The plan to bail out NJ’s nuclear plants is getting more expensive
A planned vote was put off Monday on an energy package that includes subsidies to make sure the nuclear plants in South Jersey remain profitable.
The idea is expected to come up for a vote next Thursday, while talks continue with Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration and others on the details of the ever-expanding legislation.
Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester, said the text of the bill will be available for public review by the end of this week.
“We’re working with the front office and some other groups to get to where we think it’s going to work,” Sweeney said. “It’s going to move, though. We’re going to move it on the 15th.”
Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, said the last version of the bill he saw would cost ratepayers more than $4 billion over 10 years — $3 billion to subsidize nuclear plants and $1 billion for solar and other programs, such as energy efficiency.
“They keep adding more and more things to it that are actually either too expensive or don’t make sense,” Tittel said. “And this just becomes a giant welfare bill for Public Service Electric & Gas at a time when they don’t need the money.”
PSEG says the nuclear plants in Salem County are on track to start losing money in about two years, struggling to complete with low-cost natural gas derived from fracking in Pennsylvania. Its chief executive officer, Ralph Izzo, says that plants could be closed if they become unprofitable.
“If nuclear goes away, our energy cost – the hit to the ratepayers is going to be greater, not less,” said Ssweeney, whose legislative districts is home to the plants, which are co-owned by PSEG and Exelon.
The bill nearly passed late in Gov. Chris Christie term but was held up to incorporate some of the renewable-energy goals on new Gov. Phil Murphy’s agenda.
Doug O’Malley, director of Environment New Jersey, said the process has been “incredibly rushed” and is bad for ratepayers.
“It’s happening behind closed doors,” O’Malley said. “You should not be negotiating the clean energy agenda for the Murphy administration in the opening weeks with only a few players.