Clearwater Appeals Decision On Nuclear Subsidies

Nov 7, 2019

Hudson River Sloop Clearwater and other plaintiffs are appealing a court decision against them. They say they have a case against the New York state Public Service Commission that challenges subsidies for upstate nuclear plants.

Clearwater and its co-petitioners — the Nuclear Information and Resource Service, the Indian Point Safe Energy Coalition and Goshen Green Farms — contend that nuclear subsidies divert ratepayer funds from renewables that could help meet New York’s climate goals, build a clean energy future and create permanent jobs. Clearwater initially sued at the end of 2016. It filed an appeal of the state Supreme Court’s October decision Tuesday.Seth Davis is a Clearwater board member.

“First and most importantly, we think that the state’s approach towards subsidizing nuclear plants is just wrong, that they should be totally emphasizing the switch to renewable resources,” Davis says.

He has another concern.

“This is the Public Service Commission, administrative body, acting with disregard to the requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act and due process of law in effectively deciding that a shift from a $1 billion subsidy, which was laden with problems itself, the shift to a $7.6 billion, an increase of almost $7 billion, that’s billion with a ‘b,’ was not a significant change. And I think it’s really a stretch to find that such a change is not significant,” Davis says. “Why that’s important is that that change of significance would have required opening public comment, greater public participation in the decision-making process.”

In a statement, a PSC spokesman says, “We were pleased with the ruling by the State Supreme Court that upheld the Commission’s authority to set policies designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote a clean energy system. That across-the-board win for the Clean Energy Standard and Zero Emission Credit program confirms the PSC’s authority to set forward-looking energy policies and protect the public interest.” The spokesman says the PSC will contest this appeal and continue to work with stakeholders and clean energy advocates to develop policies to ensure that the state’s clean energy and carbon emission goals are met.

Clearwater supports the first two tiers of the Clean Energy Standard that provide subsidies for new and existing renewable energy. In July, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, which requires the state to achieve a carbon-free electricity system by 2040 and reduce greenhouse gas emissions 85 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. Cuomo called it the most ambitious and comprehensive climate and clean energy legislation in the country. Davis applauds the legislation.

“The state’s moving in the right direction but we just wish all parts of the state were moving in the same way,” Davis says.

He says there is a contradiction between state policy and the subsidy.

“The commitment to renewables should be primary, and here’s the diversion of funds and, by the way, it’s funds from ratepayers, in a different direction without the action of the legislature,” Davis says.

Davis acknowledges the challenge of appealing the decision, but believes the subsidies are illegal and improper, and the questions of law and fairness they pose too important to drop.

“It was an uphill fight to begin with, and now the slope has gotten steeper,” says Davis.

Clearwater says the subsidies unfairly impact low-income ratepayers and those who opt into 100 percent renewable energy.