A proposal before the Wyoming Legislature to exempt nuclear power plants from current laws and statutes is a fool’s errand. The proposed legislation House Bill 131 – Nuclear power and storage amendments only serves to further enrich billionaires Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, who are the primary investors of the proposed Natrium nuclear power plant in Kemmerer.
The legislation has Wyoming bending over forward and backwards to unnecessarily relax our long-standing Industrial Siting Act, which protects our small communities from the serious socio-economic impacts resulting from the construction of large scale industrial facilities. Adding insult to injury, HB 131 also proposes tax breaks for nuclear plants by exempting them from a generation tax that was put in place to ensure Wyoming would get some economic benefit if nuclear power comes to the state — bolstering the state’s revenue base if nuclear displaces coal or natural gas for power generation.
The ISA was adopted in the 1970s to address the significant, unintended impacts boom development was having on small rural communities. The act has been a savior to Wyoming communities by requiring companies planning and building large-scale facilities to address the socio-economic impacts these facilities will bring when they draw thousands of out-of-state workers to a small community to construct these plants.
The ISA has been very effective in addressing the impacts of housing shortages, increased crime, emergency services, education and other infrastructure impacts to small Wyoming communities. But HB 131 as originally proposed will remove those protections. The proposed new nuclear project in Kemmerer will result in significant socio-economic impacts that won’t be addressed without the Industrial Siting Act regulations.
To make matters worse, backers of HB 131 are considering eliminating the $5-per-megawatt-hour tax for experimental nuclear plants. There is no justification for providing nuclear generation a free ride — especially when the proposed plant is already receiving billions of dollars in subsidies from the U.S. Department of Energy, which is, in fact, footing half the construction cost.
Wyoming does not need to provide further tax breaks to the billionaire proponents behind these projects.
The $4 billion nuclear project proposed for Kemmerer will certainly bring jobs, but also will bring costly socio-economic impacts to the area, and if HB 131 passes those costs will not be borne by the billionaires but will fall on the citizens of the state of Wyoming.
HB 131 passed the House Tuesday and is headed to the Senate, so call your legislators and ask them to vote no on HB 131 to keep our Industrial Siting Act in place and to maintain a revenue tax on nuclear generated electricity.
Let’s protect our Wyoming taxpayers and communities first, not out-of-state billionaires.