A formal announcement Monday about an agreement to close the Indian Point nuclear power plant in Westchester County by 2021 came at different times from the different parties involved. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo first announced the plan in New York City. Shortly after, Indian Point parent company Entergy held a press conference in Tarrytown.
Work on the agreement had been occurring for several weeks. Democratic Governor Cuomo delivered the news during his first State of the State address in New York City.
“New York City sits 30 miles from a ticking time bomb, the Indian Point nuclear power plant,” Cuomo says.
He says nuclear power can be a useful bridge in transitioning to renewable energy, but the plant is close to the most densely populated area in New York.
“God forbid there’s an accident, evacuation of this region would be all but impossible. I’ve been there many times to the plant to review operational issues. And there have been many operational issues,” Cuomo says. “I’ve personally been trying to close it down for 15 years. Finally this year, I’m proud to announce that we have an agreement. Indian Point will close in four years, 14 years ahead of schedule.”
Bill Mohl is president of Entergy Wholesale Commodities.
“Obviously today is a very tough day for our employees at the Indian Point Energy Center,” Mohl says.
Those employees number about 1,000. The agreement says the plant will offer employees jobs at other Entergy facilities while New York will help workers gain access to other job opportunities and worker retraining in the power and utility sectors within the state, including at other plants. Again, Mohl.
“Up to this point in time, Indian Point has been a profitable unit, but all good things come to an end,” Mohl says.
He says the plant is no longer economically viable and its shutdown, unavoidable. Entergy purchased the plant 15 years ago, and has invested $1.3 billion since. Mohl says projected low wholesale energy prices along with low prices currently fueled the decision to close the plant. He says increased operating costs are another reason, including $200 million spent on a relicensing process lasting 10 years and counting. In announcing the agreement with New York state, Mohl said the following.
“But I want to ensure that you understand that the decision to shut down the plant was ours and ours alone and due to economics,” says Mohl.
Environmental group Riverkeeper, which has long called for closure of the plant, is a party to the agreement. Cliff Weathers is Riverkeeper spokesman.
“I do not think that we could have asked for a better settlement,” Weathers says. “It provides protection for the river. It provides more inspections,” says Weather. “And if we continued down the litigation route, this probably would’ve taken as long if not longer and with an unsure outcome. So I really don’t know if we gave up anything.”
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has continually determined the plant, which supplies 25 percent of electricity for New York City and Westchester, operates safely. Cortlandt Supervisor Linda Puglisi, a Democrat, says Indian Point is her town’s biggest taxpayer and is upset she and others weren’t informed before the formal announcements.
“We understand the confidentiality of it. I take it personally,” Puglisi says. “It’s insulting that we weren’t told about it in advance so we could sit down at the table and talk about the jobs lost.”
The agreement allows for time to plan for and mitigate impacts to local tax revenues. Republican Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, who ran against Cuomo in 2014, objected to being surprised by the news and says local taxpayers and ratepayers will be left footing the bill.
“And so the joke is on us because rates will certainly go up and taxes will certainly go up to have to pay for this,” says Astorino.
He accuses Cuomo of driving business out of New York.
“The last middle-class person in the state is going to turn off the lights, literally,” Astorino says.
The agreement says Entergy will submit a six-year license application to the NRC. And Entergy, New York state, and other organizations will terminate litigation against one another.