March 15, 2016 — A proposal in the State Senate’s version of the NY budget would take $100 million set aside to help consumers implement energy efficiency upgrades and adopt renewable energy and instead give the money to nuclear reactors. The proposed bail out money for nuclear reactors would come out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) funds that New York receives for requiring coal plant operators to pay for their share of carbon pollution. RGGI funds have traditionally been used for a variety of state clean energy programs run by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) to benefit low-income consumers, environmental justice communities, and regional renewable energy programs. It has been long-standing state policy that nuclear power is not considered clean and is not eligible for NYSERDA resources.
The Senate’s proposal would require NYSERDA to redirect nearly 80% of its RGGI budget this year to subsidize nuclear plants. If approved in the final state budget, Entergy would be the likely beneficiary of the $100 million to refuel its unprofitable FitzPatrick nuclear plant. It is unknown at this time whether Entergy would accept this money and change its plans to close FitzPatrick.
In response to the Senate budget proposal, Alliance for a Green Economy released the following statement:
“Nuclear energy is not clean. It has devastating environmental, health, and safety impacts due to the radioactive materials used for fuel. We oppose the use of RGGI money to prop up Entergy’s FitzPatrick nuclear plant or any other nuclear facility in the state. The purpose of RGGI is to take polluter penalties paid by the coal industry and put funds toward building alternatives that will benefit consumers and the environment and grow the green economy. To take that money instead and use it to prop up yet another dangerous and dirty industry is a total misuse of these funds.
“RGGI money has been used to help low-income people weatherize their homes and install energy efficient appliances through the EMPOWER and Green Jobs – Green New York programs, reducing energy bills and greenhouse gas emissions. It has been used for the Cleaner Greener Communities grants, which support communities across New York to develop their own strategies to improve energy efficiency, promote renewable energy, and develop low-carbon transportation. It is used to support electric vehicles and renewable heat programs. And it has been used to address to address the historic and unjust pollution and energy prices in low-income communities of color.
“Repurposing $100 million from the state RGGI fund would starve these important programs. The state’s projected RGGI operating funds for the 2015/2016 fiscal year were $127.4 million, meaning the Senate’s raid on this fund would divert about 80% of the program’s revenues toward propping up the FitzPatrick nuclear plant. The proposal would eviscerate RGGI programs for the coming year.
“We call on Governor Cuomo and the NY State Assembly to reject the Senate’s budget proposal to raid RGGI in order prop up FitzPatrick. Entergy cannot afford to keep FitzPatrick open and neither can New York afford to bail this plant out. The programs that NYSERDA supports through RGGI proceeds are important to low-income consumers and communities of color overburdened by high energy bills and pollution. The funds are critical to communities working to support sustainable energy and create green jobs. To raid money set aside for these constituencies and redirect it to restore profitability for a nuclear company is impossible to justify. Why should New York’s most vulnerable populations prop up a multi-million dollar company that wants to close an ageing reactor?”
“Propping up ailing energy producers of the past century will keep New York from moving forward to the renewable energy system we must have in the future. Because the technology to build renewable energy system already exists, it is insane to waste renewable energy and energy efficiency money by throwing it into a bottomless radioactive pit.”