OSWEGO — The state Public Service Commission plans to hold two hearings in Oswego next month on statewide proposed clean energy standards that many argue could keep the region’s nuclear power producers in business for the foreseeable future.
The meetings, scheduled for May 24 at Oswego City Hall, come at a time when locals continue efforts to prevent the planned closure of Entergy’s James A. FitzPatrick Nuclear Power Plant and state officials look to revamp the energy market by incentivizing nuclear as well as other clean or renewable sources such as wind and solar.
The clean energy standard proposed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, expected to be finalized in June, pushes for 50 percent of the state’s power to come from renewable sources; the plan backs nuclear with tax credits and incentives as a carbon-free electricity generator.
Despite state and local efforts — including legislation from Assemblyman Will Barclay, R-Pulaski, and Sen. Patty Ritchie, R-Heuvelton providing $60 million in a zero-carbon emission tax credit — Entergy says it’s too late to reverse the estimated $60 million in annual losses for FitzPatrick due to low regional natural gas prices and increased maintenance costs.
In February, Entergy announced the Scriba plant, which employs more than 600 workers, would close Jan. 27.
“Entergy has advocated for several years for New York to adopt a clean energy standard that recognizes the significant benefits of the state’s nuclear generation,” said Entergy’s Tammy Holden on Monday. “All sources of new and existing clean energy ... should be eligible to participate on an equal footing. Unfortunately, these efforts come too late for FitzPatrick and cannot impact the timeline for the station.”
Holden has previously said there were “too many unknowns” with the proposed clean energy standard, including how and when it would be implemented and “what the net benefit will be for the plants that can participate.”
Holden noted the company’s nuclear professionals were advocates for the plant and nuclear power, so they might attend the public hearings in May.
Upstate Energy Jobs Coalition, a group formed in the wake of last year’s announcement that FitzPatrick would close, is encouraging locals to show up at the meetings, noting Exelon’s Nine Mile Point Nuclear Power Station and Ginna Nuclear Power Plant could benefit from the new energy standard, as area nuclear producers face challenges similar to those at FitzPatrick.
In a press release on Monday, the group also noted upstate nuclear plants contribute approximately $3.2 billion to the state’s gross domestic product, as well as almost 25,000 direct and indirect full-time jobs.
Nuclear accounts for $144 million in net state tax revenues every year, including more than $60 million in annual local property taxes — something local towns and school districts have in mind when it comes to the impact of FitzPatrick’s closure.
A message left with Upstate Energy Jobs Coalition’s chairman, L. Michael Treadwell, was not immediately responded to by press time.
Exelon’s Jill Lyon said Monday that cost studies confirm “the benefits of preserving upstate nuclear plants are at least 2.6 times greater than the costs.”
Many Exelon employees are planning to voice their support for the new standard and nuclear power in general at the upcoming public hearings, Lyon said.
“Meanwhile, we remain committed to working with the state PSC and other stakeholders to craft a plan that properly values nuclear units for their safety, zero carbon energy, reliable operation, fuel diversity and economic impact,” she added.
Oswego Mayor Billy Barlow said Monday that “it doesn’t matter” what new standards are approved as far as Entergy was concerned, because the company had made its intentions to close FitzPatrick clear “regardless” of recent state or local efforts to update the energy market.
“The new standard helps and it’s certainly better than what it is now,” Barlow added when asked if the proposed clean energy Standard was at least good news for Exelon’s Nine Mile in Scriba, which employs approximately 1,000 people at two reactors.
The PSC afternoon and evening meetings are scheduled for May 24 at Oswego City Hall.
The first begins with an information session at 2 p.m., followed by a public hearing at 3 p.m. The second information session starts at 6 p.m. before public statements at 7 p.m.