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Senate President Steve Sweeney. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for New Jersey Globe)

BPU passes approves nuclear subsidy in 4-1 vote

It’s a win for Steve Sweeney

By Nikita Biryukov, April 18 2019 5:25 pm

The Board of Public Utilities on Thursday voted to approve a $300 million subsidy for three New Jersey nuclear power plants, despite the concerns of some BPU commissioners.

“In my view, the Board is being directed to pay ransom, and the hostages are the citizens of New Jersey,” BPU Commissioner Bob Gordon said before casting a yes vote. “PSE&G and Exelon contend that the three plants are operating at a loss, and without a subsidy, they have no choice but to close the facilities.  Every independent analyst that has submitted an assessment to the Board — and that includes Levitan Associates, our consultant, the Independent Market Monitor of PJM and others — disagrees.”

BPU Commissioner Upendra Chivukula was the only one on the five-member body to vote against the subsidy.

Gordon said he reluctantly decided the impact to the environment caused by the plants’ closures outweighed the cost to the state’s residents despite the apparent lack of need for the subsidies, which he called an energy tax.

The subsidy is expected to cost New Jersey taxpayers between $3 and $4 per month, though its impact on certain businesses that consume large amounts of electricity will be larger and could amount to millions of dollars.

Still, he said that even if the plants weren’t operating at a loss, he believed that PSE&G and Exelon would close them without the subsidy.

“I believe the ZEC legislation was enacted, and we are here today, not because the three plants are losing money, but because they are not profitable enough,” Gordon said. “Absent a subsidy, PSE&G and Exelon can make a higher return by deploying capital to alternative investments.”

The decision is a win for Senate President Steve Sweeney, who championed the subsidy last spring.

Two of the plants are in Sweeney’s district.

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