TODAY'S PAPER
38° Good Morning
38° Good Morning
Opinion

Growing criticism over Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plan to subsidize New York’s nuclear plants

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo speaks to reporters near

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo speaks to reporters near the main entrance of the Indian Point nuclear power plant in Buchanan, N.Y. on Saturday, May 9, 2015 after an Energy company spokesman said a transformer failed and caused a fire at the Unit 3 nuclear power plant. Photo Credit: AP

In recent weeks, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has tirelessly defended his Clean Energy Standard plan that forces taxpayers and electric customers to bail out the state’s failing nuclear energy industry. The governor should save his breath.

The controversial scheme, which Cuomo and state regulators approved in August without the consent of state lawmakers, has been hailed as a model for other states to achieve reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. But critics rightly view the Clean Energy Standard (CES) a raw deal for electric ratepayers and taxpayers that amounts to little more than an indefensible corporate welfare racket.

The plan requires half of New York state’s energy to come from carbon-neutral (renewable) sources by 2030.  But renewables currently make up only 23 percent of the Empire State’s energy supply.  Achieving the 50 percent threshold would require a massive infusion of cash from electric customers and taxpayers.

As part of the CES, all of the state’s utilities and other energy suppliers will be required to cover the cost of carbon-free emissions from nuclear power plants by purchasing Zero-Emission Credits from a government bureaucracy.  The money collected will then be handed over to nuclear power plants.  

Nuclear power plants (technically non-renewable sources of energy) in New York are struggling and on the verge of bankruptcy.  In reality, the CES is a not-so-hidden attempt to save the nuclear power plants through corporate welfare handouts.

Essentially the state is taking money from taxpayers and ratepayers — some who likely aren’t even using the energy from those plants — and giving away a subsidy for these credits.

Analysts estimate this shady bailout for struggling nuclear plants will cost New Yorkers $1 billion in just the first two years, and $8 billion over the lifetime of the program. Since traditional utility companies will be required to pick up the tab for the giveaway, the cost will ultimately be passed on to electric customers in the form of higher utility bills.

The mandate means New Yorkers will shell out an additional $25 a year in higher electric costs, according to the state’s Energy Research Development Authority.  

Taxpayers will also be on the hook for costs associated with Cuomo’s green energy scheme because utility costs for state and federal buildings will also be hit with the rate increase. In fact, more than 1,800 public schools will be affected by this program. The additional money used to pay the electric bills for those schools amounts to money taken from education and given to the nuclear power industry.

Since the plan was first adopted, critics have identified five key problems with the plan:

—The bailout is being given without any vote by the state legislature.

—Rising energy rates will negatively affect the state’s economy.

—Lawsuits are already being considered to challenge the plan’s subsidies.

—The cost of the subsidies are unreasonable.

—Taxpayers are propping up an unworkable energy mandate.

Cuomo, a Democrat, is also facing criticism from members of the state legislature, including from members within his own party who don’t believe electric customers should be forced to send money to subsidize controversial nuclear power plants.

Five members of the New York State Assembly — Jim Brennan (D-Brooklyn), Amy Paulin (D-Scarsdale), Jeffrey Dinowitz (D-Bronx), Charles Lavine (D-North Shore Long Island) and Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) — sent a letter to the state’s Public Service Commission Chief Audrey Zibelman, slamming the proposal for the “statewide electric rate increase that requires downstate electric customers to pay for nearly 60 percent of the nuclear subsidies.”

Members of the state Assembly are right to be leery of the CES plan to funnel billions of dollars from hardworking New Yorkers to nuclear plants. The numerous concerns voiced by stakeholder groups, experts and elected officials should also be a sign to the governor that something is severely wrong with this plan.

CES is cronyism at its absolute worst. If Cuomo wants to reduce emissions, he should find a way to do so that doesn’t rely on dodgy handouts to nuclear power lobbyists and special-interest groups.

Cuomo and New York state energy regulators should be ashamed that they’re asking taxpayers and energy customers to spend their hard-earned money on a plan that that can’t guarantee cleaner or cheaper energy, but guarantees unwarranted subsidies to the billion-dollar nuclear energy industry.


David Williams is president of the Taxpayers Protection Alliance. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.

Columns