In the closing weeks of the state legislative session, several bills that would protect local tax revenue and 1,100 jobs at Indian Point are moving through the state Capitol.
The nuclear power plants in the Village of Buchanan, Town of Cortlandt, are scheduled to be shut down -- permanently -- in 2020 and 2021, barring an unforeseen shortage of electricity or other major setback.
Sen. Pete Harckham and Assemblywoman Sandy Galef -- joined by union leaders, local elected officials and Westchester County legislators -- held a news conference on May 23 in Peekskill to bring attention to two of the bills.
Harckham, a Democrat from South Salem, said that S3443/A5404 is nearing a vote by the full state Senate. This legislation would allow spent nuclear fuel rods, including radioactive fuel stored in pools or in a dry cask storage, to be taxed as Real Property. It would provide local tax relief during the decommissioning process. The revenue stream from such a tax should help the local communities and schools that face annual revenue losses of $32 million after the closure and decommissioning of the nuclear power plants, including:
- About 64 percent of the Verplanck Fire Department’s tax revenue,
- About 46 percent of the Village of Buchanan’s tax revenue,
- About 33 percent of the Hendrick Hudson School District’s tax revenue,
- About 28 percent of the Hendrick Hudson Free Library’s income,
Galef, a Democrat from Ossining, said: "Senator Harckham and I are here today to make a commitment to the residents of Cortlandt and Buchanan, and the Hendrick Hudson School District that we are here for you, and we will continue to look for innovative measures to protect this community no matter what the future holds.”
The tax-related bill's passage would be welcome news to Buchanan Mayor Theresa Knickerbocker. "Because the Department of Energy has not found a final repository for nuclear waste, our Village will become a defacto storage facility and we should be compensated," Knickerbocker said.
A second bill -- S5305B/A7569A -- is designed to protect union jobs during the closure and decommissioning of Indian Point. The bill is progressing through committee and is expected to go to a vote of the full Senate. This legislation would ensure that current union employees are retained and paid no less than prevailing wage.
The bill requires the state Department of Labor to oversee the hiring of new employees at the Indian Point nuclear power plant.The legislation prevents a private decommissioning company from displacing the current workforce, and replacing them with unskilled, non-union, low-wage out-of-towners.
“Since the day I took office in January, the Indian Point closure has been one of my top priorities," Harckham said. "My goals are to retain jobs, protect workers, assure safety and help the local economy. . . . We’ll continue to do everything in our power to assist the people and communities impacted.”
Tom Carey, president of Westchester/Putnam County Central Labor Body AFL/CIO said, "I thank our new Senator for his proactive approach on this extremely sensitive matter. . . . It’s imperative to keep local skilled labor employed for the safe shutdown and decommissioning process."
Carey said that upon taking office, Harckham immediately reached out to labor leaders to help protect the jobs of more than 1,000 Indian Point workers. According to Carey, Harckham held a roundtable discussion with members of Utility Workers Local 1-2, Building & Construct Trades Unions representing Steamfitters, Plumbers, Electricians, Operating Engineers, Carpenters and others. "This Legislation will protect the current and future workforce and make sure there will be a level playing field for everyone," Carey said.
Galef added, “These two bills promise to protect the workers and taxpayers of our community. Preparing for Indian Point’s closure has not been easy, and we all feel the economic uncertainty that comes with it.''
In a prepared statement, County Executive George Latimer said, “The closure of Indian Point will have drastic impacts on Westchester County, including our residents who are part of the workforce and those who live in the surrounding communities. We need to do everything we can to ensure that those workers are placed in new jobs, and protect the taxpayers of those local municipalities and the school districts.”