SCRIBA — Exelon on Friday announced it had closed on the purchase of Scriba's James A. FitzPatrick Nuclear Power Plant, assuming ownership and management from Entergy after more than a year of questions over whether the facility would remain operational.
Exelon paid Entergy $110 million for the 42-year-old FitzPatrick, which employs more than 600 workers whose jobs were on the line for months after Entergy announced low-cost natural gas had rendered the plant unprofitable in late 2015.
Exelon pledged to reinvest $400-500 million in operations and refueling for its three total upstate facilities, all of which are remaining open in large part to Gov. Andrew Cuomo's overhauled energy policy that could see the plants collect more than $7 billion over the next dozen years in ratepayer-funded subsidies.
"We look forward to bringing FitzPatrick's highly skilled team of professionals into the Exelon Generation nuclear program, and to continue delivering to New York the environmental, economic and grid reliability benefits of this important asset," said Chris Crane, president and CEO of Exelon.
Crane applauded Cuomo and state officials for new energy standards "which made possible this agreement that has saved thousands of jobs."
Oswego County Legislature Majority Leader Shane Broadwell, R-Oswego, said the news put an end to a “miserable rollercoaster” faced by employees and families of FitzPatrick.
“I couldn’t be happier for these families and hopefully now with Exelon as the employer, they’re on stable ground,” Broadwell said, adding he was hopeful to see a concerted effort toward modernizing the state’s electricity transmission grid.
Today's announcement comes after a host of regulatory approvals following the agreement reached in August, which only happened because of the subsidies in the new Clean Energy Standard (CES) and continued negotiations between the companies and state officials.
The state Public Service Commission, which instituted the CES, backed the sale and transfer of ownership, along with the U.S. Department of Justice, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and lastly the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
State and local officials lauded the deal for preserving jobs and what they described as reliable carbon-free power generation.
“What a difference a year makes,” said Kevin Caraccioli, town attorney in Scriba. “Through the diligent efforts of groups like Upstate Energy Jobs, we turned an impossible situation into reality."
Rep. John Katko, R-Camillus, said in a statement he’d worked with the companies, local and state leaders and employees to help ensure a smooth transition.
“The nuclear industry remains a critical economic driver here in central New York,” he said. “I will continue to be a steadfast champion for this clean, dependable source of power.”
Assemblyman Will Barclay, R-Pulaski, said the news marked a milestone for plant workers and the surrounding community, noting the deal would “keep hundreds of people employed regionally and help keep our energy resources diverse.”
In a statement, Rep. Claudia Tenney, R-New Hartford, said the “welcome news for our community and hardworking families in Oswego County” saved 600 high-paying jobs.
“I look forward to working closely alongside community leaders to ensure that we continue to support and grow our local economy to bring jobs back to Oswego County,” Tenney said.
State Sen. Patty Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, applauded the protection of more than 600 jobs, saying she “was proud to work alongside elected and community leaders ... to make this sale a reality and look forward to the ways in which it will strengthen the economy, as well as our energy grid.”
The CES is under fire from a mix of environmentalists and advocates who suggest nuclear is unsafe and not carbon-free.
Many of the same groups also argue the cost of the subsidies is too great for consumers and cash-strapped municipalities that could end up raising local taxes to cover hefty electricity bill increases.
“The nuclear bailout plan going into effect hurts New Yorkers,” Alliance for a Green Economy, one of many groups pushing for quicker transition to renewables, tweeted Friday. “The [zero-emission credits] will cause huge increases in electric bills. All New Yorkers will pay, some in multiple ways. All to Exelon.”
The subsidies and similar initiatives in other states also face ongoing court battles from energy companies challenging the states' jurisdiction over shifts in energy markets.
The PSC recently denied requests from National Grid and other utilities to specifically show the cost of the zero-emission credit subsidies as a line-item on consumers' bills.
Officials expect consumers' bills to increase by roughly $2 every month beginning in April.
As state budget negotiations wrap up, downstate legislators have complained the subsidies impact their constituents without the same positives that will be seen in upstate New York.
Several officials have called for a moratorium on any subsidy for the upstate plants.
But many state and local officials say the cost of the subsidies is lower than premature shutdown of the plants.
Proponents of the CES say nuclear power is a carbon-free bridge over the next several years until electricity transfer infrastructure is improved and until renewable sources of electricity like solar and wind are more readily available.
They also note renewable-energy credits in the CES are actually costlier per megawatt hour than nuclear.
Supporters additionally argue the CES is more environmentally sound, saying carbon emissions would rise in the short term with any immediate coal or natural gas replacement for closed nuclear plants.
In addition to FitzPatrick, the plants benefitting from the CES's subsidies are Scriba's Nine Mile Point Nuclear Generating Station — whose Unit 1 was in similar financial peril without the CES — and R.E. Ginna Nuclear Power Plant in Ontario.
The three total facilities power more than 3 million homes and businesses while employing more than 2,100 total full-time staff.
FitzPatrick's license is active until Oct. 17, 2034.
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