New York lawmakers on Tuesday demanded to know how Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo plans to prevent a disruption in power supply and higher electric bills when Indian Point nuclear plant in suburban New York City goes dark.
Under a deal negotiated by the Democratic governor, the facility 30 miles north of the city will shut down by April 2021. Cuomo has long argued the plant is too hazardous to operate so close to the country's largest population center.
Lawmakers, who weren't a part of the negotiations with plant owner Entergy, sought details of the plan during a hearing Tuesday. Environmentalists and many residents hailed the closure announcement, but many lawmakers have expressed concerns about the state's plan to compensate for the loss of one of its largest energy facility.
"We have some of the highest energy prices in the United States of America," said Republican Sen. Terrence Murphy, whose district includes the plant. "We need some answers."
State energy officials insisted the state began planning for the plant's closure years ago and that energy efficiency, improved transmission lines to bring power from the north and expanded renewable sources like wind and solar will make up the difference.
"There will be no power reliability need associated with the closure," said Audrey Zibelman, chairwoman of the New York Public Service Commission. "The loss of the plant will have a negligible or no adverse bill impact on consumers."
Should the market change and the state finds itself without good alternatives, Zibelman said New York could lean on hydroelectric power from Canada or other options. As a last measure, the state and Entergy can agree to postpone the closure.
The facility generates the equivalent of a quarter of the power used by New York City and Westchester County.
Cuomo said he's "very confident" the state would be able to compensate for the lost power.
Lawmakers also complained the plant's closure would cut local communities off from millions of dollars in tax revenue from the plant and eliminate jobs for hundreds of highly skilled plant workers. Republican Sen. Thomas Croci, of Long Island, also questioned whether plans to secure and store nuclear waste are sufficient.
"I think it's a little reckless that it hasn't been thought out from beginning to end," he said.
Cuomo announced a new task force minutes before Tuesday's hearing that will help communities deal with the loss in revenue and assist in finding new employment for plant workers.
Former state lawmaker Arthur Kremer, now the chairman of the New York Affordable Reliable Electricity Alliance, said the state must move quickly to prevent the plant's closure from disrupting energy reliability and cost.
"Indian Point has been the backbone of the state's electricity grid for more than 40 years," he said.