“Westchester County Executive Robert Astorino wants to take legal action to keep the Indian Point nuclear power plant open or delay its planned closure, but he appears to lack the needed support of county lawmakers.
Astorino said Wednesday that Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s “secret deal” with plant owner Entergy and Riverkeeper cannot move forward because no environmental review was conducted regarding the potential impacts of the plant’s closing.
“Whether you are for nuclear power or against it, there is no debate that the public had a right to know about the impact of closing Indian Point before the deal was reached by three men in a room,” said Astorino, who lost the 2014 governor’s race to Cuomo. “If our laws are to have any meaning at all, then the process has to be fair, open, and reviewable.”
“Three men in a room” is a common reference to New York’s governor, Assembly speaker and Senate majority leader.
Astorino said an environmental impact statement on the closure of the plant would determine the financial toll of closing it, including property tax revenues, jobs and the cost of replacement energy, as well as public health and societal risks, among others.
Indian Point, in the Westchester County village of Buchanan, provides an estimated 25 percent of electric energy consumed by New York City and Westchester County. The plan to close the plant by 2021 was announced in January. The plant stands on the eastern shore of the Hudson River, about 50 miles southeast of Kingston.
Buchanan Mayor Theresa Knickebocker said closing the plant would harm village taxpayers because the facility’s payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement amounts to $3 million, roughly half of the village’s property tax levy. She said the impact to the village would be “staggering” and, adding insult to injury, the village received no advanced warning from the state.
Peekskill Mayor Frank Catalina said his city would fully back a lawsuit against the closing.
John Hochreiter, superintendent of the Hendrick Hudson school district, said the impact of the planned closure was felt immediately, “so much so that we abandoned our plans to move forward with a $14 million capital improvement referendum.”
State Public Service Commission spokesman James Denn said Thursday that the “highly lauded agreement” to close Indian Point within four years “protects the safety of more than 20 million people in the region, and it enables the state to closely monitor the plant’s owner to ensure public safety and mitigate safety risks associated with the plant, including the storage of spent nuclear fuel.”
“The agreement and the state’s extensive planning for the closure allows for a responsible and orderly transition to a future without Indian Point,” Denn said. “We intend to fully defend our justified actions to ensure public safety.”
Denn also said the commission’s legal experts concluded no environmental impact statement was needed as part of the shutdown process.
Astorino needs approval from the Westchester County Board of Legislators to move forward with legal action, and the Peekskill-Cortlandt Patch reported Thursday that board Chairman Michael Kaplowitz said county lawmakers will not support the plan.
“A majority of my colleagues agree that a lawsuit … is not appropriate and will not be supported,” Kaplowitz said, according to Patch.com.
Legislator John Testa, who represents the Indian Point area, told MidHudsonNews.com that he supports a lawsuit.
“The consequences couldn’t be more serious,” Testa said. “Putting this before the court means the issues can be reviewed in a thorough manner before an impartial umpire.”
Marsha Gordon, president of the Business Council of Westchester, said the “economic and environmental impacts of an early shutdown of Indian Point must be thoroughly evaluated, and the state must come forward with policy and programs to mitigate the impacts on the local economy, tax base and electric consumers.””
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