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For eight years, New York had no law in place to facilitate the siting of power plants, something Governor Andrew Cuomo attributes to Albany’s “dysfunction”.
“It really did terrible damage to the state,” said Cuomo, who says the lack of a law sent the wrong message to business.
Cuomo says the new law will fast track power plant permits through the state’s often complex bureaucratic system. The governor, who is opposed to the continued operation of the Indian Point nuclear power plant in Westchester County, less than 50 miles from New York City, says the new law could spur replacement power sources so that the nuclear plant is no longer necessary.
“One of the arguments against closing Indian Point is you would need to find the replacement power,” said Cuomo. “Since the state had no siting law, how could you ever find replacement power?”
Now, the governor says, the new law will “alleviate” that concern.
Cuomo says he doesn’t know how long it would take to replace all of the nuclear plant’s power, but he says some potential replacement power plants are already operating or will soon be functioning.
The Indian Point nuclear power plant is up for relicensing in a couple of years. Cuomo in the past has said held like it to be closed.
State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has also expressed reservations about the safety of the plant. He recently wrung concessions from the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission, to require a detailed environmental clean up plan in case of accidents, before the plant can be re authorized.
In a recent interview with public radio and television, Schneiderman said Indian Point has “a steep hill to climb” before it can be relicensed.
The law was praised by power plant companies, as well as environmental groups, who like a clause that will help limit excessive siting of plants in poor urban areas. Laura Haight is with the New York Public Interest Research Group, says new power plant emissions may cause health problems like asthma and heart ailments.
“If they determine that a community is already overburdened with pollution, they can’t build a power plant there,” Haight said. “Or they have to mitigate it.”
Haight says a drawback to the new law, though, is that the shortened approval process for power plants may limit public input.