Public Hearing Held to Discuss Zero Emissions Credit Program

Questions continue in Albany over a proposed subsidy that would keep upstate nuclear power plants open -- including the James FitzPatrick Plant in Oswego.  

"It's great news. I fully support the clean energy standard and the acts that go along with it," said Assemblyman Will Barclay (R - Pulaski). "I think it's great for the region. It employs 600 people, indirectly over 1,000 people."

But not everyone is on board with the inclusion of a nuclear subsidy in a broader effort to reduce fossil fuel emissions, known as the clean energy standard. Environmental groups have started a campaign highlighting the subsidy's impact on ratepayers.

"I think as it sinks in, it's a $7.6 billion hit to New York ratepayers," said NYPIRG Legislative Director Blair Horner. "Hopefully the Legislature pays attention and they'll take appropriate action."

But it's not clear what lawmakers can do. There is a bill in the Legislature that would block the subsidy, but it stands an uphill chance of passing. 

"Given the powers the governor exercises in the budget, I wish you lots of luck in the budget process to slow this thing down," said Richard Brodsky, a senior fellow with Demos.

But supporters in the Legislature of keeping the nuclear plants open say environmentalists are taking the wrong approach.

"They're really just wrongheaded, and I think it ultimately comes down to they cannot get over their 1970s feel about anti-nuclear power," Barclay said.

And they argue the subsidy is aimed at helping the state achieve its goal of expanding its use of renewable energy by the end of the next decade. 

"I think what this does is take a recognition of where we are today and says these plants can continue to be effective," said Assemblyman Robert Oaks (R - Macedon).

Some lawmakers Monday were angered the regulators at the Public Service Commission did not attend the hearing. In a statement, the PSC pointed to its written testimony and the two dozen hearings held while developing the energy policy. They say the Assembly alerted them too late to attend the meeting.

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