MIDDLETOWN – “We are here to sound the alarm,” Dauphin County Commissioner Mike Pries said at a news conference overlooking the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant Tuesday morning.
TMI doesn’t just power homes and businesses. It powers the economy, according to elected officials and business leaders who announced the formation of the Clean Jobs for Pennsylvania Coalition to save TMI.
“We are here to say with one voice to Gov. Wolf and the General Assembly, find a solution to this problem,” Pries said, “one that considers the many economic and environmental benefits of Pennsylvania’s nuclear energy plants.”
It won’t be easy. Cheap and abundant natural gas has made it difficult for nuclear power to compete. TMI announced last week that without legislative help, it will close in 2019. If that happens, the coalition insists, the region would lose good paying jobs, tax revenues, contributions to EMS and libraries, and employee spending on goods and services.
“If we lose Three Mile Island and its business, most likely Londonderry Township will become a distressed community,” said Anna Dale, a Londonderry Township supervisor and a coalition member.
“I don’t want this to happen,” said York County Commissioner Chris Reilly, another coalition member. “You don’t want this to happen. I don’t think any of us want this to happen.”
But there is a competing group called No Nuke Bailout that opposes the kind of government intervention that TMI is seeking. No Nuke Bailout has sent out mailers funded by the American Petroleum Institute and created a Facebook page.
“When you subsidize one, you give them an unfair competitive advantage and ultimately, it’s the taxpayers and the consumers paying that cost to a particular industry,” said Matt Brouillette, president of Commonwealth Partners Chamber of Entrepreneurs in Harrisburg. “They (TMI) should stand on their own legs, not on taxpayer largesse.”
But TMI’s legs are wobbly, making local officials queasy.
“We stand in the shadow of a grim prospect,” Pries said. “Without policy reform, Three Mile Island will soon close. This would devastate Central Pennsylvania’s economy, particularly here in Dauphin County.”