BEACON, NY – Hudson River Sloop Clearwater and several co-petitioners filed in Supreme Court a challenge to the recently enacted mandatory 12-year nuclear subsidy that will cost New York ratepayers between $7 and $10 billion dollars. The nuclear surcharge was ordered by the Public Service Commission’s as part of its Clean Energy Standard.
The Petitioners argue that the $7.6 billion dollars nuclear subsidy imposed on New York’s electricity consumers was unjustified and that the PSC did not follow the law when it enacted them. These subsidies will be paid by all New York ratepayers on their monthly energy bills, based on their usage. This cost will most seriously impact low-income ratepayers and businesses operating on a thin profit margin.
New Yorkers will no longer have a choice to purchase 100% renewable energy, because they will also be forced to pay this surcharge for nuclear energy. The lawsuit includes 52 individuals who already purchase 100% renewable energy. They are challenging the nuclear subsidies on the grounds that they already pay for their share of renewable energy to help New York with its greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals. By additionally charging them for the nuclear bailout, the PSC is in effect forcing them to pay for more than 100% of their electricity usage.
The cost impacts will affect individuals, businesses, organizations, and local governments. New York State Energy Research and Development Authority determined that the Rockville Centre’s Department of Electric Utilities, who provides electricity to the entire Long Island village, must pay a subsidy of $686,000 in 2017. It is estimated that Ulster County, which purchases 100% renewable energy for county government facilities, will now be charged between $36,000 and $60,000 per year for the nuclear subsidy – or approximately $500,000 over the course of the next 12 years for the electricity used in county buildings in addition to their active support of renewable energy. For some municipalities, all of whom are subject to tax cap, this may mean that they have to discontinue their voluntary support of renewable energy infrastructure, to remain fiscally responsible.
“Nuclear power is far from clean in its mining, milling, transportation, use and storage. Nuclear plants emit radioactivity into the air, water and ground through planned and unplanned releases. This mandatory 12-year $7.6 billion subsidy means that ratepayer dollars that should be going to scale up renewables and energy efficiency are instead being used for the bailout of aging, unprofitable and dangerous nuclear plants, which will continue to generate highly radioactive nuclear waste for which there is no safe storage. At Diablo Canyon in California, they are phasing out their last nuclear plant by committing to 100% renewable replacement energy, while protecting plant workers by retaining those with critical institutional memory and highly technical knowledge. They are also retraining those who are not needed for safe decommissioning, and placing them in jobs in the rapidly expanding renewable energy economy. New York needs to create a just transition plan, not a prolonged nuclear bailout,” said Manna Jo Greene, Clearwater’s Environmental Director.
“The nuclear power industry has been killing and poisoning Indigenous peoples for decades, from the mining, milling and processing of uranium to the storage of nuclear wastes. Continuing to generate nuclear waste, which will remain dangerous for millions of years, is utterly irresponsible to the future generations. Nuclear power is not clean,” said Joe Heath, General Counsel for the Onondaga Nation Heath, who purchases 100% renewable energy – in addition to generating 40% of his electric use by solar panels.
“The State has an opportunity with this decision to further the Governor’s goal of renewable energy growth in New York State. New Yorkers who are currently using and who are committed to renewable energy and who are paying additionally for Renewable Energy Credits for 100% of their electrical needs should not also be billed for this $7.6 billion dollar nuclear plant subsidy,” said Town of North Salem Supervisor Warren J. Lucas. “As part of the Community Choice Aggregation program recently approved by the PSC and the Governor’s office and run by Sustainable Westchester, North Salem and thirteen other Westchester Communities solely source their electrical needs from Wind and Solar generation sites. As a community we listened to the Governor’s message and support his efforts to further renewable energy. Making renewable energy more expensive for the rate payer is not the direction the Governor should embark upon if he wishes to build a better future for New York State.” The Town of North Salem in Westchester County is one of 14 Towns in the Westchester Power Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) who have elected to purchase 100% renewable energy.
“This action has brought to challenge the PSC’s nearly $8 billion dollar bailout of the unsustainable and polluting nuclear industry, based on the mistaken premise that nuclear energy production is emission-free. Nuclear energy is not, nor has it ever been emission-free, as it routinely emits radiation, heat and greenhouse gases, which are all climate change catalysts,” notes Susan H. Shapiro, Esq., owner of Petitioner Goshen Green Farms.
