Astoria lawmakers concerned over Indian Point nuclear reactor shutdown

Elected officials in Astoria worry that the early shutdown of the Indian Point nuclear reactors may force increased production from power plants in western Queens.
Photo by Julie Jacobson/AP
By Bill Parry

While environmentalists across the region hailed Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s announcement Monday that the Indian Point Energy Center would close by 2021, two Astoria lawmakers have their concerns.

The aging 2,000-megawatt nuclear power plant, located just 25 miles north of New York City, produces nearly 20 percent of the city’s electrical power while presenting numerous threats to the safety of over 20 million residents and the environmental health of the area.

“In light of news regarding the closure of Indian Point over the next few years, we must ensure that any replacement power does not further burden already suffering communities,” state Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) said. “Western Queens already produces a majority of the electricity for the New York metropolitan area and has the high asthma and emphysema rates to prove it. Make no mistake, I will vigorously fight any efforts to build new power plants in already oversaturated communities.”

The governor’s office said transmission upgrades and efficiency measures totaling over 700 megawatts are already in service and that several generation sources are also fully permitted and readily available to come online by 2021, after the plant’s closure. That, combined with clean and renewable hydropower, will be able to generate more than enough electrical power to replace Indian Point’s capacity by 2021, his office said.

City Councilman Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria), the chairman of the City Council’s Environmental Protection Committee, is pleased with the closure but worries about Astoria and Long Island City, already known as Asthma Alley, home to more than half of the city’s power plants.

“As over 50 percent of our city’s power is generated in western Queens, this closure must not increase the burden on existing fuel-fired power plants in our city,” Constantinides said. “Rather, it should encourage New York to continue to develop clean energy sources. As we phase out the generation of nuclear power in our region, we must also phase out the use of Nos. 4 and 6 fuel oils in power plants throughout our state. These types of dirty fuel oils produce carbon emissions that negatively impact our public health. Now more than ever, New York is leading the way on environmental policy and sustainability.”

Officials at Entergy, the company that operates the Indian Point Energy Center, said the decision to shut the facility 14 years early is part of a settlement in which New York state agreed to drop legal challenges related to renewal of operating licenses.

“Key considerations in our decision to shut down Indian Point ahead of schedule include sustained low current and projected wholesale energy prices that have reduced revenues as well as increased operating costs,” Entergy President Bill Mohl said. “In addition, we foresee continuing costs for license renewal beyond the more than $200 million and 10 years we’ve already invested.”

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4538.

More from Around New York