The tab for one of the largest corporate bailouts in the state’s history will be picked up by every New Yorker with an electric bill.
The state plans to guarantee billions in revenue over 12 years for three nuclear power plants located in struggling upstate New York towns desperate to hold onto hundreds of jobs and the property taxes the plants generate so they can keep schools open and teachers paid.
While the bill will be paid by ratepayers across the state through a roughly $2-a-month increase in electric bills, ratepayers in Westchester and Rockland counties, for instance, will not benefit directly from the power generated by the plants, The Journal News/lohud has found.
New York’s position
State officials say the plan’s critics are missing the point.
They say the Clean Energy Standard recognizes the so-called “social cost of carbon” and provides clean-air energy benefits that will be shared by people across the state.
“Retention of the zero-emission attributes of New York’s upstate nuclear plants would avoid the emission of approximately 15 million tons of carbon per year,” says a staff proposal written by the New York State Energy and Research Development Authority. “Losing the carbon-free attributes of nuclear generation, before the development of new renewable resources between now and 2030, would undoubtedly result, based on current market conditions, in significantly increased air emissions due to heavier utilization of existing fossil-fueled plants or the construction of new gas plants.”
State officials estimate that, if the electricity generated by the upstate power plants is lost, the state will experience some $1.4 billion in public health and societal costs linked to carbon emissions. They estimate that the closure would cost ratepayers $7 a month.
Cuomo views nuclear power as a bridge to the future when the state will rely on renewable energy sources like wind and solar power for 50 percent of its electricity needs by 2030, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent.
Opponents say the state should be putting the $2-a-month increase toward its own goal of making the state reliant on renewable energy sources in the decades to come.
The closure of FitzPatrick, which officials said was posting annual losses of $60 million, would mean the loss of 615 jobs and $17.3 million in annual property taxes, the coalition noted. School officials say the loss of tax revenues from FitzPatrick would have opened up a $12.5 million hole in their $54.5 million budget.
“The plant is a vital part of the region’s economy, and an indispensable part of New York state’s plan to dramatically increase the emissions-free portion of the state’s energy mix,” U.S. Rep. John Katko, a Republican who represents part of Oswego and several central New York counties, wrote in a September letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, urging it to approve the sale of FitzPatrick.
Exelon said its offer is contingent on the state backing the subsidy package.
Read more and listen to interviews at Upstate nuclear plants’ bailout among biggest in NY history