Loss of nuclear plant overshadows Oswego County economic development meeting
At its annual meeting Thursday, Operation Oswego County, an economic development organization, said it helped create and retain about 386 jobs over the past year. But, the focus of the event centered on saving existing jobs that are at risk.
Local restaurant owner Nick Canale delivered the keynote address, urging the crowd to rally around the Fitzpatrick and Nine Mile Point nuclear power plants in Oswego County.
"My business does business directly with all of these plants. Our customers work at these plants. Our friends and neighbors work at these plants," Canale said. "The economic impact that this has on our area is beyond comprehension."
Canale is a board member with Upstate Energy Jobs, a coalition of local businesses, agencies and community leaders advocating for New York lawmakers to support upstate nuclear plants. They are in danger of shutting down because cheap natural gas has damaged their ability to compete in the energy marketplace. The group is pushing the state to adopt Gov. Andrew Cuomo's clean energy standard, which could provide lucrative subsidies for nuclear plants. Time is of the essence because Entergy has said it will start closing Fitzpatrick next January.
"Entergy has made it clear to us and everyone we've talked to that their intention is to close that plant. From our perspective, the only hope of keeping that plant open is another buyer, another operator," Canale said. "The clean energy standard sets the table for making the plant profitable."
Combined, Fitzpatrick and Nine Mile support 1,600 jobs. Operation Oswego County officials say the county's unemployment rate, which is one of the highest in New York, has been cut by 52 percent since 2012. The group's vice president, Barbara Bateman, said that progress could be lost.
"Supporting nuclear is going to be huge in this community going forward in order to keep that percentage down," Bateman said.
The state Public Service Commission will vote on the governor's energy plan, and the nuclear subsidies it currently entails, in July.