CORTLANDT, N.Y. – County, school and local governments are going to have to “take the bull by the horns” if Westchester is to survive the financial fallout of Indian Point’s closure, says County Executive Rob Asterino.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo startled everyone from local officials to environmental groups this month when he announced that the Buchanan facility would be shuttered in stages, from 2020 to 2021, 13 and 14 years earlier, respectively, than required under the anticipated federal re-licensing terms.
Astorino, a Republican who ran against Cuomo in 2014, said the county, school and local governments are going to develop a plan to mitigate against the closing of Indian Point, with or without the state’s help.
“We are going to take the bull by the horns and control our own destiny. We are not going to rely on the state because none of us think the state will do anything constructive,” Astorino said.
The county executive bought a truckload of scary statistics with him to a recent "Ask Astorino" meeting at Cortlandt Town Hall.
He told the hundreds in attendance Wednesday that $72 million of $125 million in Entergy’s nuclear power plant’s PILOT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) are in danger.
Those revenue agreements are with the county, village of Buchanan, Town of Cortlandt, and the Hendrick Hudson School District, he said.
The Indian Point PILOT makes up 36 percent of the school district’s tax revenue; it’s 62 percent for the village, Astorino said.
Although the “town hall” meeting touched on other county-related issues, such as the gun show at the County Center in White Plains and the affordable housing settlement, it was clearly Indian Point that everyone seemed to want to talk about.
Said Cortlandt Supervisor Linda Puglisi: “Residents in our community are very concerned about possible tax increases, loss of jobs, safety and security of the site, impact to local businesses, the environment, spent fuel rods left behind once closed and the re-use of the property, if possible.”
The town, she said, also needs answers to these questions from the state and Entergy.
Astorino pointed to a 2015 Nuclear Energy Institute report, that found Indian Point generates $1.3 billion in economic output locally.
The aging nuclear plant sits on the Hudson River just south of Peekskill and about 36 miles north of Manhattan. More than 17 million people reportedly live within 50 miles of the plant.
Indian Point’s safety has been called into question numerous times, and both Unit 2 and 3 have been closed at various times for repairs and maintenance, according to media reports. However, its record of operations – 99 percent over the last two years as compared to a national average of 91 percent – is on the plus side.
According to Astorino, there are 1,000 jobs at the facility and another 2,800 local jobs that it supports.
He also said that studies conducted in 2011 by the New York City Department of Environmental Protection and Riverkeeper, an environmental nonprofit, showed that electric rates will rise when Indian Point closes.
The recent $2 state surcharge for rate payers to subsidize three upstate nuclear power plants will make Westchester’s rates the highest in the country, Astorino said. (The Con Ed region is second behind Hawaii).
Indian Point generates 2,000 megawatts, or about 25 percent of Westchester’s and New York City’s power needs.
The fate of the spent nuclear rods at Indian Point are also a concern. Under the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s decommissioning program, spent nuclear fuel will, he said, likely be stored at the Indian Point property for the next 60 years.
The state has “only” dedicated $15 million to address the financial impact of the closure, Astorino added.
Cuomo has been quoted widely in the press as calling the plant a “ticking time bomb” that he has been trying to close for 15 years.
In a Jan. 9 statement, the governor said his administration has been “aggressively pursuing and incentivizing the development of clean, reliable energy.”
New York, Cuomo promised, is “fully prepared to replace the power generated by the plant at a negligible cost to taxpayers.”
The plant, Cuomo said, “has been plagued by numerous safety and operational problems, including faulty bolts, and various leaks and fires.”
Entergy spokesman Jerry Nappi couldn’t be reached for comment Sunday, but, according to a company statement made after Cuomo’s announcement, he said Indian Point has been operating for more than four decades “with clean, safe, and reliable electricity.”
The early shutdown, Nappi said, is part of a settlement under which the state agreed to drop legal challenges and support renewal of the plant’s operating licenses.
Closing Indian Point, Nappi said, “will complete Entergy’s exit from its merchant power business because of sustained low wholesale energy prices.”
In the Jan. 9 statement, Entergy chairman and CEO Leo Denault, said the company was “committed” to treating its employees fairly and would help anyone who’s interested in finding other jobs “within the Entergy system.”
County Legislator John Testa, R-Peekskill, one of those at the forum, said it gave residents “an outlet to voice their concerns over the closing of Indian Point.”