Downstate utility customers, including Long Island’s, will be forced to pay most of a nearly $1 billion, two-year subsidy for upstate nuclear plants under the state’s new clean energy standard while receiving disproportionately fewer benefits, five Democratic state legislators charged in a letter to a top regulator.
In their letter Wednesday to Public Service Commission chairwoman Audrey Zibelman, the five legislators wrote that the new standard “effectively means that the four downstate utility service territories [including LIPA] will be required to absorb nearly 60 percent of this two-year, $965-million rate increase.” They noted there was “no way that the downstate system uses 60 percent of the output of those nuclear plants” and called the mandate “unfair and unreasonable.”
LIPA, which owns 18 percent of one of the nuclear plants, Nine Mile Point Two, is expected to adopt the standard before year’s end, the state has said. A LIPA spokesman declined to comment. The state has said average residential customers would pay around $2 a month more to support the standard.
The legislators, including Assemb. Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) and Assemb. Charles Lavine (D-Glen Cove), said the PSC “should revisit the matter of what share downstate New York must pay, and more closely correlate that share with downstate’s actual use of electricity generated from the four units.” They also want the PSC to publish the “facts and assumptions upon which it is making this decision.”
The letter was also signed by Assembly members Jim Brennan (D-Brooklyn), Amy Paulin (D-Westchester) and Jeffrey Dinowitz (D-Bronx).
While saying they supported the standard, which calls for the state to derive around 50 percent of its energy from renewables such as wind, solar and geothermal, the legislators said the state plan lacks transparency. They noted the PSC has “blocked public access to a cost review of the nuclear fleet” that will be subsidized. The state plans to grant Exelon, which will own all the plants after purchasing the Fitzpatrick plant from Entergy, up to a 10 percent increase every two years through 2027 to subsidize the plants.
PSC spokesman James Denn noted the benefits and costs of the clean energy program are “statewide” and ratepayers in all regions are “treated exactly the same.”
“There is no inequity, since climate issues from emissions are not geographically restricted,” he said. “Increasing renewable energy, reducing carbon emissions, and protecting the environment are in everyone’s interest.”
Lavine begged to differ. “We question the general inequity of Long Islanders having to pick up so much of the tab of this expense,” he said.
The legislators asked the PSC to reconsider the subsidy for Nine Mile Two, which they noted had recently been refueled, suggesting there was no plan to close that plant.