Lowey Unveils Bills to Assist Area with Indian Pt Closure

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Congresswoman Nita Lowey speaks at Buchanan Village Hall Monday with several local officials on hand photo by Rick Pezzullo

Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-NY17/Rockland-Westchester) paid a visit to the host village of the Indian Point nuclear power plants Monday to announce three pieces of federal legislation she introduced last week aimed at addressing some key issues related to the closure of the facility in four years.

Lowey, Ranking Member on the House Appropriations Committee, said she was on board with Governor Andrew Cuomo, Entergy and Riverkeeper’s stunning announcement last January that Indian Point, located in the Village of Buchanan, would cease operations in 2021.

“Since 2002, I have advocated for shutting down Indian Point because of its security and safety risks for all of us in the New York metro area. We must act now to ensure on-site safety after the closure of Indian Point and to mitigate against economic hardship on our communities,” Lowey said at Buchanan Village Hall, flanked by State Assemblywoman Sandra Galef (D/Ossining), Cortlandt Supervisor Linda Puglisi, Buchanan Mayor Theresa Knickerbocker and Hendrick Hudson Superintendent of Schools Joseph Hochreiter.

Lowey said the bills she crafted would not only keep the Indian Point safe and secure once power is turned off, but they would establish a new source of funding to help compensate for the $32 million in annual tax revenue to the community that will be lost.

The Redistribution of Fines to Our Communities Act would redistribute safety-related fines imposed by the Department of Energy to support the local tax base.

She has also co-sponsored the Stranded Act, which requires the Department of Energy to compensate communities for storing nuclear waste, referring to spent fuel rods that will remain at Indian Point in dry cask storage.

“The Village of Buchanan faces a double hit with the closure of Indian Point,” Knickerbocker said. “First, the loss of approximately 50 percent of our revenue, and, second, the indefinite storage of the spent fuel rods, which means that portion of the property will not be developed until they are removed.”

One of Lowey’s bills would expedite the process to remove the rods from the plant site by allowing the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to license interim storage facilities in the country and prioritize the removal of nuclear waste from sites in densely populated areas, like the Lower Hudson Valley. A few temporary storage locations for the rods have been identified in Texas and New Mexico.

“There are communities that have already volunteered to store those casks,” Lowey said. “I’m not just waiting for the magical site.”

Galef has sponsored legislation in the Assembly that would allow the concrete pads where the dry cask storage is located at Indian Point to be assessed and be subject to taxes.

“This is a nuclear waste dump once the plants are gone,” former Cortlandt Councilman John Sloan remarked during an Cortlandt Indian Point Task Force meeting last week.

With the pending closing of the 240-acre site, officials have been hard at work finding ways to supplement revenue provided by Entergy, while also saving the more than 1,100 jobs provided by the energy plant. Puglisi said during last week’s Task Force meeting that Cortlandt officials have started discussions with Entergy about possibly extending the payment in lieu of taxes pilot agreement the two entities reached a few years ago.

“We have many challenges with Indian Point closing in 2020 and 2021,” Puglisi said Monday. “I am particularly appreciative for the safety, security, financial and support for the workers at Indian Point in the congresswoman’s proposal.”

Entergy currently provides 33 percent of annual revenue to the Hendrick Hudson School District, 64 percent to the Verplanck Fire Department, 28 percent to the Hendrick Hudson Free Library, two percent to the Town of Cortlandt and one percent to Westchester County.

“The revenue loss given the closure of Indian Point is catastrophic to our school district,” Hochreiter said. “Taxing our way out of $27 million cannot be an option for our community.”

As part of the settlement agreement with the state and Riverkeeper, Entergy has agreed to commit $15 million, starting in 2020, to local communities for environmental protection and community benefit fund to offset the loss in revenue.

On October 30, the Westchester County Board of Legislators unanimously approved a resolution, co-sponsored by Legislator Catherine Borgia (D/Ossining), demanding that current energy employees be hired to assist in the decommissioning of the plant and the economic development of the area. The employees would also receive job counseling to advance their careers elsewhere.

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