BG&E asks Energy Dept. for a $24 million refund

April 14, 1993|By Ross Hetrick | Ross Hetrick,Staff Writer

The head of the Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. is asking the federal Energy Department for a $24 million refund to compensate the utility for building a temporary spent-fuel storage facility at the Calvert Cliffs nuclear power plant.

Christian H. Poindexter, BG&E's chairman and chief executive officer, said yesterday that he made the request last month because the company has paid $153 million in surcharge fees to the federal government since 1988 for a permanent storage site, which has not been built.

"I'm saying my customers are being charged twice," Mr. Poindexter told reporters after the company's annual meeting, referring to the utility's payments for both a permanent storage site and the temporary facility.

Completed in November, the $24 million bunker-type temporary structure has 3-foot-thick walls and 6-ton doors. It will be able to hold enough radioactive spent-fuel rods to keep the plant operating until 2003.

The storage facility was necessary because the water-filled concrete pools where the rods have been stored are nearing capacity.

The federal government has been wrestling for decades with how to store radioactive waste from nuclear plants. The Energy Department's latest goal is to establish a site at Yucca Mountain, Nev., or elsewhere, by 2010. Mr. Poindexter said he is also urging other utilities with nuclear power plants to seek refunds from the Energy Department for providing storage facilities. Utilities with nuclear plants have already paid $6 billion for a permanent storage facility, Mr. Poindexter said.

If a refund is granted, it would be in the form of lower payments to the government in the future -- which would cut the utility's expenses.

At his first annual meeting since becoming chairman Jan. 1, Mr. Poindexter stressed the need for BG&E to change in a environment where customers are being encouraged to conserve and other companies generate electricity for BG&E.

Part of this new strategy is to expand the company's 90-year-old appliance and electronic business.

BG&E has been criticized by appliance and electronic retailers who question whether BG&E's appliance business is subsidized its power-generating business. But Mr. Poindexter said the business is not supported by the utility service.

Mr. Poindexter was asked a variety of pointed questions, from a request that three directors resign because they had been on the board of the scandal-plagued Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Maryland to inquiries about executive compensation.

He defended the pay to executives, saying it is necessary to attract and retain qualified individuals.

As vice chairman last year, Mr. Poindexter received $658,593 in salary, stock benefits and other compensation. His predecessor, George V. McGowan, received $975,444 in salary, stock benefits and other compensation.

The Rev. Douglas E. Moore, the president of Moore Energy Resources Inc., questioned Mr. Poindexter about whether the company is complying with a law requiring large suppliers to the federal government to establish a plan to increase purchases from small minority firms.

Mr. Poindexter said the company is aggressively pursuing purchases from minority firms and has received awards for its efforts.

But he did not directly answer the question about the specific law. "This is very serious, and I hope you take it seriously," Mr. Moore said.

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