State legislators seeking to put the brakes on a plan by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to hike electric bills to keep open upstate nuclear power plants have introduced legislation calling for a moratorium on the plan as the Assembly considers a one-house budget bill that would do the same.
Cuomo’s Public Service Commission last summer passed a clean energy standard that, among other things, calls for a charge on customer bills that would help pay for the plan to keep three upstate nuclear plants open. Opponents say it would cost New York ratepayers $7.6 billion over the next 12 years.
The Democratic-controlled state Assembly on Monday introduced a budget bill that would prohibit the purchase of zero-emission credits mandated under the clean energy plan until leaders of the PSC and the New York Energy Research and Development Authority appear before a joint hearing of the Senate and Assembly to answer questions. Among the topics to be raised: the purpose of the funds, how they were determined, their “disproportionate” impact on low-income ratepayers, and the consumer cost of the credits.
However, there is no Senate version of the bill as yet. Calls to Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan’s offices on Tuesday were not returned.
LIPA said the so-called zero-emission credits for the plan would cost it around $65 million a year. LIPA’s charge would be offset by about $20 million because it will receive a portion of the credits from the plan because it owns 18 percent of one of the nuclear plants, called Nine Mile Point 2. LIPA’s net $45 million cost would amount to around $2 a month for the average residential customer. Those who use more would pay a higher cost.
The zero emissions bill follows introduction of another last month that would put a moratorium on the plan until Dec. 31, 2018. Assemb. Fred Thiele (D-Sag Harbor) said he introduced the moratorium bill to allow for a suspension of the charge to give a full airing in the legislature to a costly proposal that was not fully vetted before its approval by the PSC.
“Not surprisingly with this administration, there was not a lot of transparency and openness before this bailout was adopted,” Thiele said. The bill has 15 Assembly co-sponsors, including Assemb. Steve Englebright (D-Setauket), and a Senate version introduced by state Sen. Anthony Avella (D-Whitestone).
Azzopardi denied the clean energy standard was passed without public airing, noting there were 24 public hearings state wide before its passage. But Thiele and others are concerned the legislature never got the chance to debate it, as it was approved by the PSC after legislators ended their session.
Thiele said Long Island school districts would face the increases in their LIPA bills even as they labor under the state-mandated 2 percent tax cap.
An analysis of the nuclear increase by the Public Utility Law Project projected it would hike Long Island school districts’ PSEG bills between $2.05 million and $6.17 million a year. Among Long Island districts, according to the analysis, prepared for the New York Public Interest Research Group, a watchdog that has been the plan’s most vocal proponent, the cost would increase the Brentwood Union-Free district’s bills by up to $139,254, the Sachem Central district’s by $114,996, the Longwood Central School District’s by up to $88,904 and the Smithtown Central district’s bills by up to $87,904 a year.
Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi called the analysis “more misguided and cherry-picked propaganda that fails to take into account the skyrocketing energy bills, increased reliance on dirty-burning fuels, hundreds of lost New York jobs and setbacks in this state’s nation-leading efforts to combat climate change that would occur if these plants shuttered their doors.”
Azzopardi pointed to a separate study that maintains closing the three upstate nuke plants would hike rates $7 a month for all utility customers statewide.
But Blair Horner, the executive director of NYPIRG, said, “Long Island is bearing far more of the cost of the state’s failed energy policies than anywhere else in state.”
He noted the analysis of the impact of the nuclear bailout should ring particularly acutely for Long Islanders. “There is an amazing historical coincidence where the first Gov. Cuomo decided to close down the Shoreham nuclear plant and Long Island ratepayers had to pay the lion’s share,” Horner said.