ALBANY — The Senate is trying to make the state — rather than utility ratepayers — pick up the cost of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s $7.6 billion plan to keep upstate nuclear power plants online as a way to combat climate change.
Since April, Cuomo’s plan has added a $2 monthly fee on utility bills to help subsidize the rates of three upstate nuclear plants. Before his plan, the plants faced shutdown by their owners, which threatened to hurt local economies.
Cuomo made the nuclear bailout a centerpiece of his Clean Energy Standard, which seeks to make green power about half of the state’s energy sources by 2030. Cuomo said that if the upstate plants were shuttered, more power would have to be generated by traditional gas-powered power plants, which would emit more greenhouse gases.
On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan’s bill surfaced. It would require state agencies including the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority to pay for the subsidy to keep the nuclear plants online.
“We believe that this can be funded through existing resources and not on the backs of ratepayers,” said Flanagan spokesman Scott Reif.
Cuomo didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Environmental and consumer groups, which oppose any nuclear bailout, said taxpayers will simply pay the cost through state funding under Flanagan’s plan. In addition, the groups under a coalition called Stop the Cuomo Tax say raiding NYSERDA will defund job subsidies in the burgeoning clean energy field.
“Clearly this is a sleight of hand from Sen. John Flanagan, whose constituents pay some of the highest utility rates in the country, to make it look like he’s helping lower rates, when he’s actually making them pay for this bailout in an even sneakier way,” said Alex Beauchamp of the Food and Water Watch, part of the Stop the Cuomo Tax coalition.
The group argued Long Islanders would be hit hardest by Cuomo’s plan because they would again pay for a nuclear plant bailout after shouldering the $8 billion cost for closing the Shoreham power plant decades ago.
Flanagan’s bill comes weeks after Assemb. Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) co-sponsored a bill to limit the charge to no more than 25 cents a month under Cuomo’s plan.
With Mark Harrington