The future of the James A. FitzPatrick nuclear power plant is once again up for negotiation. That is a direct reversal from earlier this week when Entergy said it would close the plant and state officials objected - vowing to fight the company. More than 600 jobs hang in the balance.
Assemblyman Will Barclay credits a team effort from elected officials for convincing Entergy and New York state to return to the negotiating table.
"I think there is a will to keep the Fitzpatrick Plant open it’s just a matter of whether they can negotiate a deal to keep it open."
What's on that table? Barclay said he doesn't know because the talks are confidential. But, he believes that Entergy wants to increase the wholesale price for nuclear energy because it is a cleaner than some of its alternatives. Company spokesman Jerry Nappi said Entergy doesn't think the state is currently recognizing or rewarding nuclear energy for its lack of carbon emissions. On the other hand, the state does authorize carbon tax credits for renewable sources of energy.
"Nuclear energy, I think, plays a special role and there’s a reason the state ought to get involved in keeping it open because it’s a clean, reliable source of energy," said Nappi.
Barclay said getting involved now, even if New York has to offer some public funds to Entergy, would actually be cheaper than losing another source of energy for the state.
"Who knows where gas prices are going to be in the future," Barclay asked. "Likely at some point in the future they will go up in the future again and if we’re all relying on just natural gas we could really pinched in the future."
That said, Barclay said he has not been pleased with Entergy's recent actions. The company caught him by surprise when it announced the closure of the plant Monday despite progress talks had made last week.
"We’ve been going forward on this thing now for two months and I think rightfully so there’s a lot of frustration and angst out there, particularly by the employees and their families so i don’t want to see them being used as pawns in a negotiating game," Barclay said.
Entergy said it stands to lose about $60 million a year if Fitzpatrick stays open, but this wouldn't be the first time state officials found a way to keep failing companies in the black. Just this week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Sen. Charles Schumer announced that the state would invest $20 million in Kraft-Heinz plants to prevent more than 900 layoffs.