OSWEGO, NY – All of the snowplows and other heavy equipment had been removed from the Oswego County Highway Department Garage on Schaad Drive on Monday evening (Oct. 5). Instead, the cavernous facility housed an even more powerful juggernaut.
Federal, state and local officials joined more than 2,000 concerned FitzPatrick Nuclear Plant employees, their families, and community members to express support for FitzPatrick.
In early September, Entergy officials said they will decide by the end of the year whether to close the James FitzPatrick nuclear plant in Scriba. Some say the decision may come a lot sooner.
The company’s CEO told stockholders Entergy may decide not perform the 2016 refueling outage at the plant; closing down FitzPatrick would be the alternative.
The family atmosphere was clearly evident among the huge crowd packed wall to wall at the facility. Many others stood in the doorways and spilled into the parking lot.
“We are a family,” one worker said. “I’ve been here for several years and my father for years before. We truly are one great big family; and, it’s not just the workers at the plant, it’s the whole community that we provide power for and donate to charities for.”
“We rally today to save FitzPatrick. But the rally is for much more than the FitzPatrick plant. It is for our community, it is for the 615 hard-working employees and their families. It is us thanking them for the impact they have made in our community, whether it for helping serve food to those in need, building homes, buying Christmas toys and clothes and volunteering in our community,” Assemblyman Will Barclay told Oswego County Today. “We stand behind the 615 employees and their families and say, ‘we support you!'”
Barclay acted as MC of the rally, which brought together leaders from IBEW Local 97, Operation Oswego County and Mexico Academy and Central School District, the Fulton School District, U.S. Reps. John Katko (NY-24) and Richard Hanna (NY-22), State Senator Patty Ritchie (48th District), Oswego County Legislature Chairman Kevin Gardner and hundreds of others to show support for the hundreds of highly technical jobs that the plant provides and for carbon-free and efficient energy.
Assemblyman Robert Oaks (130th District) was scheduled to be a speaker; but was unable to attend.
“I’m amazed by the huge turnout tonight,” Barclay said. “We’re with you, Fitz! We’re sending a message to Albany and we’re going to send a message to Washington!”
Chants of “We’re with Fitz!” erupted from the crowd – accompanied by the Mexico High School Marching Band playing Queen’s “We Will Rock You.”
“There is no question that the loss of FitzPatrick nuclear energy plant would affect not only Oswego County, but our entire Central New York region,” Katko said. “Tonight, we heard that message loud and clear from hundreds of FitzPatrick employees, their families, and community members. We’re here to support these individuals tonight – and in the future. I support clean energy and I support this nuclear plant. I am absolutely amazed when I look out and see how many people are here. You represent the best and brightest of America.”
The president of Entergy gave Katko his personal cell phone number, “which was a big mistake for him,” the Congressman said. “I’ve called him twice today. He’s a real gentleman and there is no doubt in my mind that they have not made any final decision yet.”
“It is refreshing to see our local elected officials take such a proactive approach to try and address this issue. I’m amazed at how quick everybody reacted,” said IBEW Local 97 President and Business Manager Ted Skerpon. “Even though Entergy has not notified the state of its intent to close, it is imperative that we start looking for ways to make sure our nuclear stations are part of the initiative and operate well into the future. All state officials need to take note as to what was said here today and take action in order to secure New York State’s future to supply safe, reliable, low-emission power and continue to provide employment that helps support and grow the economy. We need action. We need it now.”
Oswego County has the holy grail of nuclear power generation, he added.
“FitzPatrick is part of the makeup of this community,” Hanna said. “It is a place where our neighbors work, a place that supplies clean energy to so many in this region, and it is a place that needs to not only stay in Oswego County, but continue to thrive in Oswego County. We stand today in support of keeping FitzPatrick open.”
The plant should stay open for at least another eight years, “not just for Oswego County, but for all of Upstate New York, he said.
