Diverse Group of New Jersey Based Consumer, Business, Environmental, and Industrial Organizations Form the Coalition Against Nuclear Taxes (CANT)
Today AARP, New Jersey Large Energy Users Coalition, Environment New Jersey, Chemistry Council of New Jersey, New Jersey Citizen Action, New Jersey Main Street Alliance, New Jersey Petroleum Council, and New Jersey Gasoline-Convenience-Automotive Association announced the formation of the Coalition Against Nuclear Taxes (CANT).
The Coalition represents more than 1.3 million New Jersey ratepayers, 100 large and small NJ businesses employing more than 80,000 workers throughout the Garden State, and hundreds of environmental advocates.
CANT has come together, in response to the nuclear industry’s campaign for ratepayer funded special subsidies for its nuclear plants. While successful in Illinois and New York, similar legislative efforts in Ohio and Connecticut have recently failed. In New Jersey, PSEG is waging a campaign to increase electric bills by forcing ratepayers to pay what is essentially a new tax in order to increase the profitability of their aging nuclear power plants.
“Back in 1999 when New Jersey deregulated the energy industry, ratepayers were promised that a competitive market place would yield new options and benefits for consumers and businesses. Now that market competition is finally showing benefits to consumers, PSEG and other utility corporations want to change the rules,” said Ev Liebman, AARP NJ’s manager of advocacy. “Lower energy prices are not a problem for consumers, and should be a welcomed break for all New Jerseyans.”
Nuclear subsidies would unfairly and inappropriately interfere with the marketplace by propping up an already profitable nuclear industry in New Jersey.
CANT does not oppose nuclear energy generation, nor does it oppose fuel diversity. CANT does oppose any special ratepayer subsidy for nuclear power plants, which would distort the market and require all ratepayers (residential, commercial, industrial) to pay more for electricity, but without justification or benefit.
For months, PSEG executives have been out on the stump waging a public relations campaign claiming that its nuclear plants are no longer economically feasible to operate, and suggesting they may have to close them within the next three years if they don’t get a government bailout, threatening the loss of many jobs.
“No one should be bamboozled,” said Dena Mottola Jaborska, deputy director of NJ Citizen Action. “PSEG’s plants are profitable. PSEG’s nuclear plants continue to clear the PJM auction, and PSEG continues to post record profits and increase its dividends to shareholders annually.”
“PSEG is trying to build support in the New Jersey Legislature for another government handout that may cost all New Jersey ratepayers about $350 million annually over a ten year period, or $3.5 billion,” said Dennis Hart, executive director of the Chemistry Council of New Jersey. “With New Jersey electricity rates being 11th highest in the nation, or 30% above the national average for residential ratepayers, and the 9th highest, or 54% above the national average, for industry, we need to join together and let the members of the Legislature know that we simply CANT afford it, and it is unwarranted.”
“Small businesses, especially those that run heavy machinery, make products or operate for extended hours, can be severely affected by even a modest increase in their power bills,” said Tony Sandkamp, owner of Sandkamp Woodworks, an architectural and cabinet woodworking firm in Jersey City. “It can really impact a small business owner’s bottom line. As a small business owner I’m very uncomfortable paying more money to subsidize a company that might be out of step with the times.”
“Nuclear energy has been heavily subsidized by ratepayers for decades, and PSEG’s nuclear plants continue to be profitable,” said Doug O’Malley, director of Environment New Jersey. “We need an open and transparent accounting on the long-term viability of the state’s nuclear fleet, not a bum rush for a bailout for the state’s largest utility. We need to make sure we’re not playing Let’s Make a Deal in Trenton.”
Steve Goldenberg, a partner at Fox Rothschild LLP, which represents the Large Energy Users Coalition, said that “his members are well aware that ratepayers have paid for the nuclear plants several times over—including the inclusion of the plants in utility rate base, the payment of billions of dollars in non-existent stranded costs for 15 years after the energy market was deregulated, and through the windfall profits the low cost nuclear plants received during the period that high market clearing prices were set by expensive natural gas.”
CANT members will be meeting with elected officials to express its concerns about any subsidy or credit designed to boost profits for nuclear plants at the expense of ratepayers.
New Jersey CANT afford higher electricity rates to simply subsidize PSEG’s nuclear plants and its bottom line. The subsidies would amount to a multi-billion dollar wealth transfer from the state’s businesses to PSEG, which will adversely impact employment levels and business decisions about whether to expand, reduce or close operations in the state. Any multi-billion dollar wealth transfer, disguised as a “nuclear tax” or zero emission credit, will also unfairly impact consumers, particularly those on low and fixed incomes who are already struggling to pay their bills in New Jersey.
The Coalition Against Nuclear Taxes (CANT) does not oppose nuclear energy generation, nor does it oppose fuel diversity. However, the Coalition is opposed to any special ratepayer subsidy for nuclear power plants. Members includes AARP, New Jersey Large Energy Users Coalition, Environment New Jersey, Chemistry Council of New Jersey, New Jersey Citizen Action, New Jersey Main Street Alliance, New Jersey Petroleum Council, and New Jersey Gasoline-Convenience-Automotive Association.