Regulators investigating what Palisades shutdown will mean for energy customers

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VAN BUREN COUNTY, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) – Palisades Power Plant is slated to go offline in 2018 and state regulators are investigating what that shutdown will mean for your power bill.

A spokesperson for Consumers Energy says that customers will not see a rate increase because of the closure. They say they have a plan to replace the nuclear plant with other, more profitable energy sources, but some remain skeptical.

With the Palisades Nuclear Power Plant scheduled to close in October of 2018, Michigan Public Service Regulators want to make sure people throughout the state retain reliable electricity and don’t see a rate increase.

They are investigating claims by Consumers Energy, which buys almost all of the power produced at Palisades, that the closure and resulting contract termination, won’t hurt customers.

“The promise behind Consumers Energy’s application before us is even if they pay Entergy to terminate the contract early that it’s still an overall cost savings for the customer,” said Michigan Public Service Commission Chairwoman Sally Talberg.

The Michigan Public Service Commission held two public hearings in Van Buren County on Monday, so customers like Bruce Brown of Kalamazoo could speak out.

“I’m interested in making sure their customers, rate payers like me, do see that savings,” said Brown.

Consumers Energy claims it will keep rates down by using new energy sources, potentially natural gas.

Many are also worried about clean-up efforts once Palisades closes down.

Kevin Kamps, with the nuclear watchdog group Beyond Nuclear, says he doubts that Entergy, the plant owner, is going to spend enough to decommission it properly.

“The funding could be billions of dollars short of what is needed to clean up that site,” said Kamps.

A Palisades spokesperson released a statement saying staff are committed to the safety of the plant and the well-being of the public and the environment. You can read that statement in full below this story.

“The place is getting older and older, more expensive to operate,” said Brown.

Brown says he just wants to see his electric bill stay the same and the environment stay clean.

In their statement, the Palisades spokesperson acknowledged that the closure of the plant will put 600 people out of a job. They say they are working to relocate those employees or place them at jobs with Consumers Energy.

That statement follows below;

"Thank you Chairman Talberg, Commissioners Eubanks and Saari, and Commission staff for the opportunity to speak before you today.

Entergy has owned and operated the Palisades Power Plant in Covert Township since 2007. For the past decade, we have enjoyed positive and strong partnership with the community here in Southwest Michigan.

Entergy recognizes the consequences of a Palisades shutdown for our approximately 600 employees who have run the plant safely and reliably as well as for the surrounding community. We will continue to work closely with both to provide support during the transition.

Palisades has an immensely talented, dedicated, and loyal workforce. They are committed to the safety of the plant and the wellbeing of their fellow workers, the general public, and our environment, above all else. Through their hard work, Palisades remains in the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s highest safety category and is recognized as a top performer in the industry. Those workers are currently in the midst of our scheduled refueling and maintenance outage, during the course of which Entergy will invest tens of millions of dollars into the site for the next operational cycle.

We recognize that closing the plant on this schedule was certainly not the outcome employees or the community had hoped for, but we have concluded that a shutdown in 2018 is prudent when comparing the transaction to the business risks of continued operation.

Entergy is committed to treating all 600 of its employees fairly throughout this process and will assist those who want to relocate within Entergy or leave the company. Consumers Energy has announced that as part of its ongoing talent recruitment efforts, it will work closely with Entergy and consider potential placement of up to 180 appropriately skilled employees from Palisades into the utility’s workforce over time.

Our Chief Nuclear Officer is the former Site Vice President and CNO at the nearby D.C. Cook plant, where we expect many of our workers will find new opportunities after shutdown, as well as at DTE’s Fermi plant and elsewhere within the industry. Additionally, speaking with local economic development organizations like Southwest Michigan First and Kinexus, we know that there is a local demand for the highly skilled and well-qualified worker that you will find at Palisades. Again, whether an employee stays at Palisades as part of the decommissioning organization, relocates to another site within Entergy, or leaves for a career elsewhere, we stand ready to provide resources to assist them through this process.

To support the community during the transition, Entergy and the CMS will provide a total of $10 million in community funding over several years for the Southwest Michigan region. Of that $10 million, Entergy will provide $8 million. In coordination with CMS, we have been in communication with area stakeholders and the Council of Michigan Foundations as it relates to the distribution of these funds. Our goal with this additional funding is to make a sustainable investment that will have a lasting community benefit, long after the plant is shut down.

Entergy has worked hard to be a good neighbor and in turn Southwest Michigan has been good to us. That makes the current situation all the more difficult for our company as we recognize the significant impact the purchase power agreement termination and closure of Palisades will have. We have engaged tirelessly with regional stakeholders through roundtables, public meetings, and regular communications with the elected leadership of this region. Law enforcement and emergency responders; public school officials; and a wide range of other community leaders have informed our process throughout.

In the spring, Entergy hosted a public open house with plant subject matter experts and will host another later this year. We will also continue to use community events throughout the region as opportunities to better educate the public and answer questions. We have been the lead sponsor of several community events, including for example the Senior & Veterans Expo this morning, and will continue to find opportunities that benefit the region.

The Palisades purchase power agreement termination and announced closure is a business decision, but not one that we make lightly. That is why throughout this transition, we are committed to both our workers and this region to remain a good partner. We believe that in doing so, we can help make a difficult announcement as good as it can possibly be. In closing, it has been an honor to be part of this community. Thank you."

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