find similar jobs in other states. Housing prices dropped.
“Also, in response to the closure, property taxes were raised by 20 percent to help replace lost tax revenue. The municipal budget was cut by 20 percent, including the elimination of the town’s local police department.
“Economic impact studies can forecast the nature and scale of losses, but there are no targeted programs or funding that exist to support nuclear host communities after a plant closure. Community leaders in Vermont realized that it was up to the region to take action because no help would be offered.
“You may have heard this before, but I bet the members of the PA House and Senate would jump at the opportunity to help if I said we were creating 16,000 new jobs in Pennsylvania. What we are asking for is your help in saving 16,000 good paying jobs in Pennsylvania.”
Kris Anderson, International Representative IBEW Third District, said, “The IBEW represents men and women who work in all phases of the nuclear industry. Whether it be the men and women who man the plant on a daily basis, where the IBEW represents about 500 members at the Beaver Valley plant, the members who go to the plant during scheduled outages to perform maintenance, LU 712 supplied about 50,000-man-hours in 2016 alone, or the hard-working individuals at various manufacturing plants throughout the Western Pennsylvania area.
“Throughout the area, the IBEW represents roughly 500 men and women at several manufacturing plants. This doesn’t include the several other International Unions that represent people as well.
“All told, these nuclear plants have played an integral part to Western Pennsylvania for the better part of the last 60 years. We have developed some of the best technologies still in use today. The jobs and skills that have been developed in response to nuclear industry’s demands have made the quality of life better for everyone in the Commonwealth.
“As a lifelong resident of the Western Pennsylvania, I can attest that we do not need a case study of what happens when a large industry exits an area. From the banks of the Ohio river, to all along the Susquehanna, these nuclear generation stations have been great neighbors in our communities.”
Steve Knoebel, President IBEW representing workers at the Talen Energy Susquehanna Nuclear Power Plant, also provided comments at the hearing saying state help was urgently needed to preserve good-paying jobs.
Click Here to watch a video of the hearing (when posted) and for written testimony.
Senators Ryan Aument (R-Lancaster) and John Yudichak (D-Luzerne) along with Representatives Becky Corbin (R-Chester) and Rob Matzie (D-Allegheny) serve as co-chairs of the Nuclear Energy Caucus.
For more information on past hearings and actions, visit the Senate-House Nuclear Energy Caucus webpage.
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