In Wake of Deal to Save Fitzpatrick, James Hansen & Other Scientists, Environmentalists Urge New York to Protect Nuclear Plants


Climate scientist James Hansen and dozens of other scientists and environmentalists today urged New York's Public Service Commission (PSC) to pass a proposed Clean Energy Standard (CES) to save the state's nuclear power plants.

The letter comes on the heels of an announcement that, if the PSC passes the CES, the Fitzpatrick nuclear plant — scheduled to be closed — will be sold by Entergy to Exelon and stay open.

"Today's announcement could represent a huge victory for the pro-nuclear movement," said Michael Shellenberger, President of Environmental Progress, who organized the open letter.

"We applaud Governor Andrew Cuomo, the New York Public Service Commission (PSC), Entergy and Exelon for finding a positive and concrete step forward," said Shellenberger. "If the PSC does the right thing on August 1st, New York will become a global leader — the first government to include nuclear in its clean energy mandates."

The letter is signed by legendary climate scientist James Hansen and dozens of others. It is the seventh letter the scientists associated with Environmental Progress have sent since January 2016. 

Thanks to nuclear power, the letter notes, New York has nation's fourth lowest per-capita greenhouse emissions. But if New York were to lose its up-state nuclear plants, emissions from the power sector would rise 50 percent.

The letter notes that the subsidy for nuclear would be less than those for renewables. "Recent procurements by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority have given renewable projects state subsidies averaging $22 per MWh for 20 years, on top of federal subsidies like the $23 per MWh Production Tax Credit. Nuclear subsidies will likely be lower than the ZEC caps because when plant revenues are projected to exceed a baseline of $39 per MWh the ZEC subsidy is reduced by the amount of the excess."

The letter argues that the CES is a good deal for rate-payers. "At the initial ZEC maximum of $17.48 per MWh, the subsidy for upstate plants would raise electricity rates by about 0.32 cents per kilowatt-hour state-wide, an increase of 1.8 percent for residential rate-payers and 5.4 percent for large industrial customers. An increase of that size added to current wholesale rates would still leave them lower than they have been for all but two of the last ten years."

Saving nuclear saves green jobs and protects ratepayers from future price shocks when natural gas prices rise. 

"Losing nuclear capacity could drive up electricity prices by reducing supply, so the price benefit of keeping plants open may compensate for the cost of the subsidy. The benefits of preserving thousands of upstate jobs and tax revenue are also substantial. NYSDPS staff estimate that the economic benefits of the ZEC subsidy are in total about four times larger than the maximum cost."