“From people who work at the plant to representatives of the businesses and organizations that rely on the economic boost it provides, the hundreds of people at tonight’s rally sent a strong message to Entergy – we need FitzPatrick to remain in Central New York,” Ritchie said. “Tonight’s rally is just the first step. It’s my hope that moving forward, we can harness this momentum and continue our joint efforts to work together and save FitzPatrick.”
Superintendent of Mexico Academy and Central School District Sean Bruno said, “I’m grateful for the opportunity tonight to be a part of this rally, to express our support and gratitude for FitzPatrick and all of its employees, and to support them in this time of uncertainty. Their dedication to this community and our school, and the role they have here in Oswego County, is evident once again here tonight.”
He praised local political leaders contacting him so quickly and their efforts to save FitzPatrick from being mothballed.
“I didn’t have to go to them. They came to me. We have some great elected officials in Oswego County,” he said. “We care. We care about you and we (MACS school officials) are here to support you.”
Taxes from the plant support 39 percent of the school district’s budget.
The loss of that revenue would have a negative impact on the district.
That potential shortfall was brought into focus by a letter an 8-year-old Mexico student wrote to Assemblyman Barclay.
The superintendent shared the missive with the crowd.
“I am a lifelong resident of Oswego County. And I am writing to express my concern that my mommy’s power plant could close,” the elementary student wrote.
Bill Lynch, superintendent of the Fulton School District pointed out that while FitzPatrick doesn’t pay taxes in his district, their benefits are felt in other ways.
Through their charitable contributions, they assist many students and families, he noted.
“The great turnout here tonight illustrates our community’s support for the FitzPatrick plant and its employees,” Barclay said. “This clear showing of solidarity should send a message to Entergy, the Governor and other New York State policymakers that we need to do what we can to keep the plant in operation and encourage nuclear energy in New York State. Keeping FitzPatrick open is good for our area, our environment, and our economy.”
Barclay shared some remarks from Assemblyman Oaks.
Oaks said that he’s pleased to join with the numerous leaders and citizens throughout the region to support the on-going operation of the FitzPatrick Nuclear Power plant. It is critical for our economy, Oswego County, and our future energy needs.
“Senator (Charles) Schumer wants us to know that he totally supports FitzPatrick. His office is working with all the stakeholders to keep this plant open,” Barclay added.
“FitzPatrick is at the core of helping to create a sustainable Oswego County,” said Chairman Gardner, a graduate of the Mexico school district. “I’m happy to join with our federal and state employees tonight, as well as our local partners, to show the strong support that FitzPatrick has in our community. The Oswego County Legislature supports nuclear power and the plants that exist on the shores of Lake Ontario. This legislature will fight to keep nuclear power generation here in Oswego County. Stay strong, stay powerful and stay united!”
“The vitality of our region depends on the economic boost and jobs that FitzPatrick Nuclear Plant supports,” L. Michael Treadwell, executive director of Operation Oswego County, said prior to the meting. “We all know what’s at stake here, and we’ll be continuing to fight alongside one another to keep Entergy in Central New York.”
Hundreds of highly skilled men and women from across Central and Upstate New York are currently employed at FitzPatrick, with salaries that average over $80,000.
With an additional 1,000 specialty jobs created at the plant during its biannual fueling, these technical jobs support a great number of Oswego County families.
FitzPatrick also provides upwards of $18 million in property tax revenue and makes thousands of dollars in charitable contributions annually to local community events and not-for-profit organizations in the region.
“Like everyone else, the news (of the potential closure) was enough to send shivers up my spine. When you consider the impact of closing the plant would have locally, on the county and state it would be tragic to say the least,” said Scriba Town Supervisor Ken Burdick. “The town of Scriba has been the home to nuclear plants since the 1970s. We want that relationship to continue. We are a nuclear community! We are proud to support and protect the 600 jobs that are at stake along with the property tax revenue. There is no more important issue than saving FitzPatrick.”
Supporters of FitzPatrick are encouraged to tweet #SaveFitzPatrick to support keeping the plant in Central New York.