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FirstEnergy’s Beaver Valley Power Station in Shippingport, Pa. is scheduled to retire early, in 2021. (Reid Frazier/StateImpact Pennsylvania)

(Harrisburg) — State Sen. Ryan Aument (R-Lancaster) has introduced a long-awaited bill aimed at preventing two of the state’s five nuclear plants from retiring early.

he bill recognizes the plants as “zero emission” energy sources and adds nuclear power to the state’s Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard. The 2004 law requires electric utilities to buy power from certain clean and alternative energy sources, like wind and solar.

“Including nuclear energy in the state’s alternative energy plans will help level the playing field for the industry and ensure its long-term viability in Pennsylvania’s marketplace while simultaneously protecting ratepayers from higher electricity bills down the road,” Aument said in a statement.

The bill comes amid more than two years of intense lobbying on the issue in Harrisburg. Exelon is planning to shutter its Three Mile Island plant near Harrisburg this fall. FirstEnergy intends to retire its Beaver Valley plant ahead of schedule in 2021. The early closures are part of a broader trend across the U.S. as the industry has struggled amid slowing demand for electricity and competition from cheaper natural gas and renewables.

Efforts to prop up nuclear plants have been controversial. A similar bill introduced last month in the House faces opposition from electric utilities, the natural gas industry, manufacturers, environmental organizations, and consumer groups. A poll conducted last month by Franklin & Marshall in partnership with PA Post found Pennsylvania voters generally support nuclear energy, but on the question of whether the state should prop up struggling plants, that support is mixed.

Check StateImpact Pennsylvania for more reporting on the bill later today.

Here is the bill language:

<a href=”https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/5793078/Nuclear-Energy-D04315-APR-2019.pdf”>Pennsylvania Senate Nuclear Bill (PDF)</a> <a href=”https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/5793078/Nuclear-Energy-D04315-APR-2019.txt”>Pennsylvania Senate Nuclear Bill (Text)</a>

 

 StateImpact Pennsylvania is a collaboration among WITF, WHYY, WESA and the Allegheny Front to report on the commonwealth’s energy economy.