LETTER We Oppose Nuclear Subsidies and Want 100% Renewable

The New Jersey Sierra Club has always been opposed to subsidizing nuclear plants. However, we have declined to join the NJ Coalition Against Nuclear Taxes because although we agree with the Chemical Council and Petroleum Institute against supporting nuclear, we disagree with them on supporting other forms of dirty energy. The Sierra Club is working towards a goal of 100% renewable energy for New Jersey. We do not support replacing nuclear plants with natural gas or other fossil fuels.

“The New Jersey Sierra Club strongly opposes any subsidies for nuclear power plants. Our main goal is to make New Jersey 100% renewable by 2050. We want to make sure we’re not subsidizing nuclear plants, but more importantly that when the plants close, they need to be replaced by renewable energy. We are not part of this coalition because many of the members are either from or promote the fossil fuel industry. We’re concerned that some of the members want to replace the plants with more pipelines, natural gas power plants, and other fossil fuel generation. We believe that we should be working to transition 100% renewable energy, while blocking dirty energy infrastructure. We will work and fight to stop subsidizing nuclear, but more importantly, make sure the plants are replaced with clean, renewable energy,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club.

Under energy deregulation these plants received billions in subsidies as Stranded Assests, despite the plants being profitable. They received hundreds of millions more from the ratepayers via Nuclear Plant Closure funds. Currently the three major nuclear power plants in NJ have made the auction and are financially profitable. Therefore, there is no need for them to have any kind of subsidy. The fourth, Oyster Creek, usually makes auction but is scheduled to close in 2020. Two of the plants looking for subsidies, Salem 1 and 2, operate without cooling towers and kill billions of fish a year. We should not be subsidizing environmental destruction. New York has just gotten a big subsidy on nuclear power and now PSEG is looking for subsidies for their nuclear plants in New Jersey now.

“Right now, natural gas is undercutting renewable energy and making other power plants less viable. PSEG is campaigning to get a subsidy from ratepayers for their nuclear power plant. Part of this tour is a lobbying push to get New Jersey to subsidize nuclear plants like New York has just done. PSEG is making money off these plants and they were bid into the last auction; they do not need subsidies. The construction of the Salem plants already received billions of subsidies and now they want more. If these nuclear power plants are competitive, then they should run, but if they are not they should be taken offline. Instead of continuing to rely on these nuclear plants that operate on outdated permits and do severe environmental damage, we should be focusing on switching to renewable energy,” said Jeff Tittel. “The NJ Sierra Club has always been strongly opposed to subsidies for nuclear power because we believe it is corporate cronyism and it undermines renewable energy. These plants should be replaced with renewable energy.

Under Governor Christie there’s been an explosion of cheap natural gas that undercuts renewable energy and other cleaner forms of energy. The Governor has rolled back our Energy Master Plan goals for clean energy from 30% in 2020 to 22% by 2021, blocked offshore wind rules, pulled us out of RGGI and undercut our solar programs market. Christie wanted to subsidize gas power plants and federal court found it unconstitutional. He’s been promoting natural gas pipelines in the Pinelands and elsewhere. Under Christie, electrical energy generation by source has risen from 27% natural gas to 50%. Nuclear power has dropped from 50% to 45%. Under this program change NJ has built four new gas fired power plants with a fifth on the way. We’ve only stopped two. There are also 15 natural gas projects proposed and built in the region.

“NJ needs to aggressively move forward with renewable energy such as solar, wind, and geothermal. In the past, we have stopped efforts to classify nuclear power as a Class 1 Renewable Energy for credits. We believe that the utilities companies caused this problem themselves when they supported energy deregulation, something the Sierra Club opposed. They allowed cheaper electricity from pipelines and natural gas plants and created a self-inflicted wound. The one thing we have in common is that cheap natural gas is undermining clean energy, especially renewable energy,” said Jeff Tittel.

Half of our electricity already comes from natural gas. We should be focusing on ways to keep natural gas out of NJ and have carbon pay its true cost to the environment and to society. We could re-regulate electricity and block new gas plants and pipelines by requiring certificates of need. We could also re-enter and expand RGGI and raise the carbon pricing. NJ could adopt carbon tax that does not disproportionately affect those of modest means and help pay for cleaner energy to replace nuclear plants even faster. We can also ban fracking and pipelines in the Delaware Valley.

Fossil fuels and natural gas do not pay their true cost to society and the environment. They are already subsidized by not regulating fracking or allowing pipelines through public land. Natural gas is a threat to renewable energy. We need to rejoin and expand RGGI to eliminate the cap and have a carbon tax. Many of the groups in NJ CANT oppose RGGI. If this coalition was really about fossil fuels undercutting plants, they would be supporting RGGI and a carbon tax,” said Jeff Tittel. “If PSEG really supported clean energy, they would be committed to replacing nuclear plants with renewable energy, not fossil fuels.”

Investors are realizing the economic and environmental benefits of renewable energy. The effects that climate change could potentially have on New Jersey can be devastating from storm surges to flooding. Flooding in New Jersey will most likely become a regular occurrence and worsen if we continue to ignore climate change. New Jersey depends greatly on coastal tourism and many of our residents live along the coast. The solution to mitigating these effects is investing in clean energy sources.

“If we allow for subsidies for nuclear power plants while the companies are promoting natural gas, we’ll be pushing out renewable energy. We should be moving NJ towards a 100% renewable goal by 2050 and nuclear power is not renewable or sustainable. This year our two largest coal plants are closing, Hudson and Mercer. We need to make sure that these plants are replaced with renewable energy when they retire. We should be looking at how to block fossil fuels and make our state 100% zero emission carbon by 2035 and 100% renewable by 2050. It probably won’t happen under Christie, but now is the time to put together legislation and a plan to get to those goals, rather than give subsidies. Under the next Governor, we’ll need to accelerate and expand our renewable portfolio standard to ramp up renewable energy and keep out dirty fuels,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “We can’t support CANT unless they support closing these plants and replacing them with 100% renewable energy.”–

Jamie Zaccaria