Hearings on nuclear power plants' bill kick off in House

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Hearings are beginning in Pennsylvania's House of Representatives on heavily-lobbied legislation that backers say is necessary to ensure the long-term profitability of the state's five nuclear power plants, albeit at a cost to electric ratepayers.

The first testifier Monday was former Gov. Tom Ridge, who as governor two decades ago ushered in Pennsylvania's competitive electricity markets that nuclear power plant owners now say don't provide an even playing field.

Ridge's lobbying firm, Ridge Policy Group, represents a subsidiary of Ohio-based FirstEnergy Corp. that owns Beaver Valley nuclear power plant in western Pennsylvania.

Still, Ridge says he believes nuclear power is important to the nation's energy reliability and security.

The legislation is opposed by oil and gas trade associations, the AARP and the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, among others.