State Senate budget taps climate cash to save operations
By Brian Nearing Updated 7:56 am, Wednesday, March 16, 2016
FILE — Indian Point nuclear plant in Peekskill, N.Y., July 29, 2010. (Tony Cenicola/The New York Times) Photo: TONY CENICOLA Albany
Republican state lawmakers in the Senate are pushing a $100 million bailout of the state’s nuclear power industry using funds from a climate change program meant to cut greenhouse gases from power plants.
The Senate’s budget 2016-17 budget bill in response to Gov. Andrew Cuomo‘s plan calls for $100 million from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative for “the benefit of nuclear facilities that are not currently financially viable but remain operational.”
The proposal comes as state energy officials continue crafting a Cuomo-backed clean energy plan (Clean Energy Standard) that would include unspecified subsidies to financially stressed nuclear plants, which currently provide about 30 percent of the state’s total electricity.
Cuomo’s plan calls for the state to produce half of its electric power from renewable sources by 2030. Since RGGI was launched seven years ago, the program has collected more than $925 million from power plant owners to cover greenhouse gas emissions that drive climate change.
In recent years, historically low natural gas prices have driven down wholesale electricity costs as plant owners switched to that fuel, making nuclear power less competitive financially.
Cuomo’s nuclear gambit comes as he has tried, so far unsuccessfully, to convince Entergy Corp., owners of the money-losing James A. FitzPatrick nuclear plant near Oswego, to shutter the 40-year-old facility by January. Cuomo wants Entergy to close its other nuclear plant, Indian Point, on the Hudson River in Westchester County, which provides about 40 percent of all nuclear-generated power in the state.
Backers of the FitzPatrick plant welcomed the Senate funding move, while some clean energy advocates expressed strong misgivings.
“It’s heartening to see such support included in the state’s budget proposals, and also why we need to work together to implement Gov. Cuomo’s Clean Energy Standard in a timely manner to ensure the long-term viability of these plants,” said L. Michael Treadwell, CEO of the Oswego County Industrial Development Agency and a member of Upstate Energy Jobs, a regional coalition of political, civic and labor groups.