New York utility regulators endorsed the sale of an upstate nuclear power plant Thursday, part of the state's strategy of investing in nuclear energy while weaning itself off of fossil fuels.
Entergy Corp. has proposed to sell FitzPatrick Nuclear Power Plant in Oswego County to Exelon Corp. for $110 million. Federal regulators also must approve the transfer.
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The state has authorized up to $7.6 billion in ratepayer subsidies to keep FitzPatrick and two other aging nuclear plants operational. Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo says nuclear power is preferable to coal or natural gas as New York transitions to renewable energy.
"Every time a nuclear plant has closed it's been replaced by increased fossil fuel emissions," said Audrey Zibelman, chairwoman of the state's Public Service Commission, which voted unanimously in favor of the sale.
The owners of other power plants are suing to block the subsidies, which they say are unfair and illegal.
While many environmental organizations are supportive of the nuclear subsidies, some renewable energy advocates, good-government groups and anti-nuclear organizations say they are a costly bailout for a hazardous industry.
"It is the very definition of corporate welfare," said Kristina Andreotta of the group Citizen Action. "It's taking our hard-earned money and giving it directly to a corporation."
Cuomo has said the nuclear plants will play an important role in the state's efforts to generate half of its power from renewable sources by 2030. If the plants were to close, electric rates would go up and the state would have to rely on power generated by fossil fuels, according to Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi.
"Without them, it would be impossible for New York to meet its nation-leading greenhouse emission and renewable energy standards," he said.
Protecting the plants also is seen as important to the upstate economy. Exelon said in a statement that the investment in nuclear will support more than 25,000 jobs and $144 million in annual tax revenue.