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FitzPatrick sale: Cuomo says financial crisis averted in central New York

Tom Magnarelli
Gov. Andrew Cuomo at the FitzPatrick Nuclear Power Plant in Scriba.

Nine months after Entergy said it would close the FitzPatrick Nuclear Power Plant in Scriba, the company announced it would be selling the financially struggling plant to Exelon instead. The sale saves more than 600 high-paying jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars to the local economy.

Credit Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News
The Mexico Middle School band at Tuesday's rally at the FitzPatrick Nuclear Power Plant.

The Mexico Middle School marching band played songs at a FitzPatrick rally with Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday celebrating the announcement.

"If this plant had closed it would have been financially devastating to central New York, to the school district, to the tax base," Cuomo said. "These were 615 jobs, 615 families; these were thousands of people who have been living in suspense for many months. Their lives would have been upended and devastated and there would have been no viable alternative for them. So, a lot of relief, a lot of smiles and the whole state should be smiling today.”

Cuomo said losing nuclear energy could drive up the price of other sources of power such as natural gas.

“Ultimately, ideally, you want to get to renewable energy," Cuomo said. "But I don’t see how you do that without using nuclear power, which of the available power sources being carbon free, when you have a well-operated plant it is a necessary supply right now. We will monitor the situation as it develops. I don't foresee a situation in the future where you're not going to need nuclear power to balance the portfolio."

Melissa Perlet is a kindergarten teacher at Mexico Elementary and her sons go to the Mexico School District as well.

“We’re just a small community and if the plant were to close it would have tremendously affected our district," Perlet said. "It’s good news that things are going to be able to stay the way they are and no major changes are going to happen.”

Tom McMahon works for Exelon’s Nine Mile Point nuclear plant. He admitted he has not been a big Cuomo fan.

“Not so much, my ideas have changed,” McMahon said.

That was when McMahon heard about the governor’s Clean Energy Standard which includes nuclear plants because they are carbon-free.

“The CES program that he’s put out does a great job of protecting the environment," McMahon said. "There’s costs to everything. This is the least cost for clean air, for days like this, so you don’t see things like China where you’re buried in smog.”  

The state Public Service Commission recently approved billions of dollars in subsidies to nuclear plants for the next 12 years. Without those subsidies, Exelon said it would not have been able to purchase Fitzpatrick, and in fact, may have had to close the plants it currently owns: nearby Nine Mile Point and Ginna in the Rochester area.

Not everyone is happy that FitzPatrick will continue to operate. Environmental activists said the governor is risking accidents, radiation and the eventual cleanup and decommissioning of FitzPatrick in his pursuit to seal the deal. Both federal and state regulators still need to sign off on the sale of the plant.