Surgery on Clean Energy Jobs Bill to make it even more pro-nuclear; could be fatal | Wis.Community

Surgery on Clean Energy Jobs Bill to make it even more pro-nuclear; could be fatal

The Inside Baseball Report, which may be more than you want to know about this subject:

Rumors are rampant in the Capitol about a new version of the Clean Energy Jobs Act now being prepared for rollout sometime in the next week.

It's being done in private, as usual, so it's impossible to say exactly what will be in the substitute version or omnibus amendment being drafted.

But if you're part of the Carbon Free Nuclear Free coalition that's been fighting against relaxing the laws on new nuclear reactors, this is guaranteed not to be good news.

Pro-nuclear forces do not have a majority in the legislature. On its own merits, the nuclear section of the bill would never pass.

But it is tied to some positive renewable energy policies that many nuclear opponents want to see passed. They seem willing to swallow hard and support the bill, even though they oppose expanding nuclear power.

The bill is in much the same status that the health care bill is in Congress. There are no Republican votes for it, so Democrats must round up enough votes to pass it themselves. With narrow majorities in each house, it only takes two defecting Democrats to derail the bill -- or to get a concession. (Think Ben Nelson or Joe Lieberman if that makes this easier to grasp.)

Unfortunately, the only Dems willing to do that and threaten to blow up the bill have been the pro-nuclear camp, notable State Rep. Jim Solestki, a pretty liberal Dem who used to work at the Kewaunee nuclear plant and thinks nukes are the greatest thing since buttons on shirts. He and a couple of other Assembly Dems apparently are willing to kill the whole bill if they don't get their nuclear fix.

No one on the anti-nuclear side is willing to play hardball, perhaps angering the leadership and causing themselves some problems in the closing weeks of the session.

And so the committee co-chairs, which ironically includes anti-nukers Rep. Spencer Black and Sen, Mark Miller, as well as pro-nukers Soletski and Sen. Jeff Plale, will accomodate that to pass the bill.

The original bill, which would end the requirement that there be a federal repository for high-level radioactive waste before any new reactors can be built, was bad enough.

But the redraft reportedly is making it worse -- more pro-nuclear, in other words. We'll know how bad it is when the language is unveiled. But by then it will pretty much be a done deal.

We suggested awhile back that such changes could be a deal breaker and cost the support of some of the environmental and consumer groups who were less than thrilled with the original package they reluctantly signed onto.

The first evidence of that has now appeared, with the Citizens Utility Board warning the co-chairs that it will withdraw its support for the bill if the original nuclear langauge is tampered with.

CUB has been saying all along it would not support further changes in the nuclear section. Whether other environmental groups who were part of the task force that recommended the bill will follow suit is unknown. If they do, and groups like the Sierra Club, Wisconsin Environment, Clean Wisconsin or others bail out, the delicate coalition supporting the bill may collapse.

At this point, that may not be a bad thing.

Meanwhile, the Carbon Free Nuclear Free coalition, which thought the bill's original language went much too far to open the door for more nuclear reactors, sent this email today to co--chairs Black and Miller:

We are members of a Carbon Free Nuclear Free Coalition working to support Wisconsin's current common sense law on nuclear reactors.

We have asked, at public hearings and in meetings with you, that the nuclear section be removed from the bill. We think you will agree that section could not pass separately, but only as part of a package that includes some attractive renewable energy policies. The nuclear changes do not belong in a clean energy bill, since nuclear power is neither clean nor renewable.

We understand that as committee co-chairs and co-authors your charge is to pass the bill. But it is our mutual goal to protect the public and the environment. We don't think the current language does that adequately, and we are alarmed by reports that the new language you are preparing as a "compromise" will make the nuclear section of the bill even worse, removing the requirement that new reactors serve the needs of Wisconsin customers.

For those concerned about the dangers posed by expanding nuclear power in the state, this process so far has been all give and no take.

We have offered the attached language as a way to strengthen the bill and allay some of the serious safety concerns about allowing additional nuclear reactors in Wisconsin. We ask that, at a minimum, this language be incorporated into any substitute amendments or revisions being prepared for this bill.

If, in fact, the changes you propose accede to the utilities' and nuclear industries demands and weaken the nuclear section of this bill even further, without doing anything to strengthen the waste regulations and address our concerns, we may be forced to oppose the entire bill.

We would be happy to meet and discuss this if you so desire.

Thank you.

Physicians for Social Responsibility - Wisconsin

Wis. Network for Peace and Justice

Peace Action Wisconsin

Institute for Energy and Environmental Research

 Coulee Region Progressives


Down River Alliance

The language the group suggests would require that spent fuel stored at reactor sites "will be stored in facilities that are sufficiently secure that foreseeable terrorist attacks would not cause severe economic disruption and casualties outside the perimeter of the nuclear power plant."

Sound reasonable? Tell Miller and Black that. In fact, tell Soletski and Plale, too.


March 9, 2010 - 5:28pm