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Governor, Good Government Groups Lock Horns Over Nuclear Power


The battle is heating up over a statewide electric rate increase to subsidize upstate nuclear power plants that pits Governor Andrew Cuomo against a coalition of "good-government groups."

Members and leaders of the statewide campaign to "Stop the Cuomo Tax" and end the bailout of nuclear power in New York have made their intentions clear: they're calling on the governor to release alleged "secretive agreements with nuclear companies."

Blair Horner with the New York Public Interest Research Group says the governor is proposing to keep three upstate nuclear power plants near Rochester and Oswego open for the next dozen years, using $7.6 billion of ratepayer money to make it happen. The issue is part of the Public Service Commission’s broader Clean Energy Standard. The final installment on putting that deal together occurs in a vote before the Public Service Commission scheduled for Thursday. Here’s Horner: "There is certainly an irony in the fact that the governor is hell-bent on closing the Indian Point nuclear power plant outside of the city of New York and yet providing billions and billions of dollars in subsidies for aging upstate ones. The plants that he's bailing out are ones that were ready for the scrap heap. They'd already outlasted their anticipated lifespan as power plants. This could be the single biggest transfer of wealth from ratepayers to companies in New York state history. The decision on this was conducted largely outside of public view. The public had, at best, only dim awareness that this was happening. The governor's ramming through a basically secretive decision that's going to cost New Yorkers billions and billions of dollars. And for the 800,000 poorest New Yorkers, they're gonna take a big big hit."

Horner says most of those 800,000 are in arrears and 20,000 have already had their service cut off. "The governor's proposed bailout of these nuke power plants will just jack up the price even harder for these struggling New Yorkers. And it's not even that it's a great investment. This is just to keep old Vietnam-war-era nuke power plants running. There's been no public debate if this is a good idea. We believe of course that you have to invest in making sure that the electricity grid is modern, that the power generated is reducing greenhouse gas emissions and we understand all that and we understand that investments have to be made, but we believe in 21st century technology, not 20th century technology."

The governor's office has a different point of view. Rich Azzopardi is a spokesman for the Cuomo Administration. "This absurd and dishonest campaign once again omits the key fact that without the Clean Energy Standard, these plants will close — putting hundreds of New Yorkers out of work, causing utility bills for 8.3 million ratepayers to skyrocket, and increasing the reliance on dirty fuel and fracked gas. Without them, it would be impossible for New York to meet its nation leading greenhouse emission and renewable energy standards. New York just this spring put into place a landmark affordability policy that provides direct relief to 2 million low income ratepayers and it’s shameful that these purported good government groups are sharing cause with big oil, fracked gas interests and are adopting conservative scare tactics to advance their misguided agenda."

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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