Senate Sends Millstone Bill To House In Final Hours
HARTFORD, CT — The House still needed some time Wednesday to decide whether they will move forward with legislation that allows the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to survey the energy market.
The legislation that passed the Senate 23-9 at 2:22 a.m. Wednesday morning is expected to benefit the Millstone Nuclear Power Plant, whose operator, Dominion Energy has warned repeatedly about the trouble nuclear energy faces.
“There’s very strong opinions on both sides,” House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, said Wednesday morning.
But Aresimowicz said he was sleeping when the Senate passed the legislation so he doesn’t want to pass judgment on a bill he hasn’t read. He expects to break this afternoon and discuss the bill with his members.
House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, said Millstone is just asking for legislation to allow them to stay in Connecticut and thrive. She said she doesn’t believe that’s a heavy lift.
“Millstone is a company that creates jobs. They just want us to allow them to compete,” Klarides said.
Some Democrats in the Senate said they felt “bullied” into voting for the legislation without understanding whether it was truly necessary.
“I don’t like being bullied,” Sen. Gary Winfield, D-New Haven, said Wednesday.
He said Dominion Energy has refused to show that there is something wrong and it needs the state to step in and create a process. Several Democrats have called on the company to show the Public Utility Regulatory Authority its finances, but the company has declined.
“If we don’t do this there’s an implied threat,” Winfield said of the legislation.
When it looked as if the legislation was dead earlier this week, Kevin Hennessy, New England State Policy Director for Dominion Resources Inc., issued a statement saying that “if Connecticut chooses not to act, we will begin a strategic reassessment of our plans for Millstone Power Station,.”
Dominion wanted the ability to bid directly for energy contracts, but the watered-down legislation the Senate approved Wednesday morning only allows the DEEP Commissioner to survey the market and allow for an open competitive bidding process, if it sees fit.
“We don’t know what the future holds if there is inaction,” Hennessy said Wednesday.
He said they have only relayed the “truth” to Connecticut lawmakers about the hurdles nuclear energy faces.
“We’ve simply told the truth and gotten it out there and now it’s their decision as policymakers to act,” Hennessy said.
Sen. Beth Bye, D-West Hartford, said Dominion shouldn’t be allowed to come to the legislature and ask for special treatment in order to avoid regulators.
“Let them go to ISO New England. Let them make a rate case,” Bye said.
She said just a few years ago Millstone was the “most profitable nuclear power plant in the northeast.”
She said one analyst report released June 3 shows Dominion Energy is seeing a 13 percent increase in revenues in 2017. She said she realizes Millstone is just part of Dominion Energy, but she’s not convinced they need the help.
Another analyst report released this week said “assuming Millstone legislation fails this week, we expect Dominion to become more assertive regarding the future prospects of Millstone.”
It goes onto say that “although Dominion has not threatened to retire Millstone, there is a point where the economic risk-reward begins to lean in favor of plant closure.”
Still some lawmakers expressed frustration and uncertainty about who to believe when it comes to complicated subjects like energy policy.
“We’re going to get screwed either way,” Sen. Ed Gomes, D-Bridgeport, said summing up his remarks.