Indian Point Before The Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)

New York weighs future of Indian Point, upstate nuclear power plants

Thomas C. Zambito, The Journal News 7:21 p.m. EDT May 17, 2016

(Photo: Thomas Zambito)

Story Highlights

  • The state Public Service Commission is holding hearings this month that will likely decide the future of nuclear power in New York

Workers from two struggling upstate nuclear power plants packed a state hearing on the future of nuclear power in New York Tuesday, sporting t-shirts urging state officials to save their jobs.

“When Upstate Nuclear Runs, NY Wins,” the shirts read.

They were countered by anti-nuclear activists who pushed for the shutdown of Indian Point and upstate power plants so the state can begin its transition to renewable energy source like wind and solar power.

“Work with us to plan this just transition,” anti-nuclear activist Manna Jo Greene, the environmental director for the Beacon-based Clearwater, urged workers who crowded an Albany-area hearing held by the state Public Service Commission. “The handwriting is on the wall.”

Susan Shapiro (left) of the Indian Point Safe Energy Coalition and Manna Jo Greene of Hudson River Sloop Clearwater spoke out against Indian Point at a Public Service Commission hearing near Albany Tuesday (Photo: Thomas Zambito)

The hearing was one of 22 being held across the state this month as the Public Service Commission weighs Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposal to establish clean energy standards so the state can continue reducing its carbon emissions.

Cuomo wants the state to rely on renewable energy sources for 50 percent of its electricity by 2030. While he’s advocated Indian Point’s shutdown, he’s pushing for the commission to offer financial incentives that would aid three upstate nuclear power plants — two in Oswego and a third near Rochester.

The owners of the James A. FitzPatrick nuclear power plant in Scriba say they will shut the plant’s doors in January 2017 and lay off half of the plant’s 600 workers.

Cuomo’s proposal envisions keeping the upstate nuclear plants open to act as a “bridge” until the state is able to rely on renewable energy sources for its electricity.

Several anti-nuclear speakers cast Cuomo’s effort to save the upstate plants as a “bailout” that shouldn’t be borne by ratepayers.

“Right now the nuclear industry, even though it’s over 50 years old still is unable to support itself,” said Susan Shapiro, a Rockland County attorney who works with the Indian Point Safe Energy Coalition. “It’s received more bailouts from the federal government than any other industry and it continues to receive bailouts from taxpayers.”

Gary Toth of Upstate Energy Jobs speaking in support of upstate nuclear power plants at Public Service Commission hearings on the future of nuclear power in New York. Video by Thomas C. Zambito/The Journal News

The Cuomo Administration says the financial incentives for the upstate plants as well as new renewable energy sources would have a less-than-one percent impact on electricity bills — about $1 per month for a residential customer — in the coming years. Among the incentives would be zero carbon emission credits for the nuclear power plants.

Among those testifying at Tuesday hearing at Colonie Town Hall was Gary Toth, a member of a central New York coalition called “Upstate Energy Jobs,” which is working to keep the upstate nuclear plants open. Toth said the upstate nuclear power plants provide some 24,000 jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in payroll.

Cesar Penafiel of the group Environmental Progress speaks in support of Indian Point at Public service Commission hearing on Tuesday. Thomas C. Zambito/The Journal News

“Nuclear generation is essential to New York as our only answer to a low cost, reliable, carbon free electrical production that would reduce carbon pollution in our atmosphere by 50 percent in the year 2030,” Toth said.

The Public Service Commission is scheduled to hold a vote on Cuomo’s proposals next month.

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