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Poll: Sweeney nuclear subsidy may hurt lawmakers

By Nikita Biryukov, April 10 2018 4:49 pm

New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney’s quest to secure subsidies for two nuclear power plants in his district may have hit another snag.

A recent poll commissioned by the NJ Coalition for Fair Energy, an industry coalition that has opposed the nuclear subsidy bills championed by Sweeney since they were first introduced in late 2017, shows that voting for the bill could jeopardize legislators’ reelection prospects.

Of the 632 New Jersey voters polled, 46% said they would be less likely to reelect a legislator that voted in favor of the measure.

Support among voters for the bill is low, with just 18% respondents to the poll, which was conducted by the consulting firm FiftyOne Percent, supporting a $4 per month subsidy.

An analysis of data maintained by the U.S. Energy Information Administration indicates that the monthly cost for the average consumer would be lower, totaling a little over $3 per month.

The numbers could pose a problem to Sweeney, in whose district are two nuclear power plants that Peter Sena, president and chief nuclear officer of PSEG Nuclear, has said will lose money in the next two years. Sena, in a sponsored column in NJ Spotlight, said the plants directly employ roughly 1,600 people.

Though the latest nuclear measure easily made it through the Senate Budget Committee and Assembly Appropriations Committee, it’s unclear whether Sweeney will have the clout to force the bill through if .

A3724/S2313, the latest versions of the nuclear subsidy bill, are a portion of past versions that died in the Senate or Assembly. Other portions, including subsidies for renewable energy and an offshore wind project will proceed in their own bills.

The nuclear measures previously caused strains in an already contentious relationship between Sweeney and Gov. Phil Murphy, who flexed political muscle to stall an earlier version of the bill, which did not include provisions for renewable energy that Murphy campaigned for, that was being fast tracked through to then-Gov. Chris Christie’s desk.

The maneuver reportedly frustrated Sweeney, who did not reply to a request seeking comment. A voicemail seeking comment left with Daniel Brian, Murphy’s press secretary, also went unreturned.

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