Lucas Seeks Assurances With Planned Closing of Indian Point

North Salem Supervisor Warren Lucas
The Indian Point Energy Center.

This story has been edited.

NORTH SALEM, N.Y.— With confirmation of the planned decommissioning of the Indian Point nuclear power plants in Buchanan, North Salem Supervisor Warren Lucas wants to ensure ratepayers in the town aren’t stuck paying the tab through higher electricity costs.

Plant owner Entergy and Gov. Andrew Cuomo confirmed the agreement Monday, which calls for closing the Indian Point Energy Center by April 2021 and for Entergy to transfer used fuel to protective storage casks, and pay $15 billion for environmental and community benefits.

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Entergy made the announcement via news release.

“Key considerations in our decision to shut down Indian Point ahead of schedule include sustained low current and projected wholesale energy prices that have reduced revenues, as well as increased operating costs. In addition, we foresee continuing costs for license renewal beyond the more than $200 million and 10 years we have already invested,” said Bill Mohl, president of Entergy Wholesale Commodities.

As part of the deal, the state and environmental group Riverkeeper have agreed to withdraw legal challenges to the plants’ license renewal.

Cuomo said the closure timeline allows enough time for alternative power resources to come online and ensure reliability of the power grid. Indian Point produces 2,000 megawatts of electrical power.

The state is vowing to work with local communities to address potential revenue shortfalls, similar to how it has worked with communities affected by other plant closures through the existing fossil fuel plant retirement fund.

Last year, the state Public Service Commission voted to place a surcharge on New York ratepayers’ electric bills to raise $7.6 billion for nuclear plant operator Exelon over a 12-year period, to continue to run three aging nuclear facilities in upstate New York until 2029.

Environmental group Hudson River Sloop Clearwater is concerned that the decision could also potentially give Entergy another $2.8 billion to run Indian Point.

It is asking the courts to review a PSC action, arguing that the commission acted improperly when it “mandated a massive subsidy to prop up New York’s aging, failing nuclear power plants as part of the state’s Clean Energy Standard.”

Lucas said he has spoken with Manna Jo Greene, the environmental director for Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, and is seeking a resolution from the Town Board approving him to sign an affidavit in support of Sloop Clearwater’s Article 78 court proceeding.

He said the goal is to stop the addition of the surcharge where residents could possibly subsidize the closure of Indian Point.

“This has nothing to do with whether I am opposed to, or for nuclear energy,” said Lucas, “The issue for me is simply that North Salem taxpayers, who are in our Community Choice Aggregation program, and who are not using this or any other non-renewable energy, should be paying part of the $7.6 billion to close the plant,” said Lucas.

North Salem is part of a consortium that includes 20 Westchester municipalities and the group Sustainable Westchester, that was selected last year by the state to manage the first community Choice Aggregation pilot program under Gov. Cuomo’s Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) strategy. The program, which has been dubbed “Westchester Smart Power,” allows the municipalities to contract directly with energy suppliers and receive bulk discounts on retail rates and to choose power from clean, renewable resources.

North Salem purchases its power from Constellation Energy on behalf of its residents.

“My position is that you should not be charging ratepayers in North Salem for the nuclear subsidies, known as Zero Emission Credits (ZECs) if they are paying for Renewable Energy Credits (RECs),” said Lucas.

He said he has discussed the issue with other municipal officials in Westchester, but to date, none has formally committed to support Clearwater’s Article 78.

As of press time, Lucas had drafted an affidavit which he hopes to sign in support of the Article 78. It was expected to be discussed at the Town Board meeting on Jan.10.

Attorney and member of Clearwater's board of directors, Seth Davis,said he will be submitting supportive material to the court later on behalf of Clearwater later this week. Davis noted that a large number of ratepayers who purchase 100 percent renewable energy have now become co-petitioners and are challenging the Public Service Commission. The challengers may soon include North Salem.

“Basically, this ruling by the PSC is discriminatory, particularly to North Salem, a community that has already stepped up to support renewable energy. It should not be forced to pay twice,” Davis said.

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