Gas group's poll shows low support for nuke bailoutPro-TMI coalition says its numbers suggest otherwise
A majority of Pennsylvania voters would oppose legislation to bail out nuclear power companies such as Three Mile Island parent Exelon Corp., a new gas industry poll says.
It's the latest salvo in an ongoing war of words between the nuclear and petroleum industries as Exelon seeks state support for its sector in the wake of mounting losses at TMI and struggles to keep other plants profitable amid competition and falling energy prices.
Located in Dauphin County, Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station, as it is formally known, has lost $300 million over the past five years, Exelon officials have said. Without help from the state, Exelon expects TMI to close in two years.
Questions in the Associated Petroleum Industries of Pennsylvania (API) poll, "What America Is Thinking On Energy Issues," asked residents not just about whether the state taxpayers should fund Exelon, but whether electricity prices are too high.
The poll's findings included:
• 84 percent of voters agree that Pennsylvania consumers should not have to pay a special fee to bail out Exelon's nuclear power plants.
• 84 percent of voters oppose legislation charging consumers a special fee to fund Exelon's nuclear power plants.
• 77 percent of voters agree that the electricity market should be based on the marketplace, not special treatment for one corporation.
• 60 percent of voters believe that electricity prices are lower with competition, not government intervention.
The telephone survey of 800 registered voters in Pennsylvania was conducted between July 26 and 30 by Harris Poll on behalf of the American Petroleum Institute, with a sampling error of +/- 3.5 percent.
"Despite the fact that half of the voters across the state think electricity prices are too high, some are asking legislators in Harrisburg to force Pennsylvania consumers to pay a special fee to bail out nuclear power companies," API executive director Stephanie Catarino Wissman said.
"Picking winners and losers in the electricity markets by providing bailouts to nuclear power at the expense of Pennsylvania consumers would diminish the benefits that clean-burning natural gas has brought to Pennsylvania workers and consumers. Moving forward, the legislature should reject any measure that could raise costs for consumers and hurt workers across the state," she added.
Exelon spokesman David Marcheskie declined comment.
However, the pro-nuclear group Clean Jobs for Pennsylvania was critical of the poll's questions and findings.
"It’s not surprising that poll questions that contain negative mischaracterizations of what is needed to keep nuclear plants in operation, would lead to such skewed results," a statement from the coalition said.
"It is also not surprising the American Petroleum Institute, a D.C. special interest group, came out with a poll that expressed a bias for fracking in its results."
Far from being unpopular, the coalition said its movement has attracted nearly 700 members in just over two months — including eight mayors, five county commissioners, six township supervisors, eight local government council members — and has more than 10,000 social media followers.
One of those members is Dauphin County Commissioner Mike Pries, who serves as the group's co-chairman.
"If the response from our local community is any indication, there is widespread, passionate support for nuclear energy in and around central Pennsylvania," Pries said.
"They care about the jobs. They care about a clean energy future. And they care about the reliability nuclear provides," he added. "They want to see our state government find creative solutions to keep TMI up and running for years to come."
TMI employs about 675 people, Exelon officials have said, mostly drawn from Lancaster, Dauphin and York counties.