Quantcast
Nine Mile Point Nuclear Station in Oswego County, New York. Photo credit: Constellation Energy Nuclear Group

Cuomo’s Nuclear Bailout Spoils His Environmental Record

Just because we're living in the age of climate change denier-in-chief Donald Trump, it doesn't mean Democratic officials can take the environmental vote for granted.


And yet that appears to be precisely what we're seeing with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a potential 2020 challenger to Trump who until recently had a strong record advocating for the planet.

Most notably, Cuomo as governor banned fracking statewide, which was a huge win for the movement and also recently closed Indian Point nuclear power plant, a move that may have saved the lives of millions of people.

But the goodwill from those arguably heroic acts has evaporated because of another Cuomo directive that's causing problems nationwide, but has barely made headlines outside New York.

Last year, Cuomo quietly ordered New York's Public Service Commission—which regulates energy companies in the state—to slip subsidies into electric bills for all New Yorkers to prop up three aging, unsafe, unprofitable nuclear power plants.

He's not calling it a tax, but it is and one that will bring in an estimated $7.6 billion over the next 12 years for Exelon, the $34 billion Fortune 100 corporation that operates the plants.

As if handing more than $7.6 billion to a nuclear energy company isn't outrageous enough, he did it in the name of his otherwise commendable "Clean Energy Standard," which calls for 50 percent of New York State's energy to be renewable by 2030, and the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions and other heat-trapping pollutants by 40 percent from 1990 levels.

Unfortunately, the idea to make ratepayers—some of whom have opted into renewable programs for which they're already paying a premium—subsidize nuclear power plants has spread to other states, with proposals now pending in Ohio, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Meanwhile, Illinois, where Exelon is located, had repeatedly fought off a similar program. After Cuomo authorized New York's bailout, however, they approved ratepayer-funded nuclear subsidies in late 2016 to keep two plants there open.

All total, consumers can be on the hook for $3.9 billion in higher bills as a result of these subsidies, according to a Bloomberg analysis.

Cuomo's decision, and the resulting ramifications nationwide, is a hard blow and environmentalists won't soon forget it—especially if, as early signs seem to indicate, he runs for the White House in 2020.

After four years of Trump, what this country will need is a president who is both consistent and creative when it comes to the environment. We've seen neither of those qualities from Cuomo.

Cuomo has an environmental record with some serious achievements, but if he's looking to be the next president, he needs to take such bold action again, not support corporate welfare.

There is still time for Cuomo to make this right. Just as he directed New York's Public Service Commission to include the surcharge tax in the Clean Energy Standard, he can direct them to remove it and build a better, more ambitious plan that relies on energy efficiency and renewables and moves away from nuclear power.

The people and the planet deserve nothing less.

Show Comments ()
Sponsored
The turkey ranch in Sonora is where Diestel keeps its pasture-raised birds. Jeanne Cooper

Popular Diestel Turkey Sold at Whole Foods Tests Positive for FDA-Prohibited Drugs

Diestel Turkey, sold by Whole Foods and other retailers at premium prices, says on its website that its "animals are never given hormones, antibiotics or growth stimulants."

But Diestel Turkey samples tested by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) suggest otherwise, leading consumers to wonder: Can these companies be trusted?

Keep reading... Show less

Slaughter of 90,000 Wild Horses Could Proceed Despite 80% Objection From American Public

The American Wild Horse Campaign on Thursday harshly criticized Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke's appointment of Brian Steed, the former chief of staff for U.S. Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT), as the acting director of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) as dangerous and out of step with the wishes of the vast majority of Americans.

"Rep. Stewart is leading the charge to slaughter America's wild horses and burros over the opposition of 80 percent of Americans," said Suzanne Roy, AWHC Executive Director. "Putting his deputy at the helm of the agency charged with protecting these national icons is like putting the wolf in charge of the chicken coop."

Keep reading... Show less
Renewable Energy

Bright Idea: This Lamp Harvests Its Own Energy From Plants

Now that's green energy. Dutch product designer Ermi van Oers and her team are working on the first atmospheric lamp powered by living plants.

The Living Light does not require an electric socket. It can harvest its own energy through the photosynthetic process of the encased plant, which means the potential of this off-grid light source could be "huge," as Van Oers told Dezeen.

Keep reading... Show less
Climate

Landmark Youth Climate Lawsuit Heads to Federal Appeals Court

There has been a significant development in the constitutional climate change lawsuit so far successfully prosecuted by 21 youth plaintiffs: The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has decided to hear oral argument over whether the Trump administration can evade trial currently set for Feb. 5, 2018. Oral arguments will be heard before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco on Dec. 11 and can be watched on a live stream beginning at 10 a.m. PST.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Climate
Martin Schulz / Flickr

Pope Francis: These 4 'Perverse Attitudes' Could Push Earth to Its Brink

Pope Francis issued a strong message to negotiators at the COP23 climate talks in Bonn, Germany on Thursday, warning them not to fall into "four perverse attitudes" regarding the future of the planet—"denial, indifference, resignation and trust in inadequate solutions."

Francis, who has long pressed for strong climate action and wrote his 2015 encyclical on the environment, renewed his "urgent call" for renewed dialogue "on how we are building the future of the planet."

Keep reading... Show less
Climate
The Greenpeace ship Esperanza sits near the Statoil contracted oil rig Transocean Spitsbergen. Greenpeacce

Groups Sue Norway Over Failure to Protect Environment for Future Generations

By David Leestma

Greenpeace and the Nature and Youth environmental group opened a lawsuit this week over Norway's failure to abide by its constitutional obligation to safeguard the environment for future generations.

The lawsuit, which focuses on local environmental damage and the contribution that oil extraction will make to climate change, challenges 10 licenses issued by the Norwegian government for exploration in the Barents Sea. Given to Statoil, Chevron and other oil companies, the licenses violate Norway's constitution and the Paris agreement, according to the plaintiffs. Government lawyers claim the case is a publicity stunt that risks valuable jobs.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Food
Lia Heifetz of Barnacle Foods hauls kelp for salsa. Bethany Sonsini Goodrich

A Plea for Kelp: These Farmers and Chefs Want to Make Seaweed the Next Superfood

By Sarah Bedolfe

Summer in southeast Alaska is kelp season for the cofounders of Barnacle Foods, Lia Heifetz and Matt Kern. Each week, the pair watches the tides and weather, waiting for the right moment to cruise out to the abundant kelp beds offshore. They lean over the side of the boat and pull up the fronds and stalks, one piece at a time. As soon as they get back to shore, they start processing the day's harvest into a local delicacy: kelp salsa.

Salsa and Alaskan algae might seem like odd bedfellows, but for Barnacle Foods, it's a calculated decision. The kelp's savory notes make the salsa's flavor "a little more explosive," according to Kern. And the pairing is also a practical one. "Salsa is such a familiar food item," Heifetz said. It's "a gateway to getting more people to eat seaweed."

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
Lorie Shaull / Flickr

Massive Pipeline Leak Shows Why Nebraska Should Reject Keystone XL

About 210,000 gallons (5,000 barrels) of oil leaked Thursday from TransCanada's Keystone oil pipeline near Amherst, South Dakota, drawing fierce outcry from pipeline opponents.

The leak, the largest spill to date in South Dakota, comes just days before Nebraska regulators decide on whether its controversial sister project—the Keystone XL (KXL) Pipeline—will go forward.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!