We, the undersigned elected officials, represent communities across New York State impacted by the state’s unprecedented $7.6 billion in ratepayer-funded subsidies to the nuclear industry through the New York State Clean Energy Standard. We urge you to halt the planned Public Service Commission mandate until a comprehensive and transparent evaluation of the available alternatives is conducted and made available for public comment.
We believe the public deserves more say in the plan, which amounts to the largest corporate bailout in New York’s history, benefiting one company, Exelon Corporation. In a matter of weeks last year, the price tag for this bailout soared from $59 million to $7.6 billion – a staggering sum, given the environmental detriments and risks of nuclear power, that these plants are already aging, and that it does not represent a long-term investment in the renewable energy future we need to build in New York.
Under the plan, New Yorkers across the state will see their electricity bills rise to keep old, increasingly unprofitable nuclear power plants operating over 12 years. ConEd residential consumers bills will increase by $700 million, Long Island residential consumers by $500 million, Niagara Mohawk by $465 million, and NYSEG by over $345 million, according to independent analysis from the Public Utility Law Project.
This will place increased stress on New Yorkers, who already struggle to pay electric rates that are among the highest in the nation. According to utility reports filed with the state, more than 800,000 consumers in New York State are currently in arrears on their utility bills and many more currently struggle to pay their electric bills. Raising electric rates will worsen the situation, especially for low-income New Yorkers and those on fixed incomes. Businesses, schools, hospitals, and charitable organizations face rate hikes. Municipalities will pay hundreds of millions of dollars more from strained budgets for electricity for public facilities and streetlights, forcing higher property taxes.
Moreover, state agencies have concluded the energy from at least two of these power plants is unneeded. The New York Independent System Operator (NYISO), the agency responsible for our state’s reliable electricity supply, has determined that the FitzPatrick and Ginna nuclear plants can shut down immediately with no reliability impacts or need for new coal or gas power plants.
We are concerned that New York State’s proposed multi-billion-dollar subsidy is a misallocation of resources that New York needs to invest in energy efficiency and cleaner, safer renewable energy sources. In the face of accelerating climate change, New York needs to commit to a rapid, just transition to 100% renewable energy that includes safe decommissioning of old nuclear and fossil fuel facilities, training and placement for workers in renewable energy industries, and addresses concerns of impacted communities. We recognize that the facilities provide living wage jobs and benefits for nearby communities, so priority should be given to transitioning workers to good-paying jobs and offsetting the community economic impacts with a clean energy investment program.
A recent analysis by noted experts Dr. Mark Jacobson and Dr. Felix Cebulla found that across a variety of nuclear and renewable energy scenarios for New York State, in every scenario investments in energy efficiency and renewables will cost consumers less, reduce more greenhouse gas emissions, and generate more jobs than bailing out the nuclear industry. Wind and energy efficiency can already be purchased for less than the price that Exelon requested to keep its plants in business, according to Lazard’s Levelized Cost of Energy reports.
The extraordinary ratepayer-funded subsidy to keep the aging nuclear plants open will retain only approximately 2,000 nuclear plant jobs in only one region of the state for only 12 years. In contrast, converting New York State to 100 percent clean, renewable energy like wind and solar, which is entirely possible now, would create approximately 82,000 good, long-term jobs across the entire state. Job initiatives financed by all electricity consumers statewide should have positive job impacts throughout the state, not in only one region.
For communities that have hosted the nuclear plants and workers who have staffed them, we urge a just phase-out plan that retains enough workers to ensure safe decommissioning, and provides training and placement for unneeded workers in the rapidly-growing renewable energy economy. The transition must address legitimate community concerns regarding loss of tax revenues and donations to first responders and important community services. These concerns can and should be addressed through creative leadership — without imposing a $7.6 billion ratepayer funded subsidy that will only delay the closures by a dozen years.
Finally, as elected officials who are also subject to legal obligations for due process, we are concerned that the unprecedented bailout plan did not meet legal obligations for due process. The New York State Administrative Procedure Act requires at least 30 to 45 days of public comment. However, after the Public Service Commission issued proposed changes on July 8, 2016, the public was provided a period of only two weeks to comment on the proposed plan changes before the Commission’s ruling on August 1, 2016, which was followed by an immediate move into contracts. The insufficient comment period failed to allow the public and local governments time to assess how the unprecedented plan will impact our municipalities and to submit informed comments.
Moreover, the Public Service Commission failed to conduct and make available for public comment an evaluation of the most cost-effective alternatives for strengthening New York’s electricity grid, creating jobs, protecting taxpayers, and transitioning to clean energy. To earn the public’s confidence, New Yorkers deserve a thorough, public and transparent evaluation of the plan and available alternatives. As the planned rate charges begin on April 1, 2017, now is the moment to halt the bailout plan.
Therefore, we call on you to direct the Public Service Commission and relevant state agencies to withdraw the bailout plan and conduct a publicly transparent comprehensive assessment of available alternatives for limiting the financial burden on ratepayers and local governments and accelerating our transition to a cleaner, safer energy future.
Now more than ever before, New Yorkers need your leadership. Thank you for giving this urgent issue your full consideration.