HARTFORD, CT — As the 2017 legislative session comes to an end it’s becoming less likely that a number of complex issues will be put to a vote.
Two of the issues left on the agenda include a bill that would allow a nuclear energy operator to bid on contracts and another would allow electric car maker Tesla sell directly to consumers.
House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, said they are close to calling a bill to allow Tesla to sell directly to consumers without working through the existing dealer franchise process. They are just working on a few more details, but Aresimowicz said the bill has broad bipartisan support.
Aresimowicz said the prospect “doesn’t look good right now” for raising a bill that would allow Dominion Energy, which owns and operates the Millstone nuclear power station in Waterford, the ability to directly bid on five-year energy contracts in Connecticut.
The bill is still in the Senate, where it would need to be passed first before reaching the House.
However, “there’s three days left and anything can happen,” Aresimowicz added Monday.
Dominion wanted the ability to bid directly for energy contracts. Nuclear energy, which was targeted for its windfall profits just a few years ago, has been struggling to compete with natural gas.
Aresimowicz said he doesn’t believe Dominion Energy will walk away from Millstone.
But officials from Dominion Energy said they’re unable to give any assurances to lawmakers without the legislation.
“Regrettably, if Connecticut chooses not to act, we will begin a strategic reassessment of our plans for Millstone Power Station,” Kevin Hennessy, New England State Policy Director for Dominion Resources Inc., said Monday in an emailed statement.
He said the status quo, “which our opponents champion, is not working for Connecticut.”
He said it would be surprising if Connecticut, with the highest electric rates in the continental United States, declined to “ensure the sustainability of a major employer this year given recent events.”
House Majority Leader Matt Ritter, D-Hartford, said if he was Millstone, he would authorize the Public Utility Regulatory Authority to inspect their finances. Then, “they would have a much better argument if they did that,” he added.
Dan Weekley, vice president of corporate affairs for Dominion Energy, has said state regulators under the legislation will have the ability to determine whether these bids are in the best interests of the ratepayers and if it’s not, then they won’t approve it.
Asked if Dominion would share its financial information with regulators, Weekley has said “no.”
Admitting that energy policy is a “Rubic’s cube” for him and many lawmakers, Aresimowicz said he doesn’t know “that it’s a pressing problem.”
He said if they don’t act within the next six months, while they aren’t in session, he doesn’t believe anything will happen with the facility.
Aresimowicz suggested that Dominion Energy start its informational campaign sooner, next year.
He said it takes time for complicated or controversial issues to build up an awareness or understanding with legislators. He said energy issues are “pretty complicated,” so it takes that much longer.
Dominion Energy started working on getting the legislation passed last year when participated in an informational hearing last March on the threats to nuclear energy.
Evan Bayh, a former U.S. Senator and governor from Indiana who co-chairs the nuclear power industry advocacy group Nuclear Matters, said the closure of nuclear power stations is not a theoretical situation.
He told the committee that it’s happening in New York, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, and California.
“These are real events. Not theoretical, not hypothetical,” Bayh, who was the first of seven invited speakers, said.
There was another informational hearing this year, along with a public hearing on the bill.
Rep. Lonnie Reed, D-Branford, has said nuclear is an old technology and most of these plants were built in the 1970s and are very expensive to operate. She said there’s a trend nationally of nuclear plants closing because they are no longer profitable.