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Lawsuit against New York's nuclear subsidies can proceed

Tom Magnarelli
WRVO News File Photo
New York's Clean Energy Standard, which includes subsidies for financially strugging nuclear power plants, helped save the FitzPatrick Nuclear Power Plant in Oswego County.

An attempt by New York state to dismiss a lawsuit against its program that supports financially struggling nuclear power plants with fees collected on ratepayer's utility bills has been rejected.

A state judge will hear arguments from environmental and citizen advocacy groups that New York's public utility regulator, the Public Service Commission (PSC), and several nuclear power plants violated state law.

Russ Haven is an attorney with the New York Public Interest Research Group. He says the plaintiffs are opposed to propping up aging nuclear plants, especially since it's funded by ratepayers. But this is also about government accountability, he says. Haven described the process of approving the nuclear subsidies as "a nightmare," noting that the PSC passed it less than a month after making the plan public.

"We think if they had gone through a fair process, it would have been so obvious to the public that it was ill-advised and expensive that it would have been rejected," Haven said. "But certainly they could have given the public the chance to review the real numbers on this, what it would cost, they could have considered the alternatives to subsidizing the plant."

The PSC had no comment on the decision.

A separate lawsuit against the nuclear subsidies from energy companies and environmental groups was dismissed in federal court last summer. That decision is being appealed with arguments set for March.

The state began providing financial assistance to struggling nuclear power plants in 2017 because they do not produce environmentally harmful carbon dioxide emissions. Many nuclear plants, including the Fitzpatrick and Nine Mile Point facilities in Oswego County, have struggled in recent years due to competition from natural gas.

Payne Horning is a reporter and producer, primarily focusing on the city of Oswego and Oswego County. He has a passion for covering local politics and how it impacts the lives of everyday citizens. Originally from Iowa, Horning moved to Muncie, Indiana to study journalism, telecommunications and political science at Ball State University. While there, he worked as a reporter and substitute host at Indiana Public Radio. He also covered the 2015 session of the Indiana General Assembly for the statewide Indiana Public Broadcasting network.