After U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry came to Oswego County last week to praise the state's support of nuclear power plants, several environmental groups and New York politicians sent a letter to state leaders saying the opposite.
The idea of using public dollars to keep financially struggling nuclear power plants afloat because they don't emit carbon dioxide was never popular among some environmental groups that consider the facilities dangerous and dirty because of the radiation and nuclear waste they create. So when the New York Public Service Commission (PSC) voted two years ago to bail them with about $8 billion in fees on consumer's energy bills, they left the door open to a potential compromise.
Then-chair of the PSC Audrey Zibelman said they would look at letting customers opt into a program to buy 100 percent of their energy from clean, renewable sources instead of paying into the system that supports the nuclear subsidies. Jessica Azulay with the Alliance for a Green Economy says it's time for the state to make good on that promise.
"What this letter does that we filed with the governor and the chair of the Public Service Commission is to try to win the right for consumers to decide that they no longer want to pay this extra money toward nuclear energy and they want to instead adopt 100 percent renewable energy," Azulay said. "We think that this is a really common sense approach – maybe a first step – in reversing the nuclear subsidies by allowing people to vote with their dollars and really create the pathway for renewable energy to accelerate in New York and phase out the nuclear reactors."
To date, the nuclear subsidies have cost New York ratepayers about $650 million. A spokesperson for the PSC says the price would be even greater had the plants been allowed to shut down because they could have been replaced with fossil fuels that would have emitted carbon dioxide, setting back the state's goals to lower carbon dioxide emissions 40 percent by 2030.