“Whether viewed as rate making or policy making, the upshot is that at the governor’s direction the Public Service Commission imposed a nearly $8 billion financial burden on New Yorkers to ensure profit for nuclear power plant owners. This may push struggling tenants and homeowners over the edge into having their utilities shut off. We believe that the rushed, opaque process violated state law and that the public deserves real notice and a chance to be heard. Ultimately, the governor should withdraw the nuclear subsidy proposal and invest in efficiency and renewable energy,” said Blair Horner, NYPIRG Executive Director.
“In rushing through this $7.6 billion corporate bailout, policymakers who are supposed to protect New Yorkers recklessly circumvented the law and shut down public review,” said Tim Judson, Executive Director of the Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS). “We have laws requiring government agencies to operate with integrity and accountability to make sure things like this don’t happen. The PSC trampled all over those laws, at the Governor’s request, to deliver an unprecedented, unjustified, and counterproductive subsidy to a politically powerful dirty energy industry. If we don’t hold our state government accountable for such an abuse of the law, then we can only expect more and worse abuses in the future.”
“What concerns me most is the PSC’s credulous adoption of nuclear industry PR language. The PSC’s designation of this heavy industrial activity as graced with ‘environmental values and attributes’ is farcical,” said Michel Lee, an attorney and senior analyst with Promoting Health and Sustainable Energy (PHASE). “Nuclear releases a continuing stream of emissions into the air, water and soil as part of ordinary operation. And every day New York’s reactors run they create nuclear waste – a material so toxic the National Academy of Sciences has determined it must be sequestered from the environment for a million years,” she noted.
Petitioner’s amended their petition on January 13, 2017 for a variety of procedural issues. Originally filed on November 30, 2016, the amended lawsuit incorporates new parties, indicating a growing concern and widespread willingness to challenge nuclear subsidies in New York. Among the new petitioners are NYPIRG and half a dozen state and national environmental organizations, the Town of North Salem, and approximately 52 individuals who already purchase 100% renewable energy, but will be forced by the bailout policy to also contribute toward the nuclear subsidies.
The case, filed in Albany Supreme Court, is Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, et al. v. Public Service Commission, et al, Index. No. 07242-16.
Erin Macchiaroli, Communication Coordinator, Hudson River Sloop Clearwater 845-265-8080
Manna Jo Greene, Environmental Director, Hudson River Sloop Clearwater 845-807-1270
John Parker, Esq., representing Clearwater 914-837-4171
Susan Shapiro, Esq., representing Goshen Green Farms 845-596-5403
Russ Haven, Esq., General Counsel for NYPIRG 518 436- 0876
March 30, 2017 UPDATE
On February `5, 2017, not unexpectedly, the NYS Public Service Commission, Constellation Nuclear Energy/Exelon and Entergy filed Motions to Dismiss the Verified Petition that we filed on November 20, 2017 and amended as above on January 13, 2017.
Here is our response to these Motions to Dismiss, filed March 24, 2017:.
Clearwater v PSC 3.24.17 Reply
Shapiro Affidavit Exhibits 1 – 5
Exhibit 1: Affidavit of Warren, Lucas Supervisor Town of North Salem
Exhibit 2: Affidavit of Joseph J. Heath, Esq.
Exhibit 3: Affidavit of Michel Lee, Esq. for PHASE & IPSEC
Exhibit 4: Affidavits of Andra Leimas (for Clearwater); Linda DeStefano and Richard Weiskopf (for NIRS); Peter Swords (for Beyond Nuclear); Jessica Maxwell (for GELF); and Donald Hughes and Karen A. Costello (for NYPIRG)
Exhibit 5: Affidavit of David A. Lochbaum, Director, Nuclear Safety Project, Union of Concerned Scientists
Exhibit 6: NRC 10 CFR 50.47 Emergency Plans
Exhibit 6: NRC Emergency Planning Zones
Exhibit 7: Indian Point Closure Agreement, January 8, 2017
Exhibit 8: NY Assembly Moratorium Bill and Sponsor Memo A.5985 re ZEC (Thiele, et al)
Exhibit 8: NY Assembly Bill in full 5985-A (Thiele et al)
Exhibit 8: NY Senate Moratorium Bill re ZEC S.4800-A (Avella)
Exhibit 9: EPA Public Health Considerations of Carbon-14 Discharges
Exhibit 10: Management of C-14 Emissions and Environmental Impacts at Ontario Power Generation Nuclear (CANDU)
Exhibit 11: Entergy: Shutting Indian Point a Financial Decision, (Peekskill Patch Article; Jan. 12, 2017)
Exhibit 12 Timeline of PSC Adoption of Tier 3
April 10, 2017 UPDATE
On April 10, 2017 Clearwater et al filed the following reply in the legal challenge to NYS PSC Tier 3 nuclear subsidy::