Local and state officials from southeastern Connecticut rallied with Millstone Power Station owner Dominion Wednesday to highlight the unfairness of a bill that tries to extract about $330 million in taxes from the nuclear power station.
David Christian, CEO of Dominion Generation, said if the legislation goes through Dominion will be left with two options.
“Rates will go up due to the higher costs that would be passed onto the consumers,” Christian said. “Or the plant would be uneconomical to operate and we would be forced into closure.”
Tom Swan, executive director of Connecticut Citizens Action Group, said the rate of return on equity Dominion makes is “absolutely ludicrous.” He said some of those returns should go back to the ratepayers, who have been footing the bill for a long time. He disputed the accuracy of their comment regarding passage of the tax increase down to the ratepayers.
Joe Rosenthal from the Consumer Counsel’s Office told the Energy and Technology Committee in March that the tax could not be passed along to ratepayers.
Swan said he was also going to call Dominion’s bluff on leaving too. He said they have contracts through 2014 and if they broke them he estimated they’d have to pay $75 million a year.
But Dan Weekley, vice president for government affairs at Dominion, said it absolutely is a possibility. He said there’s always an opportunity for the company to purchase replacement power at a lower rate when they close their doors, which would mean laying off hundreds of workers. He estimated it would cost the company tens of millions of dollars to close and argued it would be the state that forced them out.
With 40 to 45 percent of electrical generation in the state being provided by Dominion, lawmakers argue the impact would be felt throughout the state, which has one of the highest electrical rates in the country.
Local elected officials argued the legislation would have a devastating impact on the local communities. Waterford First Selectman Dan Steward said Dominion constitutes about 30 percent of its tax base. That’s more than $20 million the town would have to find in order to make up for the lost revenue.
Steward said the legislation just being out there is already having an impact on the town’s bond rating. He said he’s getting calls from financial markets concerned about purchasing the bonds.
East Lyme First Selectman Paul Formica wondered what message this type of legislation sends to the business community. Now that Pratt & Whitney is becoming profitable are “we going to tax them more too,” he said. He said Dominion and its more than 1,100 employees provides $1.2 billion of economic activity in the region.
Rep. Besty Ritter, D-Waterford, said nuclear generation is one of the cleanest forms of energy the state produces.
Christian said if his company were to close the power station it would be like adding 1.4 million cars to the road. That’s because of the higher emissions caused by dirtier forms of electrical generation would need to replace what Millstone was producing, he said.
Aside from the environmental impact lawmakers also wondered what kind of message the bill sends to the business community.
Sen. Andrea Stillman, D-Waterford, said when Gov. Dannel P. Malloy gave his opening address to the General Assembly he said “Connecticut is open for business, but this bill flies in the face of that declaration.”
She said it sends a troubling message that Connecticut is pursuing an anti-business agenda.
Malloy has proposed a $58 million per year tax on all electrical generators. Dominion officials refused to talk about that tax Wednesday saying the press conference was solely on SB 1176.