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New York State Aiding Nuclear Plants With Millions in Subsidies via The New York Times

Utility customers in New York State will pay nearly $500 million a year in subsidies aimed at keeping some upstate nuclear power plants operating, regulators in Albany decided on Monday.

The subsidies were included in an order from the Public Service Commission to establish new rules on how power consumed in the state is generated. The policy, championed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, calls for half of the state’s electricity to come from renewable sources, such as solar or wind, by 2030.

Mr. Cuomo’s ambition to have New York seen as a national leader in reducing pollution from power generation has been complicated by the declining fortunes of the operators of nuclear plants. A long slump in the price of natural gas, a fuel for other generators, has hurt the profits of many nuclear plants, prompting plans to shut down some in New York.

Exelon has said it may have to close its R. E. Ginna and Nine Mile Point nuclear plants unless it receives financial help from the state. Another company, Entergy, had said that it would close the James A. FitzPatrick plant, which neighbors Nine Mile Point on the shore of Lake Ontario in Oswego County, by early next year.

Without those reactors, the state’s distributors of electricity would have to obtain more power from power plants fueled by gas and coal, which emit more carbon and would detract from the governor’s clean-energy goals, said Audrey Zibelman, the chairwoman of the commission.

None of the subsidies will go to the Indian Point nuclear plant in Buchanan in Westchester County, Ms. Zibelman said. That plant, she said, “doesn’t have economic need” because electricity prices are much higher downstate.

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Ms. Zibelman said state officials had calculated the social and economic benefits of the program, including reduction of carbon emissions, lower prices for electricity and jobs in the power-generation industry, to be much greater than the cost.

But some environmental groups, including the Alliance for a Green Economy in Syracuse, had opposed the subsidies, calling them possibly “the largest corporate bailout or subsidy” in state history.

Jessica Azulay, program director for the group, said it supported the governor’s push to mandate the purchase of renewable energy by utilities but thought subsidies that could amount to several billion dollars over 12 years were a big mistake.

“They’re dangerous, they’re aging, they’re unprofitable and they should close,” Ms. Azulay said of the nuclear plants.

Exelon, which would collect the bulk of the subsidies, applauded the order. The company has pledged to invest about $200 million in its upstate plants next spring if the program is approved.

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