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Groups: Cuomo to hike LI utility rates to aid upstate

ALBANY — A coalition of consumer advocates, good-government groups and environmentalists on Wednesday warned that Long Islanders will pay even more for power under Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s planned $8 billion subsidy of aging, inefficient and hazardous nuclear plants upstate.

Cuomo’s spokesman called the charge “utter nonsense” and a “cheap stunt” that would lead to even higher spikes in utility bills.

Cuomo’s plan will save jobs at nuclear power plants in economically hard-hit upstate areas as the state transitions into cleaner energy sources such as wind and solar power. That plan includes closing the Indian Point nuclear plant in Westchester County.

“It’s like subsidizing the horse-and-buggy industry while Henry Ford is rolling cars off the assembly line,” said Blair Horner of the New York Public Interest Research Group.

The groups said Cuomo’s plan to fund the upstate nuclear plants will cost Long Island ratepayers $501.4 million and will cost New York City ratepayers $705.8 million between 2017 and 2029.

Cuomo has said the plan would cost ratepayers an average of less than $2 per month.

“This is an absurd stance,” said Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi.

He said Cuomo’s plan avoids the “premature closure” of nuclear plants that emit no pollution-causing emissions. Cuomo said this will allow the state to meet its climate change goal of substantially reducing greenhouse gases. The plan would make half of New York’s power come from renewable fuels such as wind and solar power by 2030. The plan calls for making renewable fuels responsible for 26.31 percent of the state’s total electricity load in 2017.

Azzopardi claimed that blocking Cuomo’s plan would replace upstate nuclear power “with more expensive dirty fuel and fracked gas that will send electric bills skyrocketing and puts hundreds of New Yorkers out of work.”

“Without our upstate nuclear fleet, 31 million tons of [carbon dioxide] would be released in just two years, the equivalent of adding 6 million cars to the road,” said Richard L. Kauffman, chairman of Cuomo’s Energy and Finance for New York office. He also said NYPIRG’s estimate of the subsidy at $8 billion is “deeply flawed.”

Horner called for a public hearing on Cuomo’s plan that the groups call the “Cuomo tax,” saying ratepayers haven’t been told they will be footing the bill.

“Let’s let the ratepayers know,” Horner said. “Do they know on Long Island that they are spending $500 million to keep Vietnam-era plants on line?”

NYPIRG was joined by the Food and the Water Watch consumer and environmental health organization.

Cuomo’s overall energy policy is endorsed by the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Environmental Advocates and other environmental advocates.

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