Battle Over Millstone Nuclear Plant Rages On
HARTFORD, CT — With no state budget in place, various groups who saw their bills die during the regular session are looking to resurrect their legislation through budget implementation language.
One of the groups vying to have their legislation added to the budget language is Dominion Energy. The owners of the Millstone Nuclear Power Station in Waterford want to be able to bid directly on energy contracts with the state to better compete against other forms of energy, essentially cutting out the middleman.
But the owners of natural gas-powered electricity generating facilities and two utilities are opposed, and they are trying to make sure Dominion doesn’t get what it wants in a budget package.
To that end, the gas generating companies and Connecticut’s two largest utilities wrote a letter to lawmakers asking them to exclude Millstone from any budget implementation language.
“Connecticut faces very tough choices as it looks to adopt a budget. Whenever a deal is reached, the end result will be painful cuts to many services that residents count on. Why would Connecticut make a situation like that even worse by raising residents’ electricity bills when they can least afford it?” Avangrid, Dynegy, Calpine Corporation, Electric Power Supply Association, Competitive Power Ventures, Eversource Energy, NRG Energy, and the Connecticut Petroleum Council wrote last week in a letter to lawmakers.
They admit that “Millstone is an important energy resource and an important employer in Southeastern Connecticut.”
However, they told lawmakers that “Millstone has offered no evidence that it needs a special deal from the state in order to remain economically viable. It would be wrong to saddle ratepayers with additional costs when they can already expect painful cuts in the state budget.”
Dominion Energy argues allowing them to bid on contracts will decrease the price of electricity in Connecticut and their opponents are simply trying to mislead lawmakers by making it seem as if somehow they are contributing to the high cost of electricity.
“Dominion Energy has been honest this entire legislative session. Our opponents have not,” Ken Holt, a Dominion Energy spokesman, said. “Their latest letter is further proof that they are purposefully misleading policymakers for their gain at the expense of Connecticut ratepayers. We remain committed to work with policymakers to address the issue of high energy prices and the future of Millstone in the current budget session.”
In a letter to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and lawmakers, Paul Koonce, CEO of the Power Generation Group for Dominion Energy, said it’s surprising that Connecticut’s two utilities would have signed onto such a “misleading letter.”
“They have continuously failed Connecticut ratepayers by providing them some of the highest electric rates in the continental United States,” Koonce said.
The back-and-forth between the groups has added to confusion among lawmakers trying to decide the policy change.
“I don’t like being bullied,” Sen. Gary Winfield, co-chairman of the Energy and Technology Committee, said during the June 7 debate.
He said Dominion Energy has refused to show that there is something wrong financially 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, 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 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 when the watered-down legislation passed.
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.
The watered-down version of the bill passed the Senate on a 23-9 vote June 7, but it never came up for a vote in the House.
A spokesman for Speaker of the House Joe Aresimowicz said no decision has been made regarding the inclusion of various policies like one involving the treatment of nuclear energy.
“The issue is still being discussed,” Larry Perosino, a spokesman for Aresimowicz, said.