News

“Lowey Urges FEMA to Reject Recertification of Indian Point Evacuation Plans”

“Westchester, Rockland County Executives and Congressional
Delegation Join Lowey Effort

WHITE PLAINS, NY – Hurricane Katrina sharply illustrated how flawed and
inadequate evacuation plans can lead to devastating consequences in the
event of an emergency.  The evacuation plans for communities surrounding the
Indian Point power plants have been consistently deemed inadequate by
experts and local officials alike.

Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-Westchester/Rockland) today joined local
officials in calling on the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to
refuse to recertify the evacuation plans, which have already been rejected
by Westchester, Rockland, and Orange Counties.

“Indian Point sits in the middle of a densely populated area.  Our roads are
overwhelmed during routine commuter traffic, yet the Indian Point evacuation
plans depend almost entirely on roads and highways.  If FEMA again certifies
these evacuation plans, it will be turning a blind eye to common sense and
serious safety concerns,” said Lowey.

A review of emergency preparedness at Indian Point completed by former FEMA
Director James Lee Witt in 2003 uncovered glaring deficiencies, including
traffic-related challenges that would likely result during an evacuation.
Wind storms seriously impeded travel flow throughout the area last week when
one major artery was compromised, causing congestion on roadways miles away.

Today, Lowey joined Representatives Maurice Hinchey, Eliot Engel and Sue
Kelly in urging FEMA to refuse to certify the Indian Point evacuation plans.
The Members further asked FEMA to release the criteria used for making
decisions about recertification so that local officials and residents can
better understand FEMA’s review of the plans.  (Please see attached letter.)

Congressman Eliot Engel, a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee,
said, “FEMA  can not in good conscience recertify the emergency response
plan for Indian Point. Even in the best of circumstances, an orderly and
safe evacuation of the area in the event of an accident or, worse, a
terrorist attack, is impossible. The recent storms in the area, which
blocked some roads and rendered some alert sirens inoperable, demonstrate
this. The people who know the area best, the County Executives of
Westchester, Rockland, and Orange Counties, refused to certify the plan.
FEMA should follow their lead and refuse recertification.”

“It would be an outrage if FEMA were to certify an Indian Point evacuation
plan that has been rejected by the surrounding counties as inadequate,”
Congressman Maurice Hinchey said. “If ever there were a time the Bush
Administration ought to listen to local input, this is it.  No one knows
better about whether an evacuation plan for Indian Point makes sense than
the leaders of the surrounding counties.  FEMA needs to listen and work
with, not against, local leaders to identify an evacuation plan for Indian
Point that would adequately protect residents and prevent mass chaos if an
evacuation were needed.”

“The concerns in the Witt Report that have gone unaddressed and the
inefficient response to Hurricane Katrina have given local officials
practical reasons not to certify these plans.  FEMA needs to acknowledge
these flaws and work more closely with our local communities to put adequate
emergency preparedness plans in place,” said Congresswoman Sue Kelly.

“We appreciate all the efforts Congresswoman Lowey has made in order to
protect the people of Westchester County from what could take place at
Indian Point.  We are gratified by her support of our position that the
evacuation plans would not be effective should there be a fast-breaking
scenario.  It is for that reason that the county has not given its
certification, and nothing proves the point more than the problems caused by
the recent windstorm, when, should there have been an incident at Indian
point at the same time, people could not have been evacuated safely.  For
that reason I will continue to push for the closure of the facility,”
Westchester County Executive Andy Spano.

“We fully support Congresswoman Lowey’s efforts and join her in calling for
disclosure from FEMA on evacuation criteria that has been kept hidden from
the public. The safety of our residents must come first. They are entitled
to a plan that works,” Rockland County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef said.

“When a wind storm can reduce traffic to a standstill, we must seriously
question whether our roads can handle an evacuation many times the size of
everyday commuter travel,” said Lowey.  “Again and again, experts have told
us that these plans won’t work.  FEMA must reject them now and work with
local officials to put in place safeguards that will truly protect our
communities.””

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