- New York Governor Andrew Cuomo wins a long standing campaign on behalf of natural gas firms and green groups. The climate change battle loses ground.
- Two aides to NY Governor Cuomo are charged in a bribery scheme related to a natural gas plant slated to replace power from the reactors. Prosecutors did not charge Cuomo with wrong doing.
Entergy’s twin nuclear reactors are located on the banks of the Hudson River north of New York City.
The twin Indian Point nuclear reactors, representing more than 2000 MW of carbon emission free electrical power, will cease operations in Spring 2021. An agreement between the State of New York and Entergy, which owns and operates the plants, was negotiated this week.
The announcement came as a surprise, but capitulation by Entergy was always a plausible scenario has it had already closed the Vermont Yankee reactor and has slated the closure of the Pilgrim plant in 2018.
The reactors have been operating under extensions of their existing NRC licenses as the State of New York refused to issue a water quality permit for the units. They use water from the Hudson River in a once through cooling cycle. Green groups tried to impose requirements on Energy to spend billions on construction of cooling towers saying the once through system killed fish. Riverkeeper, a green group with members who’s deep pockets provided campaign donations to Cumo’s re-election efforts, led the fight against continued operation of the power station.
Entergy had applied for 20-year license extensions from the NRC. Cuomo made the licensing process the target of his opposition.
The reactors provide about a quarter of the electricity used in the New York metropolitan region. The closure agreement is vague about where replacement power will come from. To that end, it provides for a five year extension of the reactor closure deadline if insufficient replacement power sources are available.
Natural Gas Firms Alleged to Have Influenced Cuomo Aides
Michael Shellenberger, the Director of Environmental Progress, said in a statement in response to the report of the closing of Indian Point that his organization has learned that two top former aides to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo worked with a major Cuomo campaign contributor — the natural gas company Competitive Power Ventures — to close the Indian Point nuclear reactors.
The New York Times reported in September 2016 that Joseph Percoco, who had served as Governor Cuomo’s executive deputy secretary, is accused of soliciting and taking more than $315,000 in bribes from 2012 to 2016 from two companies: Competitive Power Ventures, an energy company that was seeking state approval to build a power plant in the Hudson Valley, and COR Development, a major developer in the Syracuse area that ended up with several large state-funded economic development projects.
The indictment suggests that the gas company and the Cuomo administration both recognized that if Indian Point were taken off line, it would be replaced by natural gas, not imported hydro and wind, as an anonymous source told the New York Times.
The bribery charges are laid out in a federal criminal indictment filed by Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney in Manhattan, on September 22, 2016.
“Based on my review of publicly available documents and my interviews of witnesses,” wrote the US attorney, “including employees of [Competitive Power Ventures], the importance of the [CPV Valley Energy Center] to the State depended at least in part, on whether [Indian Point] was going to be shut down.”
CPV Valley Energy Center is a 650-megawatt, natural-gas power plant in Wawayanda, New York. It was seeking a $100 million, 15 year power purchase agreement.
The Competitive Power Ventures (CPV) donated $75,000 to Cuomo in 2009, and made bribes to Cuomo’s top aide Todd Howe, according to U.S. Attorney in New York, starting in 2010. CPV executives are under federal prosecution.
The Times Herald Record reported in November 2016 that Peter Galbraith Kelly Jr., a former executive of Braintree, Mass.-based Competitive Power Ventures, is charged with providing $287,000 in bribes. According to the complaint, the energy company hired Percoco’s wife to a $90,000-per-year low-show job in exchange for his assistance in furthering its Orange County project.
According to the indictment, Percoco was able to help CPV with a deal involving one of its New Jersey power plants but wasn’t able to secure the lucrative power-purchasing agreement sought for the Wawayanda plant in New York.
Under a power-purchase agreement, the State of New York would have agreed to buy virtually all of the power generated by the plant for up to 15 years. Based on CPV projections cited in the complaint, the agreement would have been worth about $100 million and would have made it far easier for CPV to obtain financing.
The Competitive Power Ventures (CPV) donated $75,000 to Cuomo in 2009, and starting in 2010, made bribes to Cuomo’s top aide, according to the U.S. Attorney in New York.
“As early as 2010, [former Gov. Andrew Cuomo aide Todd R.] Howe began to seek [Cuomo aide Joseph] Percoco’s assistance in influencing the Former State Operations Director with respect to the Power Plant, most specifically by asking Percoco to advise the Former State Operations Director that the Power Plant was supported by labor unions and to advocate for the closing of [Indian Point].”
In December 2016 both aides to governor Cuomo, and seven others also named in the indictments, pleaded not guilty to the charges which centered in failed economic development plans for a computer chip plant in near Utica, NY.
Prosecutors did not accuse Governor Cuomo of wrongdoing. When the investigation surfaced in May 2016, Cuomo made a point of putting distance between himself and Howe.
This is the third case Environmental Progress has discovered fossil energy interests behind efforts to close nuclear plants. The first was in California and the second was in Illinois.
Shellenberger also said in his statement that in 2010, Cuomo is reported to have accepted $140,000 in donations from energy companies — likely a fraction of what he received from associated law firms and engineering firms with an interest in his energy decisions.
Prior Coverage on this Blog
In November 2010 Gwyneth Cravens and I published an OP ED in the New York Daily News making case for keeping Indian Point going. Our position remains unchanged. Closing the reactors is bad for New York and bad for dealing with climate change.