Power Producers Oppose Legislation Helping Millstone Nuclear Plant

Connecticut - Power producers are set to announce Tuesday their opposition to legislation that would guarantee markets for the Millstone nuclear plant, calling it special treatment for one energy source in Connecticut.

Legislation has yet to be drafted, but it could follow a measure that failed last year, proposing to boost Millstone's access to electricity markets. The General Assembly's energy and technology committee has scheduled a public hearing Tuesday.

Calpine Corp., Dynegy, NRG Energy and the Electric Power Supply Association say state assistance to Millstone could drive up energy costs for businesses and residents. The companies and trade association say the legislature should require Dominion Resources Inc., Millstone's parent company, to make public its financial records to prove it needs a change in state law.

"This legislation would carve out a significant part of the market in the region for one company under different terms than anything we could hope for," said John E. Shelk, president and chief executive officer of the Electric Power Supply Association.

Thomas F. Farrell II, chief executive officer of Dominion, told investor analysts on a conference call to discuss fourth-quarter earnings last week that power prices have been "under some pressure."

Referring to the possibility of favorable legislation, Dominion is "hopeful that things will improve there," he said.

Shelk said Farrell's comment is an admission that "this is all about the drag Millstone is having on the corporate parent."

"The Connecticut legislature has proposed a competitive process to reduce retail electric rates only if state energy officials determine it is in ratepayers' best interests," Dominion spokesman Kevin Hennessy said.

Several nuclear plants around the country, unable to compete with low natural gas prices, have shut. Rep. Lonnie Reed, the House chairwoman of the legislature's energy and technology committee, has said legislation helping Millstone in Waterford would preserve a valuable asset.

"There was a trend and a very distressing trend," Reed, D-Branford, said at a public hearing last month.

The plan that failed last year would have allowed nuclear energy to participate in a competitive purchase of renewable or low-carbon electric power in a process administered by the state. If Millstone were to be selected, it would be guaranteed a market as natural gas prices decline.

Dan Weekley, vice president of corporate affairs at Dominion, rejected a proposal that the company's financial records be opened for public inspection, saying any information would be irrelevant.

"What is in the customers' and the ultimate ratepayers' best interests?" he asked at the public hearing. "What is the best price for consumers?"

AARP Connecticut said it also will oppose Millstone legislation. A legislative proposal could reclassify power generated by the plant as renewable fuel, allowing Dominion to undercut the cost of other renewable fuels and receive a higher price for its power, AARP said.


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