Here's why nuclear energy is essential to reducing carbon pollution in Pa.: David Hess
I want to applaud the Department of Environmental Protection for beginning a series of 14 listening sessions throughout the Commonwealth on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan to reduce climate-changing carbon emissions. DAVID HESS HEADSHOT ART.jpeg David Hess (submitted photo) These sessions will allow DEP to hear directly from Pennsylvanians on the federal rule which mandates states develop a cost-effective plan to significantly reduce carbon emissions from power plants. The first stop on the listening tour brings DEP officials to Dauphin County, home to the Three Mile Island nuclear energy facility, where the future of that facility will be on the minds of many in the community. Three Mile Island, along with the rest of Pennsylvania's nuclear energy facilities, produces 93 percent of Pennsylvania's carbon-free electricity. but as yet are not valued for their carbon-free energy production. Pennsylvania has the opportunity to change that, while at the same time ensuring the most cost-effective pathway to achieving the needed carbon emission reductions. As the DEP considers how it will comply with the rule, I recommend adoption of what has been commonly referred to as a "mass-based" approach to compliance with the EPA rule, under which power plants compete to reduce pollution at the lowest cost. MORE: Obama is on the right track with EPA Clean Power Plan (Letters) Taking this preferred route to compliance would place a single, clear price on carbon emissions and allow power plants to buy and sell emission allowances. This approach has been used very successfully to combat acid rain, as well as other air and water pollutants. It also provides the cheapest path to compliance for Pennsylvania consumers and achieves real and meaningful carbon reductions. At the same time, it would better ensure that nuclear plants, and all zero-carbon generation, can be part of the Commonwealth's clean energy future. Three Mile Island is an economic engine for the community, providing more than 700 highly skilled jobs and injecting millions of dollars into the local economy through its payroll, maintenance work, and taxes. MORE: Let states opt-out of EPA's Clean Power Plan (op-Ed) The nuclear plant has been in the news recently because the economically-challenged plant was not among the facilities selected to receive capacity payments that are provided to power plants to ensure their availability to meet customer demand in future years. The state should take this opportunity to adopt a plan that allows Pennsylvania to reduce emissions in a way that is not only cost-effective, but helps to ensure the continued operation of Pennsylvania's leading source of carbon-free energy. David Hess is a former Secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection under Govs. Tom Ridge and Mark Schweiker. He currently serves as Director of Policy and Communications at Crisci Associates.