At the Suffolk Legislature Building in Hauppauge last week, in front of a truck with a giant screw on it were the words, “The Cuomo Tax Screws Long Islanders” and below, “Stop Cuomo Tax, No Nuclear Bailout.”
This was typical of gatherings last week of protesters of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s program of charging ratepayers, businesses, school districts, county, city, town and village governments and other entities, $7.6 billion to keep four nuclear plants upstate running.
In a statement he asked be read at the demonstration, State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr.(I-Sag Harbor), who represents Shelter Island, said: “Every ratepayer in the State of New York is now feeling the effects of the nuclear bailout through increases in their monthly utility bills … I remain committed to press hard against this subsidy … Further, we must look into whether or not there are better policies that would provide New York with the energy it needs while meeting the Clean Energy Standard of 50 percent renewable energy by 2030. Long Islanders deserve nothing less.”
Speaker after speaker at the protest decried the program that began on April 1 and has added an average $2 a month “surcharge” to the bill of every electric ratepayer in New York State and is to continue for 12 years. There were repeated calls for Mr. Cuomo not to continue the program and, if he doesn’t do that, for the State Legislature to step in and stop it. Mr. Thiele is a main player in the State Assembly involved in that endeavor.
Mr. Cuomo has argued that the four nuclear plants — FitzPatrick, Nine Mile Point one and two and Ginna — all owned by the Chicago-based Exelon Corporation, remain open because of the jobs they provide. But when it came to the other nuclear plants in New York State — Indian Point 1 and 2 just north of New York City — Mr. Cuomo worked with environmental groups last year to forge an agreement to close them. The workers at these plants were retrained through the state in renewable energy such as solar and wind.
At the demonstration at the Suffolk Legislature Building last week, Blair Horner, executive director the New York Public Research Interest Group, explained that beyond the average $2 a month “surcharge” on the bills of individual ratepayers, the Cuomo program involves hefty business and institutional charges that will be passed on to consumers. With a set of charts, he cited charges totaling millions for school districts, counties, cities, towns and villages and such entities as the MTA.
Father Bill Brisotti, pastor of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal parish in Wyandanch, who was active in the battle to prevent the Shoreham nuclear power plant from going into operation and the Long Island Lighting Company from building additional nuclear power plants, said, “Now more than ever we must be good stewards of our most precious gift, the Earth. That means embracing renewable sources of energy and not handing over $7.6 billion to a nuclear power company that won’t help us reach our environmental goals.”
The priest called the Cuomo surcharge program “unwise, unjust” and “short-sighted.”
Gail Payne, nuclear issues chair for the Sierra Club Long Island, spoke not only of the cost, but the danger of the plants, several of which are similar to the GE plants that melted down and exploded at Fukushima, Japan. They are all just over 300 miles from Long Island. The energy emphasis today, she said, must be on safe, clean technologies such as solar and wind power — far better than nuclear power in terms of “economics, the environment and jobs.”
Dr. Heidi Hutner, director of Sustainability Studies and associate dean of the School of Atmospheric and Marine Sciences at Stony Brook University, described the upstate nuclear plants as ”aging, old technology” and it makes “no sense” to keep them going with the availability of less expensive and far safer solar and wind technology. Furthermore, Dr. Hutner said, nuclear power plants generate nuclear waste that remains deadly for “tens of thousands of years … We’re dealing with the future — our children,” she declared.
Scott Lewis of North Sea, who has campaigned for the election, rather than appointment, of Long Island Power Authority trustees, said the Cuomo surcharge showed the importance of electing those who run LIPA and “all power companies” in the state so there would be “the impact of the public in making energy decisions.”
The original design for LIPA was elected trustees, but Mr. Cuomo’s father, Mario, when he was governor, scuttled that, switching to having trustees appointed, most by the governor and also the State Assembly speaker and Senate majority leader.
Eric Waltman, senior organizer of Food & Water Watch, said the $7.6 billion nuclear bail-out program “could have been conceived by Trump.” He said “we’re here to send a message to Governor Cuomo: we don’t want it.” The “future of energy,” said Mr. Waltman, is in “capturing” the energy of the wind and “harvesting abundant solar power.”
Among the signs held by protesters: “We Are The Clean Energy Revolution.”