Still a Work in Progress, Nuclear Subsidy Bill Held in Committee

NJ Spotlight- As proposed legislation goes through successive iterations, it seems to alienate more potential backers and beneficiaries

New Jersey lawmakers yesterday held off advancing a highly contentious bill that could provide hundreds of millions of dollars in ratepayer subsidies to nuclear power plants.

As dozens of lobbyists milled around in the Senate Budget Committee, Senate President Steven Sweeney told reporters his bill (S-877) would not come up for a vote ''just for further discussion with the front office.''

The legislation, a version of which died in the lame-duck session early last month, is pitting some of the most powerful interest groups in Trenton against each other as backers keep overhauling the measure to win its passage.

Far from original bill

Originally a bill designed to prop up economically challenged nuclear plants operated by Public Service Enterprise Group, the legislation has morphed into a virtual and hasty overhaul of the state's energy policy. As such, it now incorporates new financial incentives for solar, energy efficiency projects, and other clean-energy initiatives, such as energy storage.

Its drawback is its projected cost. The nuclear subsidies could cost ratepayers up to $300 million a year. Over the next 15 years, the total hit to utility customers could top $4 billion when solar and nuclear subsidies are tallied, according to an economic analysis for the New Jersey Division of Rate Counsel.

That projection, however, was based on a revamped bill seen for the first time 11 day