Council approves state nuclear plant resolution

City Council on Wednesday approved a resolution calling on the state to “support policies to preserve Pennsylvania’s nuclear energy plants,” upon the request of a FirstEnergy spokeswoman whose firm operates one of five Pennsylvania nuclear plants that are selling power at a loss because of cheap natural gas.

One council member clearly didn’t buy the whole of Bev Green’s argument, however, although he voted for the resolution.

It behooves the government to help nuclear plants survive in the current deregulated market because a diversified energy portfolio — with gas, coal and nuclear power — makes customers and the state less vulnerable to problems and market swings, Green said.

She cited a cold spell a few years ago when coal plants couldn’t operate because of frozen pipes, gas power all went to a single sector and nuclear power was the only other alternative.

Nuclear power also provides 93 percent of the state’s carbon-free electricity, Green said.

As the generator of 38 percent of the state’s electricity, it also provides major economic benefits, with 16,000 direct and indirect employees, she added.

The resolution passed by council doesn’t specify the kind of support the nuclear industry is seeking.

That needs to be negotiated, although one possibility would be legislation giving nuclear power credits for being clean — carbon-free — through a point system to offset its current disadvantage in the power auctions, Green indicated.

Councilman Dave Butterbaugh does not favor such a subsidy.

Regarding carbon credits, he said, “the government needs to knock that stuff off.”

“Let prices go down,” he said. “Let free markets rule.”

Butterbaugh asked State Rep. John McGinnis, R-Altoona, who was in attendance, for comment.

“As a carbon-based life form, I’m opposed to a carbon-free environment,” McGinnis said, striving for humor.

“Get the environmentalists out of the way of coal plants and gas pipelines,” Butterbaugh said.

Coal is not as dirty “as back in the day,” he added.

He wants what’s best for citizens, Butterbaugh said.

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