County Executive Rob Astorino is looking to put the brakes on the planned closure of the Indian Point nuclear power plants by Westchester filing a lawsuit against New York State.
Flanked by local municipal leaders at the Riverfront Green in Peekskill with the nearby plants in the backdrop Wednesday afternoon, Astorino maintained the deal reached by Governor Andrew Cuomo, Indian Point owners Entergy and environmental group Riverkeeper earlier this year should be invalidated since a full environmental review was not completed prior to the agreement as required by state law.
“Whether you are for nuclear power or against it, there is no debate that the public had a right to know about the impact of closing Indian Point before the deal was reached by three men in a room,” Astorino said. “If our laws are to have any meaning at all, then the process has to be fair, open and reviewable.”
“It’s hard to imagine an event with a bigger environmental impact than closing a nuclear power plant just outside New York City,” Astorino stressed. “The only thing harder to imagine is closing a nuclear power plant just outside New York City without an environmental impact statement.”
In early January, Cuomo, Entergy and Riverkeeper stunned local officials when they announced Indian Point would close in April 2021 since it was no longer profitable enough for Entergy.
The announcement sent immediate financial shockwaves since Entergy is a major funding source, providing 33% of annual revenue to the Hendrick Hudson School District, 46% to the Village of Buchanan, 64% to the Verplanck Fire Department. 28% to the Hendrick Hudson Free Library, 2% to the Town of Cortlandt and 1% to Westchester County.
“The impact on our village is going to be staggering,” said Buchanan Mayor Theresa Knickerbocker. “What makes matters worse is that we received no advance warning from the state. There was no review process whatsoever. I strongly believe the SEQRA process would have given a better outcome or a plan B in the process.”
According to Astorino, an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on Indian Point ceasing operation would determine the financial toll stemming from the loss of economic activity and property tax revenues, along with thousands of jobs; an expected increase in utility bills; and the environmental and financial consequences of leaving behind spent fuel rods on the site.
“The consequences couldn’t be more serious,” said County Legislator John Testa (R/Peekskill), Minority Leader on the Board of Legislators. “This seems to be a no-brainer approach to try to get some action. This seems to be the only way we’ll get some answers.”
For the lawsuit to be initiated in state Supreme Court, the Board of Legislators must approve it by May 8.
“Every man and woman in New York, from every part of the entire economic and environmental spectrum, has an interest in seeking our lawsuit succeed,” Astorino said. “A ruling against us says the powerful and special interests can override the environmental protections in our laws.”