Putnam Legislature Calls for Increased Indian Point Safety Measures

Indian Point Energy Center
Indian Point Energy Center

The Putnam County Legislature is calling for new safety measures at Indian Point Energy Center, despite opposition from the county executive.
The legislature voted 8-1 Wednesday evening to override County Executive MaryEllen Odell’s veto and uphold a resolution passed earlier this month outlining steps to be taken to prevent a disaster at the nuclear power plant.
The legislation originally passed 7-2 at the April 3 legislative meeting, but Odell vetoed the resolution, citing a need to hear from all stakeholders. After nearly two hours of debate earlier this month only one legislator switched her vote, and not in the direction Odell had hoped.
“I still remain confident that we should override it,” said Legislator Ginny Nacerino. “I do not feel that there was a compelling argument made by Entergy for me, personally, to change my vote.”
The resolution calls for the evacuation zone to be extended from 10 miles to 50 miles, citing the disaster at the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant in Japan. It also asks that steps be taken to secure spent fuel rods.
Odell’s veto message stated the county needed to hear from officials at Entergy – which runs Indian Point – the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and Riverkeeper, which supports closure of Indian Point.
“While I understand the purpose of this ‘template resolution’ I believe the County has not conducted adequate due diligence to permit me in good conscience to sign it into law,” Odell wrote.
The legislature put the item back on the agenda for the May 14 health committee meeting.
At that meeting John McCann, vice president for nuclear safety, licensing and emergency planning at Entergy, said the extended evacuation zone is unnecessary, stating the earthquake in Japan was 1,000 times larger than anything this area has experienced.
Phillip Musegaas, the Hudson River Program Director for Riverkeeper, countered, calling it a “common sense resolution” and said the claim only a 10-mile radius would be damaged “is really pure fantasy.”
“This idea that a worst-case scenario accident will only affect a 10-mile area around a plan has been found to be unreal and inaccurate,” he said. He pointed out the resolution stopped far short of calling for the plant’s closure, a sentiment echoed by several legislators.
Members of the public who weighed in tended to side more with Musegaas than McCann, thanking the legislature for taking action.
Legislator Dini LoBue originally voted against the resolution but flipped her position and supported the override.
“I originally voted in the negative because I believed the resolution was an effort to close Indian Point,” LoBue said. “However, because the legislative process – i.e. the public hearing with expert testimony – was followed, I received new and significant information that impacted my initial vote.”
Only Legislative Chair Rich Othmer voted against both the original resolution and the veto override, saying the wider evacuation zone would lead to roads and bridges becoming jammed.
“The people that live within 10 miles are the ones that will have to get out first,” Othmer said. “The people who really need to get out won’t be able to.”
The resolution is non-binding, simply calling on Entergy and regulating authorities to take action.