A legislative Column by Assemblyman Will Barclay
Nuclear generation is a big part of who we are in Oswego County – so much so it is on our county seal.
Ever since Entergy announced in November that it will not refuel the FitzPatrick Nuclear power plant in 2016 and will decommission the unit, our community has been devastated.
If the plant closes, we will lose a major employer and economic engine for our region.
Since Entergy’s announcement, I and community leaders have focused our efforts on what could be done to prevent the FitzPatrick plant from closing and to protect the rest of our nuclear plants in New York State.
It is clear that the challenges being experienced at the FitzPatrick plant are also being experienced throughout the industry as a whole.
You have to look no further than Wayne County to see that the Ginna nuclear power plant is facing the same economic stresses.
These challenges go beyond market forces and lower commodity prices of natural gas.
Some of the root challenges facing the industry can be attributed to federal and state energy policies, policies that have provided handsome benefits and incentives for carbon-free electricity generators, namely, renewables, while largely leaving out nuclear, the largest producers of carbon-free electric generation.
Nuclear power supplies 30% of the state’s electricity with 17.9% of the power coming from upstate.
Its power produces zero greenhouse gases and is reliable operating 24/7.
To meet the 50% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2030 and the federal mandates under the Clean Power Plan, nuclear is essential to New York’s energy portfolio.
Against this backdrop and to try to keep FitzPatrick operating, I’ve introduced two bills with State Senator Patty Ritchie.
This first bill will provide direct incentives for the continued operation of the FitzPatrick plant and the other bill assists nuclear power plants statewide.
In the proposal for the FitzPatrick plant, I propose a $60 million tax credit as an incentive to keep the facility operating.
Entergy reports that $60 million is the amount it is losing annually at FitzPatrick.
The tax credit is solely for FitzPatrick and could be used as an incentive for another operator to run the plant, if Entergy follows through with its plan to discontinue its operation of the plant.
The funds for the tax credit do not have to come from New York State taxpayers.
Rather we should use the $2.4 billion in bank settlement monies that the state received in legal settlements.
There is precedent to utilizing tax credits for economic development and retention of businesses.
We have seen the state come to the aid of several upstate businesses this fall with the retention economic packages provided to Alcoa and Kraft-Heinz.
Additionally, the state has provided incentives to the film and entertainment industry.
The Tonight Show receives a $20 million tax credit annually and employs 200 which is far less than FitzPatrick.
I view the tax credit as an investment in supporting local energy generation and 615 full time jobs and 1,000 additional outage jobs.
If FitzPatrick closes, our region faces a $500 million annual economic loss and undoubtedly, the state will have to then expend resources to the area.
It would make better sense to use those resources to keep jobs, help hard-working families and keep the economy moving in the right direction.
The other legislation will provide incentives to the nuclear facilities throughout the state.
No new monies will be raised under my plan.
Rather, nuclear would finally be awarded, similarly to renewables, for its carbon-free generation.
The state is finally starting to realize the importance and value of nuclear and the Governor has recently directed the Public Service Commission to come up with a new Clean Energy Standard, one that recognizes nuclear.
This is a very positive step for state’s energy policy and I am supportive of the efforts to include nuclear.
The timing is absolutely essential and should again include a solution for FitzPatrick.
Unfortunately, the exclusive negotiations between Entergy and the Governor’s office last fall did not solidify the continued operation of FitzPatrick and the company made the decision to not refuel.
Despite this, we need to continue to try and pursue every avenue to keep FitzPatrick running.
My office can be reached by mail at 200 N. Second St., Fulton, NY 13069, by e-mail at [email protected] or by calling (315) 598-5185.
You can also friend me, Assemblyman Barclay, on Facebook.