With the New York state legislative session ending in June, two state lawmakers from the Hudson Valley are pushing bills related to the closure of the Indian Point nuclear power plant in Westchester County.
One year from now, Indian Point Unit 2 will have been permanently shut down for nearly a month. Unit 3 is slated for closure by April 30, 2021. And just this past April, Indian Point’s parent company Entergy announced it would sell the plant after shutting down, to a subsidiary of Holtec International. Democratic state Senator Pete Harckham’s 40th District includes Indian Point and he is pushing two bills to protect workers and the community.
“One is we’re concerned about the loss of jobs and, two, we’re concerned about the loss of tax revenue,” Harckham says. “The first bill addresses the labor situation by requiring the decommissioning entity to hire from the existing worker pool at their current rate so that we’re not bringing in folks from out of state and sending those wages out of state. We went to reinvest that money right here and keep our people working.”
Soon after being sworn in, Harckham had approached local labor groups to find out how best to help the more than 1,000 workers who will be affected by Indian Point’s closure. Westchester/Putnam County Central Labor Body AFL/CIO President Thomas Carey says he appreciates Harckham’s proactive approach and supports the bill.
“I think anything at this point is going to be a positive. This bill here for the worker protections, project labor agreements and prevailing wage, it’s very important because it protects everybody that’s got a piece of the pie, so to speak,” Carey says. “The workers, they need protections. Entergy could just sign the deal to Holtec, Holtec could say, you know what, we don’t need anybody here. So this kind of gives a little buffer workers that are on site as we speak.”
Holtec’s president, in statement announcing the intended sale, said the company will hire Entergy’s employees at Indian Point who are employed at the site at the time of the transaction and identified by Entergy as being required for that phase of decommissioning. Theresa Knickerbocker is mayor of Buchanan, home to Indian Point.
“I know a lot of the people that built that plant. They were local people. And there’s people from the different unions in the area that work at that plant. So who better to decommission that plant,” Knickerbocker says. “These are the people that know that plant. They know the back, the front and back of that plant. So, of course, we support our union people getting the jobs to decommission.”
Democrat Sandy Galef has introduced a second bill in the Assembly; Harckham sponsors it in the senate. It would allow spent fuel rods, whether stored in pools or dry cask storage, to be taxed as real property. And with Buchanan standing to lose close to 50 percent of its revenue from Indian Point’s closure, Knickerbocker welcomes the possibility of plugging at least some of the hole.
“It’s not about the money, okay? We would prefer that that spent fuel was sent where it needs to go, final repository,” says Knickerbocker. “But, since the federal government has not figured out where to put this, and we are becoming a de facto storage facility, then our community, the Village of Buchanan, should definitely be compensated for that.”
Indian Point is the largest employer and largest taxpayer in the village, and Town of Cortlandt. Meantime, Carey is also business representative for Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 21.
“I have a lot of heritage at the plant. My grandfather, my dad helped during construction,” says Carey. “My dad worked there for years. My sister worked there for years, my brother, my uncle, myself. I was up there as general foreman for years. So we have a lot of skin in the game just from my family, took very good care of my family for a lot of years.”
Republican John Testa is minority leader of the Westchester County Board of Legislators and member of state and local task forces on Indian Point. He says there has been a lot of talking and welcomes something concrete.
“So we had to, first and foremost, be a little loud about what we’re going to be affected by, and now these two bits of legislation, these two pieces of legislations are actual, tangible moving forward actions that hopefully will be passed and actually do something.”
Testa, a lifelong Peekskill resident, represents constituents in Cortlandt as well. He says county legislators will introduce a resolution in support of the state bills.
“We really have to look out for our local residents and friends and family and neighbors, because it really is a local issue,” says Testa.
And because it is a local issue, Harckham and Galef says their job is to educate state lawmakers unfamiliar with the impact of having a nuclear power plant shutting down in their communities.