Senator proposes short-term funding for communities hit by power plant closures

//April 12, 2019

Senator proposes short-term funding for communities hit by power plant closures

//April 12, 2019

A Dauphin County lawmaker is hoping to ease the financial burden for communities that lose a big chunk of property tax revenue if large power plants like Three Mile Island close.

Amid legislative debate over nuclear subsidies plans that could prevent the closure of TMI in Londonderry Township and the Beaver Valley plant outside of Pittsburgh, Republican state Sen. John DiSanto said Thursday he is planning to introduce a bill that would help local governments.

His forthcoming legislation, which could be introduced as early as Friday, calls for creating short-term state grants to municipalities that experience a reduction of at least 20 percent in property tax collections and payments in lieu of taxes when an electric generation plant closes.

DiSanto said the temporary state relief would not make up for the complete loss, but it could help communities adjust.

“This is an attempt to assist during the transition from the loss of those tax revenues,” DiSanto said.

The grants would be available for up to four years, with a varying amount of aid provided each year. It would start at 80 percent of the property tax loss in year one and then be scaled back by 20 percent each year after.

Lower Dauphin School District receives about $700,000 in taxes annually from Three Mile Island. Under the proposed grant program, the school district would get $560,000 in the first year after a closure of TMI.

Collectively, Dauphin County, Londonderry Township and Lower Dauphin receive about $1.5 million per year from TMI.

State government can’t make up funding every time a business leaves a community, DiSanto said. But, he added, power plants are unique because they are large employers. And he wants his bill to help areas that face closures of coal- and gas-fired power plants, hoping to get broader support from Senate colleagues.

DiSanto also said his proposal would be a lot cheaper than a nuclear bailout, which he opposes.

He estimates the grants would cost about $2 million per year, or about $12 million over six years. The nuclear bailout, by comparison, calls for $500 million per year in subsidies, or $3 billion.

“I think it’s unrealistic to ask the taxpayers of Pennsylvania to spend that kind of money,” DiSanto said. “I don’t believe the bailout has the votes to pass the House and Senate, but that can change. This is my way to help my communities.”

He is optimistic his bill will move as part of the state budget negotiations this spring and summer.

Proponents of the subsidies, including two midstate lawmakers, have argued that once a plant closes it cannot be restarted. Doing nothing to save nuclear plants, supporters say, would be costlier. They want to help nuclear energy by including it in the state’s plans to boost the use of alternative energy sources such as wind and solar.