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A state Senate bill aims to preserve nuclear power as plants threaten to shut down across the state.

State Sen. Ryan Aument, R-Lancaster, introduced the bill with a bipartisan group of colleagues on Wednesday, April 3. It follows a similar House bill introduced in March. 

Both bills seek to protect nuclear energy under the Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards Act, but the Senate version differs by including a clawback provision for generators that pull out of the program before the end of their time commitment, according to Aument's office. 

Companies would have to pay back larger portions the earlier they pull out of the program, under Aument's version. For example, a company pulling out in the first year would have to pay back 100%, in the second year 80%, the third year 60% and so on, according to the senator's office.

More: Pa. bill would add nuclear power to alternative energy lists

The Senate bill, SB 510, also differs by including an audit provision to ensure money is spent accordingly. 

A copy of the bill will soon be made available online, a representative from Aument's office confirmed Thursday. 

One of the state's five nuclear power plants, Three Mile Island, is scheduled to be decommissioned in September. Exelon Generation, the plant's owner, does not want to keep the plant open without legislation ensuring nuclear energy is included in policies favoring carbon-free alternative energy producers. 

The proposals are set to be one of the most pressing topics during the legislative session — with heated debate expected on both sides. Lawmakers are under a tight June 1 deadline, when Exelon will decide whether or not to continue fueling Three Mile Island. 

"The loss of Pennsylvania’s nuclear industry will inevitably lead to increased costs for ratepayers, a less reliable and resilient electricity grid, and a loss of billions of dollars for the state’s economy," Aument said in a statement. 

Aument's office estimates that failing to preserve the nuclear energy industry would cost Pennsylvania $4.6 billion annually. 

More: Exelon spent millions in lobbying after announcing TMI closure

More: Public hearings slated for nuclear subsidy bill

More: After 40 years, Three Mile Island meltdown looms large

State Rep. Carol Hill-Evans, D-York City, is a co-sponsor of the House version, HB 11. Hill-Evans was not available Thursday for comment, but her chief of staff James Sawor said that Hill-Evans' co-sponsorship does not mean she necessarily supports the bill as it's currently written.

Sawor added that Hill-Evans wants to be involved in the conversation as HB 11 progresses.

State Sen. Kristin Phillips-Hill (R-York) said on Thursday that she had not yet seen the bill herself, and is waiting to see every side of the issue from stakeholders during the House Consumer Affair Committee meetings.

The series of four hearings will be held on Monday, April 8, 15, 29 and May 6. 

Phillips-Hill said it's important to ensure that all other options are exhausted "to remedy situation at hand to ensure that we have a bright energy future but we do it in a very responsible way."

State Sen. Stan Saylor (R-York) has also yet to take a stance on the proposed legislation, according to his communication director John O'Brien. 

Saylor is "waiting to hear from various stakeholders and also evaluating how this legislation progresses through committee process," O'Brien said.

"It's something he's very engaged in and very interested in," O'Brien said, adding that Saylor has not made a decision either way. 

Both versions of the bill lack a plan to cut power sector carbon pollution, according to an Environmental Defense Fund statement.

Unlike the house bill, HB 11, the Senate version does not include a provision to extinguish the subsidy if a carbon price is adopted, according to the EDF statement. 

Leaders of Nuclear Powers Pennsylvania, a statewide coalition of pro-nuclear businesses, issued a statement in support of SB 510.

— Rebecca Klar can be reached at rklar@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter @RebeccaKlar_.

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