Rally for FitzPatrick

The clean energy standard giving upstate nuclear plants hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidies to keep afloat faces a new federal challenge from energy companies. 

OSWEGO — Community leaders and supporters of the state Public Service Commission’s clean energy standard are set to attend public sessions at Oswego City Hall today, where the PSC plans to break down proposed standards that many stakeholders argue could keep the region’s nuclear producers in operation.

The meetings, beginning at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m., come after months of continued efforts by state and local leaders to prevent the planned shutdown of Entergy’s James A. FitzPatrick Nuclear Power Plant.

FitzPatrick, which employs more than 600 workers, was projected to lose tens of millions moving forward due to low natural gas costs and ever-increasing operational expenses.

In February, Entergy announced the Scriba plant would begin the closure process Jan. 27.

State officials, including Gov. Andrew Cuomo, have worked to revamp the energy market by incentivizing nuclear as well as other clean or renewable sources such as wind and solar.

Cuomo’s proposed clean energy standard — backing nuclear with tax credits and incentives for being a carbon-free electricity generator — pushes for 50 percent of the state’s power to come from renewable sources.

The PSC expects the standard to be finalized sometime next month, and while Entergy has said it’s too late to save FitzPatrick, officials are at least hopeful the new standards could prevent similar financial hardships at Exelon’s Nine Mile Point Nuclear Generating Station in Scriba and R.E. Ginna Nuclear Power Plant in Ontario.

“We need to show that we care about nuclear power in Oswego,” said Oswego County Legislature Chairman Kevin Gardner, R-New Haven. “Nuclear should be considered clean energy and get all the same credits that come with it. Hopefully people will show up and be able to get that point across.”

L. Michael Treadwell, chairman of the grassroots group Upstate Energy Jobs Coalition — formed to support nuclear producers in the wake of FitzPatrick’s announced closure — called today’s Oswego hearings “an important opportunity” for stakeholders to weigh in on the benefits of the plan.

“These plants ... are economic drivers in our communities,” Treadwell said Monday. “They’re responsible for 25,000 jobs, contribute $3.16 billion in state gross domestic product and save New Yorkers $1.7 billion on electricity bills each year.

“Oswego and our neighboring communities that depend on upstate nuclear plants for economic support simply cannot afford to have these plants close.”

The coalition has noted nuclear power accounts for $144 million in net state tax revenues every year, including more than $60 million in annual local property taxes — something nearby towns and school districts have in mind when it comes to the impact of FitzPatrick’s closure.

Scriba Town Supervisor Ken Burdick said he hoped to attend one of today’s meetings, noting the “loss of jobs and livelihoods was not going to be pretty” if FitzPatrick’s fate isn’t reversed.

“Whatever the town can do, we 100 percent support trying to keep FitzPatrick open,” Burdick said Monday, “especially for all the employees involved and the long-term [impacts]. The town is definitely really concerned.”

Entergy has repeatedly asserted that while it supports a clean energy standard, the proposed changes come too late for FitzPatrick, irrespective of state and local efforts such as legislation from Assemblyman Will Barclay, R-Pulaski, and Sen. Patty Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, providing $60 million in a zero-carbon emission tax credit to the plant.

Tammy Holden of Entergy said Monday the company’s “highly-skilled employees are nuclear professionals” who often advocate for the plant and nuclear power, so they may appear at the public hearings.

“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,” she said. “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.”

Exelon’s Jill Lyon said recently that many employees are planning to voice their support for the new standard and nuclear power in general at the meetings.

“Exelon appreciates the overwhelming support we’ve received from hundreds of employees, neighbors and local officials,” Lyon said Monday, noting more than 2,300 letters of support have been submitted for the new standards, which she called “a strong sign that upstate New Yorkers support a clean energy future.”

Lyon added the state’s draft clean energy standard is “already being used as a model for consideration in other states ... working to properly value nuclear energy” based on its safety, reliability and “significant economic and environmental benefits.”

The first City Hall meeting 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.

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