112 Groups to Cuomo: Don’t Subsidize Dirty and Expensive Nuclear Energy

JUNE 30, 2016

Contact: Jessica Azulay,
Alliance for a Green Economy
(315) 480-1515, jessica@agreenewyork.org

In response to a proposal from the New York Public Service Commission to classify nuclear energy as clean and to require all consumers to subsidize uneconomical nuclear reactors, 112 organizations and businesses from all over New York sent a letter to Governor Cuomo today expressing opposition to the nuclear bailouts.

“The nuclear industry and its supporters have been working to make it sound like there is universal support for saving New York’s nuclear industry by insulating it from competition,” said Jessica Azulay, Program Director of the Alliance for a Green Economy, the group that organized the letter. “But this letter shows the Governor that in fact New Yorkers all over the state want to transition away from dirty and dangerous energy like nuclear power and there is widespread opposition to nuclear subsidies.”

The “Clean Energy Standard” proposal put forth by the Public Service Commission at the direction of Governor Cuomo would hold utilities accountable to the state’s energy goal of 50% renewable energy by 2030, a mandate that enjoys popular support all over New York. But the proposal also includes controversial consumer subsidies for nuclear power, specifically for plants that otherwise cannot make sufficient profit in the competitive marketplace to survive.

The letter sent from the 112 organizations praises the Governor for his recent initiatives to address climate change, improve energy affordability, and close Indian Point, and calls on Cuomo to remain consistent: “New York should not take the nationally unprecedented step of including nuclear energy in its clean energy portfolio. Nuclear energy is dangerous, costly, and dirty.”

Signers to the letter include large statewide and national organizations such as Food and Water Watch, Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter, Citizen Action, Citizens Campaign for the Environment, New York State Sustainable Business Council, Public Citizen, Greenpeace, Physicians for Social Responsibility, NYPIRG and Peace Action. It also includes dozens of local/regional organizations and businesses representing every corner of the state. In addition to groups in New York, groups in Canada signed on. Four of New York’s reactors sit on the shore of Lake Ontario, which is the drinking water source for 9 million people in New York and Canada. Groups grappling with the legacy of uranium mining in the Southwest, US are also among the signers.

The letter comes on the heels of multiple equipment failures at two of New York’s nuclear plants.  FitzPatrick in Oswego experienced an electrical issue and emergency shutdown last Friday and spilled oil into Lake Ontario. Indian Point in Westchester has been increasingly plagued by radioactive leaks, degraded components, and multiple shutdowns.

Michel Lee, an attorney who has worked pro bono with citizen groups opposed to Indian Point’s relicensing says: “Indian Point’s operator is desperately trying to show the plant is safe to run for 20 more years. Yet we’re seeing transformer explosions, fires, radioactive leaks, control rod malfunctions, refueling and spent fuel mishaps, emergency diesel generator failures, and the list goes on. Most recently, the Unit 2 reactor was shut for months because of an unprecedented level of bolt failure in its primary reactor core cooling system. Then, one week after restart, it had to shut down again to fix a weld in a leaking pipe. The same day, the James A. FitzPatrick plant had an emergency shutdown after an electrical malfunction resulted in a chain of events that included spilling oil into Lake Ontario. What do these continual nuclear ‘events’ show? That the aging components and systems of these old nuclear power plants are falling apart. It’s time for New York to start investing in the safe, clean and sustainable kinds of energy which will benefit all of its citizens.”

Many groups working to push solutions to the climate crisis and to end the use of natural gas in New York signed the letter as well, showing unity across the environmental movement. Recently, nuclear supporters have claimed that many environmentalists support nuclear power as a solution to climate change. But the letter shows New York’s environmental community coming together against subsidizing nuclear reactors.

Alex Beauchamp, Northeast Region Director at Food & Water Watch, said: “It’s time for Governor Cuomo and New York State to embrace a truly renewable nuclear- and carbon-free future. We simply cannot afford to trade one false solution for another any longer. To create the clean energy revolution we need, we must quickly and justly transition to a 100% renewable energy economy.”

The letter also outlines steps the Governor should take to mitigate the economic impacts of plant closures on nuclear communities. These include employment through nuclear decommissioning, tax-support for municipalities, and development funds for renewable energy and worker retraining. In Rochester, where ratepayers are already temporarily subsidizing the nearby Ginna reactor while also paying for a less costly transmission alternative in order to avoid the reliability need for Ginna in the future, the group ROCSPOT has launched an ambitious effort to employ local residents and develop enough solar energy to replace Ginna’s output.

Dr. Susan Spencer, President and Founder of ROCSPOT said: "ROCSPOT believes that the transition to renewable energy is critical, and we applaud the Governor for his efforts so far. We call upon the Governor to ensure that the proposed nuclear subsidies are instead used to provide retraining for nuclear power plant workers into renewable energy jobs, and to accelerate the decommissioning of nuclear power plants which are no longer economically or environmentally sound.”

Organizations are also raising environmental justice and economic justice arguments against the nuclear subsidies, which are estimated to cost approximately $3.5 billion. In Syracuse, which sits within the 50-mile radius of three nuclear power reactors, the organization Syracuse United Neighbors works to improve the lives of residents in some of the city’s poorest communities.

Gwen Chaffin, Organizer at Syracuse United Neighbors said: “The Public Service Commission is proposing to require that all utilities buy expensive nuclear energy from nuclear power plants that are losing money in New York and would otherwise close. We are concerned that this will make the cost of the Clean Energy Standard much higher and will lead to an increase on our electric bills. The nuclear subsidies are too costly and nuclear energy is too dangerous. It makes mining community sick, and there are tons of radioactive waste being generated that have no place to go and no place to store in the long-term. So where does it go, and what communities will end up with radioactive waste? Not the rich communities. Energy efficiency is cheaper and it has a bigger impact on residents’ comfort and their ability to afford energy.”

In Buffalo, where residents are already facing a proposed 7.2% rate increase for gas service from the utility, National Fuel, Clarke Gocker, Director of Policy and Strategy with the group PUSH Buffalo, said: "Energy poverty leaves low and moderate income utility customers across Western NY dependent on dirty and dangerous energy sources and shareholder controlled corporations to meet basic needs. Forcing these customers to prop up the natural gas and nuclear industries in New York State when renewable energy and energy efficiency alternatives are available will only serve to perpetuate a cycle of energy poverty affecting our most vulnerable communities"  


The text of the letter and a list of all the signatories can be viewed here: http://www.allianceforagreeneconomy.org/content/letter-cuomo-112-groups-opposing-nuclear-subsidies-ny