The Money Behind Dem Support to Dump the Nuke Plant Moratorium

January 11, 2016

Nuclear Plant

Some Assembly Democrats raised eyebrows last month when they supported a GOP legislative proposal to repeal Wisconsin’s 33-year-old moratorium on nuclear power plant construction. Banning new nuke plants has generally been a Democratic cause for decades.

The measure, Assembly Bill 384, is sponsored by Sen. Frank Lasee, of De Pere, and Rep. Kevin Petersen, of Waupaca, and is backed by utilities, labor unions, the business community and the rightwing ideological group, Americans for Prosperity.  The bill is opposed by environmentalists and a utility watchdog. After a hearing on the bill, the Assembly Committee on Energy and Utilities voted 13-0 to recommend AB384 for legislative approval. The Assembly, which is controlled by Republicans by a 63 to 36 margin, is scheduled to vote on the bill on Tuesday.

Contributions to current Democratic lawmakers from the utility industry, and from the electrical, carpentry, plumbing and other trades whose unions support the bill, totaled about $510,000 between January 2011 and June 2015, including about $31,000 to the five Democrats on the Assembly committee who voted for the bill. Those Democrats and their contributions were:

Rep. Robb Kahl, of Monona, about $11,900, including nearly $6,200 from trades unions and about $5,700 from utilities;

Rep. Josh Zepnick, of Milwaukee, $7,400, including $4,100 from trades unions and $3,300 from utilities;

Rep. Eric Genrich, of Green Bay, $5,550, including $4,750 from trades unions and $800 from utilities;

Rep. Melissa Sargent, of Madison, $3,200, including $2,450 from trades unions and $750 from utilities;

Rep. Amanda Stuck, of Appleton, $3,000, all from trades unions.

Americans for Prosperity applauded the bipartisan committee support for the bill, saying the measure should be passed to "get government out of the way" and allow nuclear energy to be part of the state's future energy options.

Under current law, the Public Service Commission (PSC) may not approve new nuclear power plants unless there is a state facility to store nuclear waste from the plants. The bill would allow the PSC to approve new nuclear plants without a state facility to store the waste. The proposal also changes the priorities that the PSC must consider to grant future nuclear power plant permits by putting nuclear energy options ahead of nonrenewable energy options.