Astorino, Local Officials Blindsided by Indian Point Closure Deal
John Jordan | March 2017
PEEKSKILL—The overwhelming takeaway from a recent state legislative committee public hearing on the Indian Point closure deal between New York State and plant operator Entergy Corp. was that state officials failed to forewarn key local stakeholders that a deal was in the works.
County and local officials also were in unison expressing concern that a plan to replace the 2,000 megawatts of power Indian Point 2 and 3 nuclear plants provide and the more than 1,000 jobs at the Buchanan plant is not in place.
State Senator Terrence Murphy hosted a public hearing at the Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 21 Meeting Hall in Peekskill, on March 2nd. The hearing was a follow-up to a joint Senate-Assembly committee hearing on the Indian Point closure held in Albany on Feb. 28. Other state representatives that presided over the Peekskill hearing included: State Assemblyman Kevin Byrne and State Sens. Thomas Crocci and Joseph Griffo.
At the session Sen. Murphy hammered home the apparent lack of transparency in the closure deal by asking key county and local stakeholders whether they were notified of the deal prior to becoming aware of the deal from a New York Times story on Jan. 6, several days before the official announcement by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Entergy on Jan. 9th. Among those who testified that they were not informed of the deal included Westchester County Executive Robert Astorino, Buchanan Mayor Theresa Knickerbocker, Cortland Town Supervisor Linda Puglisi, Hendrick Hudson School District Superintendent Joseph Hochreiter, as well as a host of union leaders who represent workers at the Indian Point Energy Center.
County Executive Astorino said at the hearing that despite sending a letter to Gov. Cuomo requesting a meeting to discuss the Indian Point closure and plans to mitigate the impact of the shutdown, he had yet to hear from the governor on his request.
Astorino said that the decision to close Indian Point “puts the economic and environmental future of our region at risk. I am here to ask for your help in getting credible answers to how the state plans to do the following: replace Indian Point’s power generation; mitigate against the negative impacts to our power grids; lessen the CO2 emissions from generating replacement energy; supplement $31 million in local tax revenues that will be lost and counter the economic devastation that results if New York powers down a multibillion dollar economic engine.”
Buchanan Mayor Knickerbocker discussed the tremendous fiscal impact the closure will eventually have on the town and wondered if the Indian Point plants could be converted to gas-fired generation facilities.
Cortlandt Town Supervisor Puglisi also discussed the tremendous economic impact the closure would have on the area and related that the closure poses the biggest challenge to the region since 9-11.
She said the fact that the town was not notified of the plant closure was “disappointing, but we must go forward.”
Hendrick Hudson School District Superintendent Hochreiter said that the school district would upon the plant closures face a $29.7-million funding gap. He also revealed that the district was about to roll out a $14-million capital plan in January, but those plans were shelved once the plant closure deal was revealed.
Hochreiter discussed the dire possibilities that lie ahead for the district, including significant tax increases and the possibility of an oversaturated housing market caused by businesses and families who decide to leave the area due to the fear of the unknown impacts the plant closures will cause.
Marsha Gordon, president and CEO of The Business Council of Westchester, in her testimony pointed to a study commissioned four years ago by the business organization that concluded that closing the Indian Point Energy Center would have a catastrophic impact on the region resulting in higher electric rates for businesses and consumers, more power outages, a rapid rise in carbon emissions and cause a devastating blow to Westchester’s economy. Among the study’s chief conclusions included: higher electric rates and carbon emissions, the loss of more than 3,300 direct and indirect jobs; representing more than $200 million in lost wages, and the loss of approximately $75 million per year in combined property taxes.
“Four years later, these issues remain valid. Yet, the governor and those who have relentlessly advocated for closing Indian Point have yet to begin to address how Westchester County and the region will deal with the five critical issues,” Gordon said. “It is imperative that all key stakeholders including members of the State Legislature press for answers to these questions. Once Indian Point is closed, what is the governor’s plan to deal with: the electric supply reliability, the increase of electric rates and the environmental and economics holes that will occur once Indian Point is closed? As we work to attract new businesses to Westchester and encourage existing businesses to stay and grow, we will need detailed answers. Sadly, those discussions should have occurred before the governor’s announcement that the plant would be closing.”