Clearwater, Farm File Lawsuit Against NYS PSC Over Nuclear Subsidies

Dec 5, 2016

An environmental group and organic farm in the Hudson Valley have filed a lawsuit against the New York state Public Service Commission. The two groups oppose state subsidies of upstate nuclear power plants. 

The PSC in August issued an order adopting the Clean Energy Standard and the nuclear subsidy is one of the standard’s three tiers. Beacon-based Hudson River Sloop Clearwater and Goshen Green Farms, an organic family farm near Middletown in Orange County, have filed a lawsuit against the PSC, arguing it acted improperly when it mandated the subsidy, called a Zero Emission Credit, to aid New York’s upstate nuclear power plants. Manna Jo Greene is environmental action director at Clearwater and says it was important to escalate sheer opposition to legal action.

“Clearwater feels it’s important to challenge the nuclear subsidy in court because if unchallenged this will go into effect as a mandatory $7.6 billion –to-$10 billion subsidy that New York ratepayers are going to have to pay over the next 12 years.” says Greene. “And we felt that this plan needed to be stopped and reconsidered.”

Attorney Susan Shapiro represents Clearwater and Goshen Green Farms.

“So why should New Yorkers, every New Yorker, be required to pay a surcharge to support this failing industry and, by doing so, we’re taking away money that can go to true renewables, especially for people and companies that have  already invested in renewables like Goshen Green and Clearwater,” says Shapiro. “We spent the money to go to non-nuclear energy. Now we’re going to be paying a surcharge to support nuclear energy? It’s a double payment.”

Plus, says Shapiro.

“The PSC is calling nuclear emission free and that is just actually wrong, incorrect, and we’re suing on that,” Shapiro says.

Paul Steidler takes issue with that statement.

“Well, the reality is there are no emissions from nuclear power plants,” Steidler says. “It’s plain and simple. It just does not happen.”

Steidler is spokesman for the New York Affordable Reliable Electricity Alliance, whose members include Entergy, parent company of the Indian Point nuclear power plant in Westchester County, which could benefit from the subsidy down the road.

A PSC spokesman, in a statement, says, “Clearwater's opposition to nuclear energy is based on ideology, not reality and ignores the many benefits these upstate nuclear plants provide.  Our Zero Emission Credit plan is a cheaper, sensible way to have the existing carbon-free nuke fleet serve as a bridge to renewables as opposed to importing fracked gas and using dirty oil.”

Clearwater’s Greene says the lawsuit is of historic significance, demonstrating to the country that dollars should not be spent on nuclear power but rather a fully-renewable energy economy.

“These aging facilities are neither clean nor safe, and to be subsidizing them is putting ratepayers’ money in the wrong direction,” Greene says. “The first two tiers of the so-called Clean Energy Standard we strongly support. Tier 1 and Tier 2 provide subsidies for new and existing renewable energy.”

Again, Steidler.

“The reality is is it’s going to be about a 2 percent increase,” Steidler says. “And if the measure does not go through, there’s going to be a lot more economic loss in terms of plants and jobs and communities getting funding for things like schools.”

Meanwhile, the New York-headquartered Environmental Defense Fund has said it intends to intervene in a case and side with PSC Chair Audrey Zibelman. It’s a lawsuit from The Coalition for Competitive Energy against Zibelman seeking to block the nuclear subsidy provision.

The Clean Energy Standard will require 50 percent of New York's electricity to come from renewable energy sources like wind and solar by 2030.