O'Malley supports Constellation sale, with conditions
Maryland PIRG, others continue opposition
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A brief filed by the O'Malley administration on Monday supports with conditions Constellation Energy Group's $4.5 billion sale of half of its nuclear energy business to Electricite de France, after months of acrimonious negotiations with the Baltimore Gas & Electric owner.
"The fact of the matter is the state would support the proposed deal between Constellation and EDF, if certain conditions are met that would protect ratepayers and BGE," said Rick Abbruzzese, a spokesman for Gov. Martin O'Malley (D).
Final briefs in the case were due Monday to the Public Service Commission, the state regulatory body that will decide whether the deal is in the public interest.
The brief calls for many conditions that O'Malley tried unsuccessfully to broker with the energy company in recent months.
Among the conditions is a one-time credit to ratepayers of about $200 each. The credit would be similar to rate relief contained in a $2 billion settlement agreement carved out between O'Malley and Constellation last year.
Other conditions include steps to protect BGE from financial liability should Constellation declare bankruptcy, limits on executive compensation and a contribution of $50 million to $100 million to the state's Electric Universal Services Program, which helps low-income customers pay their electric bills.
A call to Constellation for comment Monday was not returned by deadline.
Constellation has argued that the EDF deal will enable the company to build a third nuclear reactor at Calvert Cliffs, boosting the company's energy-generating capacity and bringing thousands of jobs to Southern Maryland.
But in a brief filed Monday, a coalition of environmental, community action and watchdog groups urged the PSC to reject the deal, arguing that the proposed reactor "would likely apply strong upward pressures on electricity prices for BGE customers, while threatening BGE's financial stability."
The coalition comprises the Nuclear Information and Resource Service, Beyond Nuclear, Public Citizen, the Maryland Public Interest Research Group and the Maryland Association of Communities Organizing for Reform Now.
Opponents believe the deal will open the way for a reactor project that they say is ripe for construction cost overruns. The development of another nuclear plant will also cost the state the opportunity to develop renewable energy sources, such as wind power, they say.
The deregulated utility market that Maryland entered in 1999 allows utilities to pass construction cost overruns on to ratepayers, Allison Fisher, an organizer with Washington, D.C.-based Public Citizen, told Gazette editors Friday.
"This deal isn't in the public interest, and therefore we think the PSC should reject it," Maryland PIRG state director Johanna Neumann said during the meeting with editors. "If that happens, basically it means that the plug is pulled on Calvert Cliffs-3. And then what needs to happen in the state of Maryland is a very real conversation around comprehensive energy planning."
That conversation should focus on how to "provide reliable electric service at the least possible cost, with the minimal environmental impact," Neumann said. "Maryland used to do that kind of comprehensive energy planning before we deregulated."