Bad Timing And Snow Hits Nuclear Support Bill In N.J.

In fighting in the New Jersey capital and bad timing, given the turnover in the governor's mansion in the state, could derail and effort to provide Public Service Electric and Gas with $320 million per year in rate hikes that the company – the largest energy company in the state – says it needs to keep its two nuclear power facilities operating beyond two more years, according to news reports.

Oyster Creek NPPSome media outlets are calling bill S3560 dead in the water. Lawmakers had tried to pass the bill, allowing for financial support for the company, through a lame-duck session, but its last hope may have faded Thursday, when a snow storm forced a cancellation of a vote on the measure in the state assembly.

Now, by the time the vote is resurrected, it will face a brand new group of state lawmakers, who will be sworn into office on Tuesday. Furthermore, the governor of the state, the well-known Chris Cristie, is leaving office the following week. The Republican governor will be replaced by a Democrat, Phil Murphy, who will likely require the entire bill be revisited, possibly diluted or abandoned according to some accounts.

Public Service Electric and Gas Nuclear runs the Hope Creek One and Salem Units 1 and 2, both of which are in Salem County.

Exelon Corporation runs the other nuclear power plant in the state, Oyster Creek Generating Station, but that reactor, the oldest operating reactor in the United States, is scheduled for a final shut down on December 31, 2019 after fifty years of service.

The New Jersey reprieve for nuclear power has hit a standard set of roadblocks with environmental groups and many Democrats opposed, although the Senate bill was co-sponsored by Senate President Stephen Sweeney, a Democrat from Gloucester.

Labor unions, a traditional voting block for Democrats, have supported the effort, noting the loss of the two plants in New Jersey would mean the loss of 1,600 high-paying jobs. In addition, a spokesman for future Gov. Murphy said Thursday that the new governor's goal is “building a 100 percent clean energy economy” in the state by 2050. This effort, said spokesman Dan Bryan, includes supporting existing nuclear power plants, which he called “a vital link to the future.”

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