March 15, 2018
Honorable Philip Murphy
PO Box 001
Trenton, NJ 08625
Dear Governor Murphy,
As scientists, conservationists, and environmentalists, we are grateful for your commitment to protecting the environment by moving New Jersey toward cleaner sources of energy.
However, despite New Jersey’s successes, in October the state will lose Oyster Creek nuclear plant a full decade before its license is due to expire. The clean power provided by Oyster Creek will be replaced almost entirely by natural gas, adding the yearly carbon emissions equivalent of over four hundred thousand cars to the road.
New Jersey cannot lose any more of its nuclear plants and still meet its climate goals. If New Jersey’s other nuclear plants are lost, the share of the state’s electricity coming from natural gas would increase sharply from 49 percent to over 90 percent, the carbon equivalent of 2.8 million cars.
Oyster Creek, along with Hope Creek and Salem nuclear power plants, supply about half of New Jersey’s electricity and 92 percent of the state’s zero-carbon electricity. In 2017, through November, New Jersey’s nuclear plants had provided over eleven times more electricity than the state’s solar and wind combined.
The loss of nuclear plants is especially worrying when considering another key climate strategy: replacing today’s petroleum-based vehicles with clean alternatives. While New Jersey’s solar panels provide less than half the energy in December than they do in June, the state’s nuclear plants can supply steady power year round. The closure of Oyster Creek this year will eliminate clean power that could be used for 1.4 million electric vehicles, while the loss of Hope Creek and Salem would remove power for another 7.6 million electric vehicles.
Nuclear plants around the country are at risk of being replaced by fossil fuels because they are excluded from state and federal clean energy subsidies and mandates. In 2016, renewables used for electricity production received $6.6 billion, or 33 times more, in federal tax preferences than nuclear. Therefore, considering nuclear’s larger share of clean electricity generation, federal subsidies for renewable electricity averaged 94 times more than subsidies for nuclear.
New Jersey further subsidizes clean energy while excluding nuclear. Solar provides less than four percent of the state’s electricity at a cost of six hundred million dollars per year. Since nuclear provides more than eleven times this amount of electricity each year, the same New Jersey solar subsidy rate for nuclear energy would have cost seven billion dollars last year alone.
Proposals to save New Jersey’s nuclear plants would cost about $10 per megawatt-hour while avoiding increased prices from importing more natural gas of at least that amount. Current proposals wisely build in consumer protections, making sure that the nuclear plants need the help before providing it; other clean energy subsidies in New Jersey have not, and do not, include such consumer protections.
Compared to existing New Jersey state subsidies for solar at fifty times this amount per megawatt-hour, the proposed help for nuclear plants would provide outstanding environmental protection value while paying for itself through lower fossil fuel bills and retained in-state jobs and tax revenue.
As governor, you have demonstrated your willingness to shape the future of New Jersey’s energy policy. To do the right thing for your state’s environment and people, you need to keep nuclear power in New Jersey. We urge you to support the public interest by keeping Hope Creek and Salem online. In doing so, you will help protect the state’s environment, health, and taxpayers.
Michael Shellenberger, President of Environmental Progress, Time Magazine’s “Hero of the Environment”
James Hansen, Climate Science, Awareness, and Solutions Program, Columbia University, Earth Institute, Columbia University
Kerry Emanuel, Professor of Atmospheric Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Richard Rhodes, Pulitzer Prize recipient, author of Nuclear Renewal and The Making of the Atomic Bomb
Robert Stone, filmmaker, “Pandora’s Promise”
John Asafu-Adjaye, PhD, Senior Fellow, Institute of Economic Affairs, Ghana, Associate Professor of Economics, The University of Queensland, Australia
Christopher Foreman, author of The Promise & Peril of Environmental Justice, School of Public Policy, University of Maryland
Gwyneth Cravens, author of Power to Save the World
Joshua S. Goldstein, Prof. Emeritus of International Relations, American University
David Lea, Professor, Earth Science, University of California
Mark Lynas, author, The God Species, Six Degrees
Michelle Marvier, Professor in the Department of Environmental Studies and Sciences at Santa Clara University
Erle C. Ellis, Ph.D, Professor, Geography & Environmental Systems, University of Maryland
Joe Lassiter, Professor, Harvard Business School
Steve Kirsch, CEO, Token
Norris McDonald, President, Environmental Hope and Justice
Alan Medsker, Coordinator, Environmental Progress - Illinois
Barrett Walker, Alex C. Walker Foundation