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Upstate nuclear plant subsidy will raise LIPA customer’s bills

Constellation Energy's Nine Mile Point Nuclear Station is

Constellation Energy's Nine Mile Point Nuclear Station is seen in an undated file photo. Credit: PRNewsFoto / Constellation Energy

The Long Island Power Authority next year will begin collecting $45 million from customers to pay its portion of an upstate nuclear plant subsidy tied to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s clean energy standard — a more than 1 percent bill increase that one LIPA trustee and several ratepayers called a “bailout.”

LIPA trustees voted Wednesday to approve LIPA’s purchase of zero-emission credits from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority to pay its share of the subsidy, which will put nearly $1 billion over two years into the coffers of upstate nuclear plants under an agreement reached by the state this summer. LIPA trustees also authorized the utility to sell credits it will receive as a result of LIPA’s 18 percent ownership of one of the plants, Nine Mile Point Two.

LIPA will spend $65 million to buy the credits, and receive $20 million for its nuke-plant stake, LIPA officials said at a board meeting Wednesday, for a net cost of $45 million. LIPA will begin collecting the $45 million next April.

But while most of the board supported the measure, trustee Suzette Smookler, a Senate appointee, opposed it, and another new trustee, Peter Gollon, abstained.

Smookler called the nuclear plant subsidy, which was arranged by the Cuomo administration to keep plants open that owners had threatened to close, “a terrible idea.”

“This is nothing more than another bailout,” she said. “Just because it’s wrapped in green doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.” She called it a “political ploy” to maintain 1,500 upstate jobs.

Several ratepayers also spoke in opposition to the deal.

Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, called the subsidy a “sham under the guise of clean energy” to keep the nuke plants operating.

“We can no longer subsidize these failed energy technologies of the past,” she said.

In other news, LIPA’s board postponed a vote on a proposed board policy that would have “encouraged” board members to notify LIPA officials before they speak to the media or publicly, and refer media inquiries on matters of fact back to LIPA.

The utility cited an advisory opinion by the state Committee on Open Government, which questioned the legality and constitutionality of the measure. Trustees could take up the measure at their next board meeting Dec. 21.

Still uncertain is whether trustees will vote on a South Fork energy project that includes a 75-megawatt offshore wind farm. The measure was expected to be voted on in July, but the state asked LIPA to pull the measure until it finalized a draft blueprint for offshore wind. That was finalized last week, but the board still didn’t vote on the project.

LIPA officials said they continue to negotiate with the project developer, Deepwater Wind, and the measure could come before the LIPA in December.


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