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Anti-nuke groups launch campaign to stop 'Cuomo tax' on NY ratepayers

Anti-nuclear activists launched a statewide campaign to stopNew York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's potentially $7.6 billion subsidy of three at-risk upstate nuclearpower plants over 12 years.

The New York Public Interest Research Group joined Food& Water Watch, the Alliance for a Green Economy, and others at a recentpress conference at the state capitol in Albany to launch the so-called "Stopthe Cuomo Tax" campaign. As a means of ensuring the state meets its goalof cutting carbon dioxide emissions by 40% from 1990 levels and procures 50% ofits electricity from renewable energy by 2030, New York state regulatorsapproved the clean energy standard at the start of August to support renewablesand upstate nuclear. Under the zero-emissions credit initiative of the cleanenergy standard, Exelon Corp.'sR.E. Ginna andNine Mile Pointnuclear power plants along with EntergyCorp.'s James A.FitzPatrick will receive compensation for an expected 27.6 millionMWh of emission-free generation through 2029.

The anti-nuclear campaign claimed that the expectedsurcharge on utility bills to support the nuclear plants has "nothing todo with clean energy" and will instead subsidize aging andincreasingly-costly nuclear plants that should be replaced with renewableenergy sources. Citing a recent analysis from the Public Utility Law Project,the campaign said the subsidy could raise residential electricity bills by $2.3billion over 12 years, with residential ratepayers of Consolidated Edison Inc. paying over $700 million morein electricity bills, Long Islanders over $500 million more, and the rest ofthe state over $1 billion more.

A letter sent to Cuomo from the coalition also stressed theunfairness of the prospect that nearly 60% of the subsidy would be paid bydownstate customers and claimed that portion is "far greater" thanthe amount of electricity the region consumes. The letter also called on Cuomoto prevent Entergy from selling its FitzPatrick nuclear plant to Exelon toprevent its closure because it cannot compete against cheap natural gas-firedgeneration.

"If Cuomo is serious about protecting consumers and theenvironment, he will drop this indefensible nuclear bailout, which will be paidfor on the backs of struggling New Yorkers," said Jessica Azulay, aprogram director for the Alliance for a Green Economy, in a news release. "Thebest way to achieve and maintain a true clean energy standard is by replacingnuclear power and fossil fuels with more true clean energy like efficiency,wind, and solar."

Supporters of the clean energy standard responded to theattacks in two news releases from the International Brotherhood of ElectricalWorkers' Utility Labor Council of New York and the Upstate Energy Coalition,which represents business, education and labor interests in support of Cuomo'senergy policies.

"Groups that seek to discredit the clean energystandard aren't looking at the facts," said Ted Skerpon, chairman of theIBEW Utility Labor Council of New York. "The CES is groundbreaking and forthe first time, ensures that upstate nuclear plants are recognized for theirenvironmental contributions."

The IBEW warned that the loss of the three nuclear powerplants would increase carbon dioxide emissions by 16 million metric tons ascarbon-emitting older natural gas and oil-fired generators would have to runmore in their absence.

L. Michael Treadwell, CEO of the County of Oswego IndustrialDevelopment Agency and UEC member, stressed that the nuclear plants also saveratepayers $1.7 billion in electricity costs per year. "Clean energyproduction is not a tax, but rather a smart investment to ensure we prevent theeffects of climate change," Treadwell said.