Londonderry, Lower Dauphin officials continue fight to keep Three Mile Island from closing

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How many times should we try to save Three Mile Island? It’s a topic that’s been debated for decades and is back in the spotlight now that the nuclear plant will close if lawmakers don’t act by September.

Londonderry Township and Lower Dauphin School District say closing Three Mile Island would destroy jobs, business, tax revenue and community partners. But critics say saving it is not worth the money, and it’s time to move on.

“Regionally, you can’t take the largest employer from a region and not have economic devastation,” said Steve Letavic, the manager of Londonderry Township.

Three Mile Island contributes about one million dollars to Londonderry Township in local real estate taxes.

The nuclear power plant has about 635 employees, and is involved in raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for the local fire company.

Lower Dauphin School District depends on the plant too.

“If they were to shut down, we would lose $700,000 out of the district budget,” said Jim Hazen, a spokesman for Lower Dauphin School District. “Ten of the last eleven years, we haven’t had a tax increase. There’s no way we could absorb a $700,000 hit without raising taxes.”

The township has been involved with the group Clean Jobs for Pennsylvania to try to preserve the nuclear industry.

Officials are also working to raise awareness about implications of the plant closing.

“For the school district, we have a nonprofit called Lower Dauphin Communities that Care, and one of the programs they offer is a book-mobile that travels the whole 90 square miles of the school district,” said Hazen. “They donate $10,000 a year specifically to support those activities.”

But whether or not lawmakers should pass a bill to stop the closure is highly controversial.

“I think the school district and the township forget that we had to sue Three Mile Island to pay their fair share of taxes and they’re still not paying the level of taxes they paid when Exelon built the plant,” said Eric Epstein, the chairman of Three Mile Island Alert. 

Last week, legislators discussed a bill to prevent the closure by treating nuclear power like wind and solar energy. 

But this could cost customers more money on their electric bills. 

Exelon said Three Mile Island hasn’t turned a profit in years.

“Ratepayers pay the bill and it costs 1.1 billion and we’ve bailed them out three times,” said Epstein. 

The organization Three Mile Island Alert has proposed a plan that would preserve the tax base and conserve jobs by creating clean-up jobs.    

Lower Dauphin School District is also meeting with legislators to work toward a possible solution this week.

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