Critics of Upstate Nuclear Power Plant Bailout Say NYers Will End Up Paying
A little-known state bailout of upstate nuclear power plants could mean higher utility costs for New Yorkers. Earlier this year, the state agreed to subsidize a Fortune 100 company named Exelon nearly $8 billion dollars in order to keep three nuclear power plants up and running. State House Reporter Zack Fink takes a closer look at the 12-year deal and why opponents are trying to stop it.
This week, environmental advocates petitioned the state's Public Service Commission to revisit a decision to potentially subsidize the energy conglomerate Exelon to the tune of $7.6 billion dollars.
"We along with other parties petitioned them to reconsider that decision, and made arguments why we thought it was a bad idea. And they ruled yesterday to deny those petitions," said Jessica Azulay of Alliance for a Green Economy.
In exchange for the ratepayer subsidy, Exelon will continue to operate two upstate nuclear power plants, one in Oswego and a second in Rochester. It will also purchase a third, also located in Oswego. The plants will stay open for at least 12 years, and continue to employ the workers at all three.
But that subsidy, while spread out across the state, will fall disproportionately on downstate customers like Con Edison here in the city, whose rates could very well go up.
"This is a huge transfer of wealth from New York Ratepayers basically to one company," said Blair Horner of NYPIRG. "The company, Exelon, which is involved in these upstate nuke deals, all of these upstate nuclear power plants are going to be kept open are going to be propped open by the governor."
The PSC vote for the subsidy on August 1st was done with very little public input.
"The public really had no meaningful way of participating," Horner said. "The Governor put out an estimate with a very low number in the spring. And then within weeks of the final decision on August first, he jacked the price up."
According to the Cuomo administration, it is hard to put an exact dollar figure on the public subsidy, since it will depend on market forces, including pricing and demand for energy.
Even critics of nuclear energy acknowledge that it is cleaner than most fossil fuels. While it doesn't exactly give off zero carbon footprint, it's a much smaller carbon footprint than burning coal or oil.
The Cuomo Administration maintains that they are still on track to reduce carbon emissions in New York state by 40 percent by the year 2030.