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Westchester Legislator Says County Exec's Planned Indian Point Lawsuit Is DOA

The Democratic chairman of the Westchester County Board of Legislators said Thursday legislation to support Republican County Executive Rob Astorino’s planned lawsuit to stop or delay the closure of the Indian Point nuclear power plant is dead on arrival. Astorino announced his lawsuit plans Wednesday. He argued that the January agreement among New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, Indian Point parent company Entergy and Riverkeeper to close Indian Point by 2021 cannot move forward because an environmental review was not completed. More from WAMC’s Hudson Valley Bureau Chief Allison Dunne.

Astorino contends that under the State Environmental Quality Review Act, an Environmental Impact Statement or EIS is required ahead of proposed government actions.

“Now if our laws are to mean anything at all, then the process has to be open, fair and reviewable,” Astorino says. “And for this secret deal to go forward without a legitimate environmental review as required by law is a mockery, and that’s the point we’re going to make in court.”

New York state Department of Public Service spokesman James Denn, in an emailed statement says, "The highly lauded agreement to close the Indian Point Energy Center by April 2021 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. We intend to fully defend our justified actions to ensure public safety.”

Riverkeeper did not immediately respond to a request for comment. An Entergy spokesman declined to comment, adding company officials would wait to see the details of any lawsuit. When announcing the agreement to close the plant, President of Entergy Wholesale Commodities Bill Mohl said Buchanan-based Indian Point was no longer profitable.

“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.

Westchester County Board of Legislators Chairman Michael Kaplowitz opposes the planned lawsuit.

“There are not the requisite number of votes for majority passage. I would term this dead on arrival. There’s very little interest down on this floor, the legislative floor, to initiate a lawsuit,” Kaplowitz says. “Lawsuit costs money and time. It’s a wasted opportunity to work on really what’s important here which is the transitional aid that the communities need in a post-nuclear Indian Point world.”

And the county Board of Legislators Democratic Majority Leader Catherine Borgia says the lawsuit is irresponsible and a waste of taxpayer money.

“We do have to vote on the funding for the lawsuit and I’m planning to vote ‘no’  because I really want to see our resources… This impacts a lot of my constituency. I represent the HenHud school district and I really want to see us figure out a plan to make sure that the job loss, the economic loss, the, and the impact to the school district are actually mitigated, and I don’t think this is the way to do that.”

HenHud is the Hendrick Hudson School District, which serves about 2,500 students and stands to lose more than 30 percent of its budget with Indian Point’s closure. Astorino, who contends the cost of the lawsuit would be minimal, says legislators have a month to discuss the issue.

“And I don’t know why any legislator would not choose to take this action to protect the interests not only of the county whom they represent but also our towns, our villages, and our school districts and every ratepayer,” says Astorino.  

Board of Legislators Republican Minority Leader John Testa supports Astorino’s plan and said Wednesday he would work to garner votes.

“I’m looking forward to supporting it and moving forward in the benefit of those who are going to be living here for  generations to come,” Testa says.

State officials contend there was no EIS requirement given that the decision to close the plant was made by a private entity in an agreement with the state to settle years of litigation and because of economics. Again, Astorino.

“Now it’s hard to imagine an event with a bigger environmental impact than closing a nuclear power plant  just outside New York City,” Astorino say. “The only thing harder to imagine is  closing a nuclear power plant just outside New York City without an environmental impact.”

Here’s Peekskill Mayor Frank Catalina.

“The City of Peekskill does not have the funds necessary to take on the State of New York,” says Catalina. “But if we were asked to join in as a party on the county’s lawsuit, I wouldn’t have any objection to that.”

Buchanan Mayor Theresa Knickerbocker echoed that. 

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