CES a Boon for Climate Change, Cleaner Air
This story originally appeared in the Westchester County Press.
NYS Clean Energy Standard a Must to Fight Climate Change, Clean Our Air, Ensure a Reliable Electricity Supply, and Save Jobs
The New York State Department of Public Service (NYS DPS) has proposed an innovative change in NYS energy policy that removes a looming hurdle for the continued operation of the state’s nuclear power plants. The proposal, if adopted by the Public Service Commission, would be a major step in the fight against climate change and for cleaner air.
At the heart of the proposal is a provision, the Zero Emissions Credit (ZEC), that appropriately recognizes the environmental and economic benefits of nuclear power generation. Nuclear power provides reliable baseload electricity (the plants run continuously) that keeps the lights on and our economy going while emitting virtually no toxic, greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. State regulators have finally placed a dollar value on the environmental benefits of nuclear by applying the ZEC to the nuclear power plants.
The proposal is long overdue. Nuclear plants in New York, like many across the country, are being forced to shut down because they cannot compete with cheap natural gas. One plant, the James A. Fitzpatrick nuclear power plant, is already scheduled to shut down permanently next year, though the state, using
the proposed ZEC, is working feverishly to keep the upstate plants operating, including JAF, if it’s not too late.
Further, our regional greenhouse gas reduction goals would simply be unreachable.
Upstate New Yorkers are of course feeling an even greater sense of urgency as workers face the prospect of losing their jobs and local economies vanish. As found in a recent independent study, done by the Brattle Group, the continued operation of the James A. FitzPatrick and the two Nine Mile facilities in Oswego County, along with the R. E. Ginna plant in Wayne County, found that as many as 25,000 jobs and $3 billion in economic activity were directly or indirectly supported by these upstate nuclear power plants. Thousands of jobs would be lost.
Everyone from environmental advocate Environmental Progress to labor’s NYS AFL-CIO has recognized the economic and environmental risk these shutdowns pose and have urged for timely passage of the CES.
Locally, the implementation of the PSC staff’s ZEC proposal supports New York’s greenhouse gas stewardship, protects us from more air pollution and ultimately could help Indian Point here in Westchester, which avoids over 14 million tons of emissions annually and provides about 25% of the regions electric power.
Ensuring a reliable electricity supply is hugely important. These nuclear plants provide a bridge during the time it takes to improve and expand the new clean-energy technologies and allow New York to implement the broader goals of the Clean Energy Standard.
The proposal accurately balances energy, economic and environmental realities in both the short and long term. Other states and countries that have not achieved this level of balance have experienced higher energy costs, increased emissions, and a less reliable power grid.
Right now New York State is at a critical crossroads. We could become more dependent on fossil fuel which would increase CO2 emissions if nuclear power resources are prematurely retired. Alternatively, we could maintain existing zero-emissions resources while preserving and attracting new jobs.
If we fail to recognize the substantial value that nuclear power plants provide at this critical time, the net result will be higher electricity costs and dirtier air. Nuclear power clearly provides outstanding value for New York. The Governor and State regulators would it continues to figure in the State’s energy mix.